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A helper class for performance statistics

Posted by emcmanus on November 23, 2006 at 3:31 AM PST

I recently wanted to add some performance measurements to an
application. To avoid duplicating code everywhere I needed to
make measurements, I coded up a small helper class.

What I wanted to measure was the amount of time taken by
various operations within the application. For each operation, I
wanted to know various statistics about it: how many times it was
called, the average time it took, and also the minimum, maximum,
and standard deviation.

The basic skeleton for timing code is this:

    long startTime = System.nanoTime();
    long elapsedTime = System.nanoTime() - startTime;

method was introduced in the J2SE 5.0
release. Its intended use is exactly for timing measurements
such as this. As the name implies, the result is in
nanoseconds, though it will not usually be href="">accurate
to the nearest nanosecond.

If we want to accumulate statistics about
doTheOperation(), then we'll need more code than
that. It'll be more like:

    long startTime = System.nanoTime();
    long elapsedTime = System.nanoTime() - startTime;
    synchronized (something) {
        sumTime += elapsedTime;
    minTime = Math.min(minTime, elapsedTime);
        maxTime = Math.max(maxTime, elapsedTime);

Not only does this pollute the doTheOperation()
call with lots of distracting code, but we'll also be obliged to
duplicate code around every other operation we want to measure. So
obviously we'll want to pull this code out into a class.
We'd like the measurement code to look something like this:

public class ClassContainingTheOperationToBeMeasured {
    private final CallStats operationStats = new CallStats();

        CallStats.Call call = operationStats.newCall();

For each collection of timing statistics, we'll need an instance
of CallStats to record the statistics. The use of
this instance is just the line before and the line after
doTheOperation(). We probably can't simplify more
than that.

So here's the class I coded for this:

import java.beans.ConstructorProperties;

public class CallStats implements Serializable {
    private int nCalls;
    private long minTime;
    private long maxTime;
    private long sumTime;
    private double sumSquaredTime;
    /** Creates a new instance of CallStats */
    public CallStats() {
    @ConstructorProperties({"nCalls", "minTime", "maxTime", "sumTime",
    public CallStats(int nCalls, long minTime, long maxTime, long sumTime,
             double sumSquaredTime) {
        this.nCalls = nCalls;
        this.minTime = minTime;
        this.maxTime = maxTime;
        this.sumTime = sumTime;
        this.sumSquaredTime = sumSquaredTime;
    public int getNCalls() {
        return nCalls;
    public long getMinTime() {
        return Math.max(0, minTime);
    public long getMaxTime() {
        return maxTime;
    public long getSumTime() {
        return sumTime;
    public double getSumSquaredTime() {
        return sumSquaredTime;
    public long getMeanTime() {
        if (nCalls == 0)
            return 0;
            return sumTime / nCalls;
    public long getStdDevTime() {
        if (nCalls == 0)
            return 0;
        double mean = getMeanTime();
        double meanSquared = mean * mean;
        double meanOfSquares = sumSquaredTime / nCalls;
        double variance = meanOfSquares - meanSquared;
        if (variance < 0)
            return 0;  // might happen due to rounding error
        return (long) Math.sqrt(variance);
    public String toString() {
        return "nCalls = " + nCalls + ";\n" +
                "sumTime = " + getSumTime() + ";\n" +
                "minTime = " + minTime + ";\n" +
                "maxTime = " + maxTime + ";\n" +
                "meanTime = " + getMeanTime() + ";\n" +
                "stdDevTime = " + getStdDevTime();
    public Call newCall() {
        return new Call();
    public class Call {
        private final long startTime = System.nanoTime();
        private Call() {}
        public void end() {
            long elapsed = System.nanoTime() - startTime;
            synchronized (CallStats.this) {
                if (elapsed < minTime || nCalls == 1)
                    minTime = elapsed;
                if (elapsed > maxTime)
                    maxTime = elapsed;
                sumTime += elapsed;
                double elapsedFP = elapsed;
                sumSquaredTime += elapsedFP * elapsedFP;

A few remarks are in order. First, the
annotation is new in
the Java SE 6 release, so if you're using an earlier release
you'll need to comment out that line. The purpose of the
annotation is to allow us to use CallStats
directly as the type of an attribute in an href="">MXBean,
like this:

public interface MeasurementMXBean {
    public CallStats getFooStats();
    public CallStats getBarStats();

The presence of the @ConstructorProperties
annotation allows us to reconstruct a CallStats
instance for an MXBean proxy, like this:

    MeasurementMXBean proxy =
    JMX.newMXBeanProxy(mbeanServer, name, MeasureMXBean.class);
    CallStats stats = proxy.getFooStats();

Second, there are a lot of nanoseconds in a second. So we
have to be on the lookout for overflow. A long is
enough to hold 292 years' worth of nanoseconds without
overflowing, so you won't usually have problems if you use
long everywhere. But we're also accumulating
squared nanoseconds so that we can compute the standard
deviation. We would get overflow if we squared any value over 3
seconds' worth of nanoseconds as a long. So instead
we square the values as doubles and also sum them
as doubles. This means the standard deviation
might not be as accurate as if we had used
BigInteger, but I'm not sure it matters. I think
there's a small possibility that rounding errors would lead us
to compute a negative variance when the actual variance is very
close to zero, so I've guarded against that case.

Finally, you might have noticed an asymmetry between the
minTime and maxTime statistics.
minTime needs a special check for the first call,
because otherwise the initial default value of 0 would never
change. maxTime doesn't, because the first
measurement will be greater than the initial zero value. We could
correct the asymmetry by initializing minTime to
Long.MAX_VALUE, but at the expense of reporting a
very odd minTime for a CallStats that
hasn't recorded any measurements yet.

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