Concurrent access to Models

Applications need to be aware of the concurrency issues in access Jena models. API operations are not thread safe by default. Thread safety would simple ensure that the model data-structures remained intact but would not give an application consistent access to the RDF graph. It would also limit the throughput of multi-threaded applications on multiprocessor machines where true concurrency can lead to a reduction in response time.

For example, supposed an application wishes to read the name and age of a person from model. This takes two API calls. It is more convenient to be able to read that information in a consistent fashion, knowing that the access to the second piece of information is not being done after some model change has occurred.

Special care is needed with iterators. In general, Jena’s iterators do not take a copy to enable safe use in the presence of concurrent update. A multi-threaded application needs to be aware of these issues and correctly use the mechanisms that Jena provides (or manage its own concurrency itself). While not zero, the application burden is not high.

There are two main cases:

  • Multiple threads in the same JVM.
  • Multiple applications accessing the same persistent model (typically, a database).

Transactions are provided by persistent models: see the TDB documentation and the SDB documentation and for details.

This note describes the support for same-JVM, multi-threaded applications.


Locks provide critical section support for managing the interactions of multiple threads in the same JVM. Jena provides multiple-reader/single-writer concurrency support (MRSW).

The pattern general is:

Model model = . . . ;
model.enterCriticalSection(Lock.READ) ;  // or Lock.WRITE
try {
    ... perform actions on the model ...
    ... obey contract - no update operations if a read lock
} finally {
    model.leaveCriticalSection() ;

Applications are expected to obey the lock contract, that is, they must not do update operations if they have a read lock as there can be other application threads reading the model concurrently.


Care must be taken with iterators: unless otherwise stated, all iterators must be assumed to be iterating over the data-structures in the model or graph implementation itself.  It is not possible to safely pass these out of critical sections.


SPARQL query results are iterators and no different from other iterators in Jena for concurrency purposes. The default query engine does not give thread safety and the normal requirements on an application to ensure MRSW access in the presence of iterators applies. Note that Jena’s query mechanism is itself multi-threaded. If the application is single threaded, no extra work is necessary. If the application is multi-threaded, queries should be executed with a read lock.


  Model model = ... ;
  String queryString = " .... " ;
  Query query = QueryFactory.create(queryString) ;
  model.enterCriticalSection(Lock.READ) ;
  try {
    try(QueryExecution qexec = QueryExecutionFactory.create(query, model)) {
        ResultSet results = qexec.execSelect() ;
        for ( ; results.hasNext() ; )
            QuerySolution soln = results.nextSolution() ;
            RDFNode x = soln.get("..var name..") ;
  } finally { model.leaveCriticalSection() ; }

Updates to the model should not be performed inside the read-only section. For database-backed models, the application can use a transaction. For in-memory models, the application should collect the changes together during the query processing then making all the changes holding a write lock.

Jena Locks do not provide lock promotion - an application can not start a “write” critical section while holding a “read” lock because this can lead to deadlock.


The actually interface is called Lock and has implementations including LockMRSW.

For compatibility with previous versions of Jena, there is a class ModelLock.