Singleton Pattern – Creational Pattern

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In software engineering, the singleton pattern is a design pattern used to implement the mathematical concept of a singleton, by restricting the instantiation of a class to one object. This is useful when exactly one object is needed to coordinate actions across the system. The concept is sometimes generalized to systems that operate more efficiently when only one object exists, or that restrict the instantiation to a certain number of objects (say, five). It introduces global state into an application.

Implementation

Implementation of a singleton pattern must satisfy the single instance and global access principles. It requires a mechanism to access the singleton class member without creating a class object and a mechanism to persist the value of class members among class objects. The singleton pattern is implemented by creating a class with a method that creates a new instance of the class if one does not exist. If an instance already exists, it simply returns a reference to that object. To make sure that the object cannot be instantiated any other way, the constructor is made protected (not private, because reuse and unit test could need to access the constructor). Note the distinction between a simple static instance of a class and a singleton: although a singleton can be implemented as a static instance, it can also be lazily constructed, requiring no memory or resources until needed. Another notable difference is that static member classes cannot implement an interface, unless that interface is simply a marker. So if the class has to realize a contract expressed by an interface, it really has to be a singleton.

The singleton pattern must be carefully constructed in multi-threaded applications. If two threads are to execute the creation method at the same time when a singleton does not yet exist, they both must check for an instance of the singleton and then only one should create the new one. If the programming language has concurrent processing capabilities the method should be constructed to execute as a mutually exclusive operation.

The classic solution to this problem is to use mutual exclusion on the class that indicates that the object is being instantiated.

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