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About Lukas Eder

Lukas Eder
Lukas is a Java and SQL enthusiast developer. He created the Data Geekery GmbH. He is the creator of jOOQ, a comprehensive SQL library for Java, and he is blogging mostly about these three topics: Java, SQL and jOOQ.

Comparing Imperative and Functional Algorithms in Java 8

Mario Fusco’s popular tweet impressively shows what the main difference between imperative and functional approaches to similar algorithms really is:

Imperative vs. Functional – Separation of Concerns pic.twitter.com/G2cC6iBkDJ

— Mario Fusco (@mariofusco) March 1, 2015

Both algorithms do the same thing, they’re probably equally fast and reasonable. Yet, one of the algorithms is much easier to write and read than the other. The difference lies in the fact that in imperative programming, different algorithmic requirements are spread throughout the code block, when in functional programming, each requirement has its own little line of code. Compare:

  • Green: Error handling
  • Blue: Stop criteria
  • Red: IO operations
  • Yellow: “Business logic”

Functional programming doesn’t always beat imperative programming as displayed in other examples on the jOOQ blog:

But here’s an example from Stack Overflow by user Aurora_Titanium, where the difference is as clear as in Mario Fusco’s example:

Calculating the Duplicate Values in an Array

The idea is to calculate the sum of all those values that are duplicate in a set of values. For instance, the following array:

int[] list = new int[]{1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,8,8,9,10};

… should yield as a result something like:

Duplicate: 8. Sum of all duplicate values: 24

The imperative approach

One of the answers by user Volkan Ozkan takes an imperative approach and calculates the sum as such:

int[] array = new int[] { 
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10 
};

int sum = 0;
for (int j = 0; j < array.length; j++)
{
    for (int k = j + 1; k < array.length; k++) 
    {
        if (k != j && array[k] == array[j])
        {
            sum = sum + array[k];
            System.out.println(
                "Duplicate found: " 
              + array[k]
              + " " 
              + "Sum of the duplicate value is " + sum);
        }
    }
}

The approach works only for sorted arrays where duplicates appear right after one another. In that case, however, it is probably an optimal solution in terms of performance, if performance really matters to this algorithm.

The functional approach

If a slight decrease of performance is acceptable to you (boxing ints, collecting them into maps), and it probably is, you can replace the above difficult-to-read code with the following bit of functional Java-8-style logic, which communicates much more clearly what it does:

int[] array = new int[] { 
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10 
};

IntStream.of(array)
         .boxed()
         .collect(groupingBy(i -> i))
         .entrySet()
         .stream()
         .filter(e -> e.getValue().size() > 1)
         .forEach(e -> {
             System.out.println(
                 "Duplicates found for : " 
               + e.getKey()
               + " their sum being : " 
               + e.getValue()
                  .stream()
                  .collect(summingInt(i -> i)));
         });

or, with explanations:

int[] array = new int[] { 
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10 
};

// Create a Stream<Integer> from your data
IntStream.of(array)
         .boxed()

// Group values into a Map<Integer, List<Integer>>
         .collect(groupingBy(i -> i))

// Filter out those map values that have only 
// 1 element in their group
         .entrySet()
         .stream()
         .filter(e -> e.getValue().size() > 1)

// Print the sum for the remaining groups
         .forEach(e -> {
             System.out.println(
                 "Duplicates found for : " 
               + e.getKey()
               + " their sum being : " 
               + e.getValue()
                  .stream()
                  .collect(summingInt(i -> i)));
         });

(note that the functional approach calculates sums for each duplicate value, not an overall sum, like the imperative approach. From the original question, this requirement wasn’t very clear)

As we’ve stated in a previous article on our blog, the power of functional programming via an API like the Java 8 Stream API is the fact that we’re approaching the expressive power of SQL-style declarative programming. We’re no longer concerned with remembering individual array indexes and how to calculate them and store intermediate results into some buffers. We can now focus on the really interesting logic, such as: “what’s a duplicate?” or “what sum am I interested in?”

Read on about how SQL compares to Java 8 Streams: Common SQL clauses and their equivalents in Java 8 Streams

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Özkan Pakdil
5 years ago

the performance is not the same look http://ozkanpakdil.github.io/java/performance/2015/09/19/java-imperative-vs-functional.html imperative coding faster then functional.

Lukas Eder
5 years ago
Reply to  Özkan Pakdil

Nice benchmark. The stress here is on “probably” :) To be fair, the algorithms don’t do the same thing, as stated in the article. The functional version collects sums for each “group”, whereas the imperative version collects the overall sum.