Collision Free Map Recipe


When many transactions are trying to modify the same keys, collisions will occur. These collisions will cause the transactions to fail and throughput to nose dive. For example consider the phrasecount example. In this example many transactions are processing documents as input. Each transaction counts the phrases in its document and then tries to update global phrase counts. With each transaction attempting to update many phrase counts, the probability of two transactions colliding is very high.


This recipe provides a reusable solution for the problem of many transactions updating many keys while avoiding collisions. As an added bonus, this recipe also organizes updates into batches for efficiency in order to improve throughput.

The central idea behind this recipe is that updates to a key are queued up to be processed by another transaction triggered by weak notifications. In the phrase count example transactions processing documents would queue updates, but would not actually update the counts. Below is an example of how transactions would compute phrasecounts using this recipe.

  • TX1 queues +1 update for phrase we want lambdas now
  • TX2 queues +1 update for phrase we want lambdas now
  • TX3 reads the updates and current value for the phrase we want lambdas now. There is no current value and the updates sum to 2, so a new value of 2 is written.
  • TX4 queues +2 update for phrase we want lambdas now
  • TX5 queues -1 update for phrase we want lambdas now
  • TX6 reads the updates and current value for the phrase we want lambdas now. The current value is 2 and the updates sum to 1, so a new value of 3 is written.

Transactions processing updates have the ability to make additional updates. For example in addition to updating the current value for a phrase, the new value could also be placed on an export queue to update an external database.


A simple implementation of this recipe would be to have an update queue for each key. However the implementation does something slightly more complex. Each update queue is in a bucket and transactions that process updates, process all of the updates in a bucket. This allows more efficient processing of updates for the following reasons :

  • When updates are queued, notifications are made per bucket(instead of per a key).
  • The transaction doing the update can scan the entire bucket reading updates, this avoids a seek for each key being updated.
  • Also the transaction can request a batch lookup to get the current value of all the keys being updated.
  • Any additional actions taken on update (like adding something to an export queue) can also be batched.
  • Data is organized to make reading exiting values for keys in a bucket more efficient.

Which bucket a key goes to is decided using hash and modulus so that multiple updates for the same key always go to the same bucket.

The initial number of tablets to create when applying table optimizations can be controlled by setting the buckets per tablet option when configuring a Collision Free Map. For example if you have 20 tablet servers and 1000 buckets and want 2 tablets per tserver initially then set buckets per tablet to 1000/(2*20)=25.

Example Use

The following code snippets show how to setup and use this recipe for wordcount. The first step in using this recipe is to configure it before initializing Fluo. When initializing an ID will need to be provided. This ID is used in two ways. First, the ID is used as a row prefix in the table. Therefore nothing else should use that row range in the table. Second, the ID is used in generating configuration keys associated with the instance of the Collision Free Map.

The following snippet shows how to setup a collision free map.

  FluoConfiguration fluoConfig = ...;

  int numBuckets = 119;

  WordCountMap.configure(fluoConfig, 119);

  //initialize Fluo using fluoConfig

Assume the following observer is triggered when a documents contents are updated. It examines new and old document content and determines changes in word counts. These changes are pushed to a collision free map.

public class DocumentObserver extends TypedObserver {

  CollisionFreeMap<String, Long> wcm;

  public void init(Context context) throws Exception {
    wcm = CollisionFreeMap.getInstance(WordCountMap.ID, context.getAppConfiguration());

  public ObservedColumn getObservedColumn() {
    return new ObservedColumn(new Column("content", "new"), NotificationType.STRONG);

  public void process(TypedTransactionBase tx, Bytes row, Column col) {
    String newContent = tx.get().row(row).col(col).toString();
    String currentContent = tx.get().row(row).fam("content").qual("current").toString("");

    Map<String, Long> newWordCounts = getWordCounts(newContent);
    Map<String, Long> currentWordCounts = getWordCounts(currentContent);

    //determine changes in word counts between old and new document content
    Map<String, Long> changes = calculateChanges(newWordCounts, currentWordCounts);    

    //queue updates to word counts for processing by other transactions
    wcm.update(tx, changes);

    //update the current content and delete the new content

  private static Map<String, Long> getWordCounts(String doc) {
   //TODO extract words from doc

  private static Map<String, Long> calculateChanges(Map<String, Long> newCounts,
      Map<String, Long> currCounts) {
    Map<String, Long> changes = new HashMap<>();

    // guava Maps class
    MapDifference<String, Long> diffs = Maps.difference(currCounts, newCounts);

    // compute the diffs for words that changed
        vDiff -> vDiff.rightValue() - vDiff.leftValue()));

    // add all new words

    // subtract all words no longer present
    changes.putAll(Maps.transformValues(diffs.entriesOnlyOnLeft(), l -> l * -1));

    return changes;


Each collision free map has two extension points, a combiner and an update observer. These two extension points are defined below as WordCountCombiner and WordCountObserver. The collision free map configures a Fluo observer that will process queued updates. When processing these queued updates the two extension points are called. In this example WordCountCombiner is called to combine updates that were queued by DocumentObserver. The collision free map will process a batch of keys, calling the combiner for each key. When finished processing a batch, it will call the update observer WordCountObserver.

An update observer can do additional processing when a batch of key values are updated. In WordCountObserver, updates are queued for export to an external database. The export is given the new and old value allowing it to delete the old value if needed.

 * This class exists to provide a single place to put all code related to the
 * word count map.
public class WordCountMap {

  public static final String ID = "wc";

   * A helper method for configuring the word count map.
   * @param numTablets the desired number of tablets to create when applying table optimizations
  public static void configure(FluoConfiguration fluoConfig, int numBuckets, int numTablets) {
    Options cfmOpts =
      new Options(ID, WordCountCombiner.class,  WordCountObserver.class, String.class, Long.class, numBuckets)
    CollisionFreeMap.configure(fluoConfig, cfmOpts);

  public static class WordCountCombiner implements Combiner<String, Long> {
    public Optional<Long> combine(String key, Iterator<Long> updates) {
      long sum = 0L;

      while (updates.hasNext()) {
        sum +=;

      if (sum == 0) {
        //returning absent will cause the collision free map to deletes the current key
        return Optional.absent();
      } else {
        return Optional.of(sum);

  public static class WordCountObserver extends UpdateObserver<String, Long> {

    private ExportQueue<String, MyDatabaseExport> exportQ;

    public void init(String mapId, Context observerContext) throws Exception {
      exportQ = ExportQueue.getInstance(MyExportQ.ID, observerContext.getAppConfiguration());

    public void updatingValues(TransactionBase tx, Iterator<Update<String, Long>> updates) {
      while (updates.hasNext()) {
        Update<String, Long> update =;

        String word = update.getKey();
        Optional<Long> oldVal = update.getOldValue();
        Optional<Long> newVal = update.getNewValue();

        //queue an export to let an external database know the word count has changed
        exportQ.add(word, new MyDatabaseExport(oldVal, newVal));


This recipe makes two important guarantees about updates for a key when it calls updatingValues() on an UpdateObserver.

  • The new value reported for an update will be derived from combining all updates that were committed before the transaction that’s processing updates started. The implementation may have to make multiple passes over queued updates to achieve this. In the situation where TX1 queues a +1 and later TX2 queues a -1 for the same key, there is no need to worry about only seeing the -1 processed. A transaction that started processing updates after TX2 committed would process both.
  • The old value will always be what was reported as the new value in the previous transaction that called updatingValues().