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Java 8’s streams: why parallel stream is slower?

I am playing with Java 8’s streams and cannot understand the performance results I am getting. I have 2 core CPU (Intel i73520M), Windows 8 x64, and 64-bit Java 8 update 5. I am doing simple map over stream/parallel stream of Strings and found that parallel version is somewhat slower.

Function<Stream<String>, Long> timeOperation = (Stream<String> stream) -> {
  long time1 = System.nanoTime();
  final List<String> list = 
  long time2 = System.nanoTime();
  return time2 - time1;

Consumer<Stream<String>> printTime = stream ->
  System.out.println(timeOperation.apply(stream) / 1000000f);

String[] array = new String[1000000];
Arrays.fill(array, "AbabagalamagA");

printTime.accept(;            // prints around 600
printTime.accept(; // prints around 900

Shouldn’t the parallel version be faster, considering the fact that I have 2 CPU cores? Could someone give me a hint why parallel version is slower?



There are several issues going on here in parallel, as it were.

The first is that solving a problem in parallel always involves performing more actual work than doing it sequentially. Overhead is involved in splitting the work among several threads and joining or merging the results. Problems like converting short strings to lower-case are small enough that they are in danger of being swamped by the parallel splitting overhead.

The second issue is that benchmarking Java program is very subtle, and it is very easy to get confusing results. Two common issues are JIT compilation and dead code elimination. Short benchmarks often finish before or during JIT compilation, so they’re not measuring peak throughput, and indeed they might be measuring the JIT itself. When compilation occurs is somewhat non-deterministic, so it may cause results to vary wildly as well.

For small, synthetic benchmarks, the workload often computes results that are thrown away. JIT compilers are quite good at detecting this and eliminating code that doesn’t produce results that are used anywhere. This probably isn’t happening in this case, but if you tinker around with other synthetic workloads, it can certainly happen. Of course, if the JIT eliminates the benchmark workload, it renders the benchmark useless.

I strongly recommend using a well-developed benchmarking framework such as JMH instead of hand-rolling one of your own. JMH has facilities to help avoid common benchmarking pitfalls, including these, and it’s pretty easy to set up and run. Here’s your benchmark converted to use JMH:

package com.stackoverflow.questions;

import java.util.Arrays;
import java.util.List;
import java.util.concurrent.TimeUnit;

import org.openjdk.jmh.annotations.*;

public class SO23170832 {
    public static class BenchmarkState {
        static String[] array;
        static {
            array = new String[1000000];
            Arrays.fill(array, "AbabagalamagA");

    public List<String> sequential(BenchmarkState state) {
                  .map(x -> x.toLowerCase())

    public List<String> parallel(BenchmarkState state) {
                  .map(x -> x.toLowerCase())

I ran this using the command:

java -jar dist/microbenchmarks.jar ".*SO23170832.*" -wi 5 -i 5 -f 1

(The options indicate five warmup iterations, five benchmark iterations, and one forked JVM.) During its run, JMH emits lots of verbose messages, which I’ve elided. The summary results are as follows.

Benchmark                       Mode   Samples         Mean   Mean error    Units
c.s.q.SO23170832.parallel      thrpt         5        4.600        5.995    ops/s
c.s.q.SO23170832.sequential    thrpt         5        1.500        1.727    ops/s

Note that results are in ops per second, so it looks like the parallel run was about three times faster than the sequential run. But my machine has only two cores. Hmmm. And the mean error per run is actually larger than the mean runtime! WAT? Something fishy is going on here.

This brings us to a third issue. Looking more closely at the workload, we can see that it allocates a new String object for each input, and it also collects the results into a list, which involves lots of reallocation and copying. I’d guess that this will result in a fair amount of garbage collection. We can see this by rerunning the benchmark with GC messages enabled:

java -verbose:gc -jar dist/microbenchmarks.jar ".*SO23170832.*" -wi 5 -i 5 -f 1

This gives results like:

[GC (Allocation Failure)  512K->432K(130560K), 0.0024130 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  944K->520K(131072K), 0.0015740 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  1544K->777K(131072K), 0.0032490 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  1801K->1027K(132096K), 0.0023940 secs]
# Run progress: 0.00% complete, ETA 00:00:20
# VM invoker: /Users/src/jdk/jdk8-b132.jdk/Contents/Home/jre/bin/java
# VM options: -verbose:gc
# Fork: 1 of 1
[GC (Allocation Failure)  512K->424K(130560K), 0.0015460 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  933K->552K(131072K), 0.0014050 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  1576K->850K(131072K), 0.0023050 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  3075K->1561K(132096K), 0.0045140 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  1874K->1059K(132096K), 0.0062330 secs]
# Warmup: 5 iterations, 1 s each
# Measurement: 5 iterations, 1 s each
# Threads: 1 thread, will synchronize iterations
# Benchmark mode: Throughput, ops/time
# Benchmark: com.stackoverflow.questions.SO23170832.parallel
# Warmup Iteration   1: [GC (Allocation Failure)  7014K->5445K(132096K), 0.0184680 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  7493K->6346K(135168K), 0.0068380 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  10442K->8663K(135168K), 0.0155600 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  12759K->11051K(139776K), 0.0148190 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  18219K->15067K(140800K), 0.0241780 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  22167K->19214K(145920K), 0.0208510 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  29454K->25065K(147456K), 0.0333080 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  35305K->30729K(153600K), 0.0376610 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  46089K->39406K(154624K), 0.0406060 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  54766K->48299K(164352K), 0.0550140 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  71851K->62725K(165376K), 0.0612780 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  86277K->74864K(184320K), 0.0649210 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  111216K->94203K(185856K), 0.0875710 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  130555K->114932K(199680K), 0.1030540 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  162548K->141952K(203264K), 0.1315720 secs]
[Full GC (Ergonomics)  141952K->59696K(159232K), 0.5150890 secs]
[GC (Allocation Failure)  105613K->85547K(184832K), 0.0738530 secs]
1.183 ops/s

Note: the lines beginning with # are normal JMH output lines. All the rest are GC messages. This is just the first of the five warmup iterations, which precedes five benchmark iterations. The GC messages continued in the same vein during the rest of the iterations. I think it’s safe to say that the measured performance is dominated by GC overhead and that the results reported should not be believed.

At this point it’s unclear what to do. This is purely a synthetic workload. It clearly involves very little CPU time doing actual work compared to allocation and copying. It’s hard to say what you really are trying to measure here. One approach would be to come up with a different workload that is in some sense more “real.” Another approach would be to change the heap and GC parameters to avoid GC during the benchmark run.