Package cache

In this package you will find utility classes to reduce the boilerplate code related to caching operations.

Dealing with caches

Caching is one of the most common operation in software systems.
Unfortunately the most of the caching systems perform the following behavior:

  1. If the cache entry is available and is not expired then will be returned.
  2. If the cache entry is not available or has expired then null will be returned.

This will force the developer to reimplement always the same logic every time he wants to cache some data.
For example he will need to write something like this:

  Value value = cache.get( key ); 
  if( value == null )
    value = loadData( someParamenters );
    cache.put( key, value, duration );
  // Use the value in some way.

Class SelfLoadingCache

Dealing with caches is always a tradeoff between performance and freshness of the data.
Usually you need to cache some data because loading such data is time and resource consuming.
When the cache expires, the system will suffer an increasing of the load because all the threads that requires the expired data will fire a heavy loading process.
There are several best practices to handle this problem but the base principle is to keep returning the cached data while the fresh data will be loaded asynchronously.

The SelfLoadingCache is based on this principle and its aim is to reduce the boilerplate code needed to deal with caches.
This is not a caching framework, is more like a facade for caching like SLF4J is a facade for logging.
This utility class requires a CacheProvider that is an interface to the actual caching system and a DataProvider that can be implemented via Java8 Lambdas and is used to load the data when needed.
Using the SelfLoadingCache the previous example becomes:

  Value value = selfLoadingCache.get( key, k -> loadData( someParamenters ) );

By default this class will perform the following behavior:

  1. If the entry is available and is not expired will return it.
  2. If the entry is not available will load it synchronously and populate the cache.
  3. If the entry is available but has expired will return the cached value and will update it asynchronously.
  4. Any exception related to the cache will be logged but will not be propagated because caching should be as transparent as possible and therefore an application should not crash due to an error related to the cache.

Any of the previous points can be customized. There is a SelfLoadingCacheBuilder that provides an easy and customizable way to create instances of the SelfLoadingCache facade.
There are also an EmptyCacheProvider for testing and a HeapCacheProvider that implements a simple caching system based on the JVM heap memory.

Sometimes it can be useful to disable caching for debugging purposes. The SelfLoadingCache allows to disable a single instance or all instances at once. You can also start your application with all caches disabled by setting the JVM property “org.nerd4j.utils.cache.SelfLoadingCache.disabled=true”.

I have also implemented some CacheProviders to work with Ehcache and Memcached but I did not include this implementations in this project because I don’t want this library to depend from third party software.
So far I was able to keep things simple and depend only on the Java Runtime Environment and I want to keep it this way.