Scheduler

A cross-platform execution-context, can execute logic asynchronously and with a delay, typically but not necessarily on a thread-pool.

The Monix Scheduler is inspired by ReactiveX, being an enhanced Scala ExecutionContext and also a replacement for Java’s ScheduledExecutorService, but also for Javascript’s setTimeout.

Rationale

An ExecutionContext is too limited, having the following problems:

  1. It cannot execute things with a given delay
  2. It cannot execute units of work periodically (e.g. once every second)
  3. The execute() method doesn’t return a token you could use to cancel the pending execution of a task

Developers using Akka do have a nicer interface that solve the above problems in the form of akka.actor.Scheduler, so you can do this:

val task: akka.actor.Cancellable =
  ActorSystem("default").scheduler.scheduleOnce(1.second) {
    println("Executing asynchronously ...")
  }

// canceling it before execution happens
task.cancel()

There are problems with the above approach - Akka’s Scheduler is an integral part of Akka’s actors system and their usage implies a dependency on Akka, which is a pretty heavy dependency and there’s no good reason for that, Cancelables are useful outside the context of Schedulers or Akka and in terms of the API, as you’ll see, we can do better.

Another approach is to use a ScheduledExecutorService from Java’s standard library and is fairly capable and standard, however the API is not idiomatic Scala, with the results returned being of type j.u.c.ScheduledFuture, which are pretty heavy and have nothing to do with Scala’s Futures and again, this API can surely use improvement.

And neither Akka’s Scheduler nor Java’s ScheduledExecutorService can run on top of Scala.js, whereas Monix provides a common API reusable in both environments. Remember, the Scheduler is not about multi-threading, but about asynchrony.

Importing & Implicits

The Scheduler can be a replacement for Scala’s ExecutionContext because:

import scala.concurrent.ExecutionContext

trait Scheduler extends ExecutionContext {
  // ...
}

And there’s also a lazy global that you can use as an implicit:

import monix.execution.Scheduler.Implicits.global

We can now execute futures, because this will be our execution context:

import concurrent.Future
Future(1 + 1).foreach(println)
// 2

On the JVM this lazily initialized global instance executes tasks by means of a Scala “ForkJoinPool” (actually being backed by Scala’s own ExecutionContext.Implicits.global), and it can be tuned by setting the following system properties:

Example of setting a system property:

java -Dscala.concurrent.context.minThreads=10 ...

On top of Javascript with Scala.js, the global scheduler is simply backed by an implementation using setTimeout under the hood.

Execute Runnables

In order to schedule a Runnable to execute asynchronously:

import monix.execution.Scheduler.{global => scheduler}

scheduler.execute(new Runnable {
  def run(): Unit = {
    println("Hello, world!")
  }
})

Once a task has been scheduled for execution like this, there’s no way to cancel it.

Schedule with a Delay

To execute a Runnable with a given delay, let’s say for example 5 seconds:

import java.util.concurrent.TimeUnit

val cancelable = scheduler.scheduleOnce(
  5, TimeUnit.SECONDS,
  new Runnable {
    def run(): Unit = {
      println("Hello, world!")
    }
  })

// In case we change our mind, before time's up
cancelable.cancel()

Monix also supplies a more Scala-friendly extension:

import scala.concurrent.duration._

val c = scheduler.scheduleOnce(5.seconds) {
  println("Hello, world!")
}

Schedule Repeatedly

We can schedule tasks to run repeatedly, let’s say with an initial delay of 3 seconds before the first execution and then with a fixed delay between subsequent executions of 5 seconds:

val c = scheduler.scheduleWithFixedDelay(
  3, 5, TimeUnit.SECONDS,
  new Runnable {
    def run(): Unit = {
      println("Fixed delay task")
    }
  })

// If we change our mind and want to cancel
c.cancel()

Note that it doesn’t matter how much the execution takes, the delay between tasks will be constant. So in this sample, we are actually going to have an accumulated delay of 7 seconds between println calls:

val c = scheduler.scheduleWithFixedDelay(
  3, 5, TimeUnit.SECONDS,
  new Runnable {
    def run(): Unit = {
      Thread.sleep(2000) // 2 seconds
      println("Fixed delay task")
    }
  })

There’s also a more Scala-friendly extension:

scheduler.scheduleWithFixedDelay(3.seconds, 5.seconds) {
  println("Fixed delay task")
}

So, in order to take execution duration into account, we can use the second variant, scheduling periodic execution at a fixed rate.

val c = scheduler.scheduleAtFixedRate(
  3, 5, TimeUnit.SECONDS,
  new Runnable {
    def run(): Unit = {
      println("Fixed delay task")
    }
  })

// If we change our mind and want to cancel
c.cancel()

With scheduleAtFixedRate executions will commence after initialDelay then initialDelay+period, then initialDelay + 2 * period, and so on. If any execution of this task takes longer than its period, then subsequent executions may start late, but will not concurrently execute.

Injecting Time and Tests

The Monix Scheduler can inject the time by means of Scheduler.currentTimeMillis, which is a Unix timestamp and thus returns the number of milliseconds since the 1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC.

Doing this is bad because it is a global singleton and we cannot override its behavior:

System.currentTimeMillis
// res1: Long = 1464223070198

But if given a scheduler, we can now do this:

scheduler.currentTimeMillis
// res2: Long = 1464223092089

All of Monix’s time-based operations are relying on this. Which means that in tests we can mock time along with faking asynchronous execution. Here’s how:

import monix.execution.schedulers.TestScheduler

val testScheduler = TestScheduler()

testScheduler.execute(new Runnable {
  def run() = println("Immediate!")
})

testScheduler.scheduleOnce(1.second) {
  println("Delayed execution!")
}

// Now we can fake it. Executes immediate tasks,
// on the current thread:
testScheduler.tick()
// => Immediate!

// Simulate passage of time, current thread:
testScheduler.tick(1.second)
// => Delayed execution!

But non-determinism is still simulated. For example if we do this, the order of execution for tasks that have the same priority will be randomly chosen, so you can’t say which is going to execute first or which is second.

// runnable1 might execute first, or second
testScheduler.execute(runnable1)
// runnable2 might execute first, or second
testScheduler.execute(runnable2)

Execution Model

Along with time, the Scheduler also specifies the ExecutionModel, which is a specification that acts as a guideline for pieces of computations that are doing possibly asynchronous execution in loops. For example in Monix, this affects how both Task and Observable are evaluated.

Currently there are 3 execution models available:

You can retrieve the configured ExecutionModel by calling Scheduler.executionModel. Here’s the default:

global.executionModel
// res: monix.execution.schedulers.ExecutionModel =
//   BatchedExecution(1024)

You can configure the batch size for this default by setting a system property like:

java -Dmonix.environment.batchSize=256 ...

So if you want to specify a configuration different from the default, you need to build a new Scheduler instance.

Builders on the JVM

On top of the JVM you can build a Scheduler instance manually, by piggy-backing on an existing Scala ExecutionContext that will actually execute the tasks and on top of an existing Java ScheduledExecutorService that will be in charge of scheduling delayed executions, but that won’t run the tasks themselves. There are multiple overloads available, but lets do the most general:

import java.util.concurrent.Executors
import monix.execution.schedulers.ExecutionModel.AlwaysAsyncExecution
import monix.execution.{Scheduler, UncaughtExceptionReporter}

// Will schedule things with delays
lazy val scheduledExecutor =
  Executors.newSingleThreadScheduledExecutor()

// For actual execution of tasks
lazy val executorService =
  scala.concurrent.ExecutionContext.Implicits.global

// Logs errors to stderr or something
lazy val uncaughtExceptionReporter =
  UncaughtExceptionReporter(executorService.reportFailure)

lazy val scheduler = Scheduler(
  scheduledExecutor,
  executorService,
  uncaughtExceptionReporter,
  AlwaysAsyncExecution
)

There are multiple overloads available, so you may skip some of those params:

lazy val scheduler = Scheduler(scheduledExecutor, executorService)

Or even:

lazy val scheduler = Scheduler(executorService)

Even if you specify just an ExecutorService, it still knows how to build a scheduler, because we also have a default Executors.newSingleThreadScheduledExecutor being used as the ScheduledExecutorService used to schedule things to be executed with a delay. It uses a single thread because it’s in charge only of scheduling, the actual execution being done by the given ExecutorService.

But maybe we want to only wrap just a Java ScheduledExecutorService instance, a service capable of everything we’d want out of our Scheduler. We can do that as well:

lazy val scheduler = {
  val javaService = Executors.newScheduledThreadPool(10)
  Scheduler(javaService)
}

Or with an optional execution model:

lazy val scheduler = {
  val javaService = Executors.newScheduledThreadPool(10)
  Scheduler(javaService, AlwaysAsyncExecution)
}

Also on the JVM, we can create a ForkJoinPool meant for CPU-bound tasks like so:

// Simple constructor
lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler.computation(parallelism=10)

// Specify an optional ExecutionModel
lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler.computation(
    parallelism = 10,
    executionModel = AlwaysAsyncExecution
  )

Or we can create an unbounded thread-pool meant for I/O-bound tasks, backed by a Java CachedThreadPool:

lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler.io()

// Giving it a name
lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler.io(name="my-io")

// Explicit execution model
Scheduler.io(
  name="my-io",
  executionModel = AlwaysAsyncExecution
)

Or in case we want to be precise or feel like emulating Javascript’s environment, we could create a single threaded thread-pool, backed by a Java SingleThreadScheduledExecutor:

lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler.singleThread(name="my-thread")

Or a thread-pool with an exact number of threads (and not a variable one like the ForkJoinPool above), backed by a Java ScheduledThreadPool for both executing and scheduling delays:

lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler.fixedPool(name="my-fixed", poolSize=10)

Builders for Javascript

On top of Javascript things are simpler, since you can rely on setTimeout. But you might still want to tweak settings, so this works:

lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler(executionModel=AlwaysAsyncExecution)

We might also want to execute undelayed tasks immediately by means of an internal trampoline:

lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler.trampoline()

lazy val scheduler =
  Scheduler.trampoline(executionModel=AlwaysAsyncExecution)

Note that the trampoline cannot fake delayed execution, so it will still use setTimeout when delays are involved.

Shutdown with SchedulerService

The SchedulerService is a scheduler type that provides methods for managing termination. See the API Documentation.

Similar in spirit to java.util.concurrent.ExecutorService, the SchedulerService can be shut down, which will cause it to reject new tasks. The shutdown method allows previously submitted tasks to execute before terminating. The awaitTermination method allows waiting on all active tasks to finish.

Upon termination, an executor has no tasks actively executing, no tasks awaiting execution, and no new tasks can be submitted. An unused SchedulerService should be shut down to allow reclamation of its resources.

When building a new scheduler from scratch, most builders will return a SchedulerService instance whenever it makes sense:

import monix.execution.Scheduler
import monix.execution.schedulers.SchedulerService

val io: SchedulerService = Scheduler.io("my-io")

io.execute(new Runnable {
  def run(): Unit = {
    println("Hello, world!")
  }
})

At this point we can initiate an orderly shutdown that will execute our pending tasks first, but will accept no more tasks:

io.shutdown()

We can also inspect the state of our service:

io.isShutdown
// res61: Boolean = true

But if we have already committed tasks pending execution, sometimes it is useful to wait for those tasks to be finished. Note that waiting for termination in Monix is an asynchronous operation, since Monix as a general rule of thumb avoids blocking threads, so our awaitTermination operation returns a Future and thus requires an alternative Scheduler to use for waiting:

import scala.concurrent._
import scala.concurrent.duration._
import monix.execution.Scheduler.global

val termination: Future[Boolean] =
  io.awaitTermination(30.seconds, global)

Await.result(termination, Duration.Inf)

We can now further inspect the state of our SchedulerService:

io.isTerminated
// res65: Boolean = true