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When taking measurements or working with timers it is recommended to use the clock interface. It provides two methods for measuring time:

Wall Time

This is what most users think of for time. It can be used to get the current time like what you would see on a wall clock. In most cases when not running in tests this will call System.currentTimeMillis().

Note that the values returned by this method may not be monontonically increasing. Just like a clock on your wall, this value can go back in time or jump forward at unpredictable intervals if someone sets the time. On many systems ntpd will be constantly keeping the time synced up with an authoritative source.

With spectator, the clock is typically accessed via the regstry. Example of usage:

// Current time in milliseconds since the epoch
long currentTime = registry.clock().wallTime();

Monotonic Time

While it is good in general for the wall clock to show the correct time, the unpredictable changes mean it is not a good choice for measuring how long an operation took. Consider a simple example of measuring request latency on a server:

long start = registry.clock().wallTime();
handleRequest(request, response);
long end = registry.clock().wallTime();
reqLatencyTimer.record(end - start, TimeUnit.MILLISECONDS);

If ntp fixes the server time between start and end, then the recorded latency will be wrong. Spectator will protect against obviously wrong measurements like negative latencies by dropping those values when they are recorded. However, the change could incorrectly shorten or lengthen the measured latency.

The clock interface also provides access to a monotonic source that is only useful for measuring elapsed time, for example:

long start = registry.clock().monotonicTime();
handleRequest(request, response);
long end = registry.clock().monotonicTime();
reqLatencyTimer.record(end - start, TimeUnit.NANOSECONDS);

In most cases this will map to System.nanoTime(). Note the actual value returned is not meaningful unless compared with another sample to get a delta.

Manual Clock

If timing code is written to the clock interface, then alternative implemenations can be plugged in. For test cases it is common to use ManualClock so that tests can be reliable and fast without having to rely on hacks like sleep or assuming something will run in less than a certain amount of time.

ManualClock clock = new ManualClock();
Registry registry = new DefaultRegistry(clock);

Timer timer = registry.timer("test");
timer.record(() -> {

Assert.assertEquals(timer.totalTime(), 42L);