Offload tasks to a pool of workers on node.js and in the browser
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README.md

workerpool

JavaScript is based upon a single event loop which handles one event at a time. Jeremy Epstein explains this clearly:

In Node.js everything runs in parallel, except your code. What this means is that all I/O code that you write in Node.js is non-blocking, while (conversely) all non-I/O code that you write in Node.js is blocking.

This means that CPU heavy tasks will block other tasks from being executed. In case of a browser environment, the browser will not react to user events like a mouse click while executing a CPU intensive task (the browser "hangs"). In case of a node.js server, the server will not respond to any new request while executing a single, heavy request.

For front-end processes, this is not a desired situation. Therefore, CPU intensive tasks should be offloaded from the main event loop onto dedicated workers. In a browser environment, Web Workers can be used. In node.js, child processes are available. An application should be split in separate, decoupled parts, which can run independent of each other in a parallelized way. Effectively, this results in an architecture which achieves concurrency by means of isolated processes and message passing.

workerpool offers an easy way to create a pool of workers for both dynamically offloading computations as well as managing a pool of dedicated workers. workerpool basically implements a thread pool pattern. There is a pool of workers to execute tasks. New tasks are put in a queue. A worker executes one task at a time, and once finished, picks a new task from the queue. Workers can be accessed via a natural, promise based proxy, as if they are available straight in the main application.

workerpool runs on node.js, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and IE10+.

Features

  • Easy to use
  • Runs in the browser and on node.js
  • Dynamically offload functions to a worker
  • Access workers via a proxy
  • Cancel running tasks
  • Set a timeout on tasks
  • Handles crashed workers
  • Small: less than 5 kB minified and gzipped

Install

Install via npm:

npm install workerpool

Load

To load workerpool in a node.js application (both main application as well as workers):

var workerpool = require('workerpool');

To load workerpool in the browser:

<script src="workerpool.js"></script>

To load workerpool in a web worker in the browser:

importScripts('workerpool.js');

Use

Offload functions dynamically

In the following example there is a function add, which is offloaded dynamically to a worker to be executed for a given set of arguments.

myApp.js

var workerpool = require('workerpool');
var pool = workerpool.pool();

function add(a, b) {
  return a + b;
}

pool.exec(add, [3, 4])
    .then(function (result) {
      console.log('result', result); // outputs 7
    })
    .catch(function (err) {
      console.error(err);
    })
    .then(function () {
      pool.terminate(); // terminate all workers when done
    });

Note that both function and arguments must be static and stringifiable, as they need to be send to the worker in a serialized form. In case of large functions or function arguments, the overhead of sending the data to the worker can be significant.

Dedicated workers

A dedicated worker can be created in a separate script, and then used via a worker pool.

myWorker.js

var workerpool = require('workerpool');

// a deliberately inefficient implementation of the fibonacci sequence
function fibonacci(n) {
  if (n < 2) return n;
  return fibonacci(n - 2) + fibonacci(n - 1);
}

// create a worker and register public functions
workerpool.worker({
  fibonacci: fibonacci
});

This worker can be used by a worker pool:

myApp.js

var workerpool = require('workerpool');

// create a worker pool using an external worker script
var pool = workerpool.pool(__dirname + '/myWorker.js');

// run registered functions on the worker via exec
pool.exec('fibonacci', [10])
    .then(function (result) {
      console.log('Result: ' + result); // outputs 55
    })
    .catch(function (err) {
      console.error(err);
    })
    .then(function () {
      pool.terminate(); // terminate all workers when done
    });

// or run registered functions on the worker via a proxy:
pool.proxy()
    .then(function (worker) {
      return worker.fibonacci(10);
    })
    .then(function (result) {
      console.log('Result: ' + result); // outputs 55
    })
    .catch(function (err) {
      console.error(err);
    })
    .then(function () {
      pool.terminate(); // terminate all workers when done
    });

Worker can also initialize asynchronously:

myAsyncWorker.js

define(['workerpool/dist/workerpool'], function(workerpool) {

  // a deliberately inefficient implementation of the fibonacci sequence
  function fibonacci(n) {
    if (n < 2) return n;
    return fibonacci(n - 2) + fibonacci(n - 1);
  }

  // create a worker and register public functions
  workerpool.worker({
    fibonacci: fibonacci
  });

});

Examples

Examples are available in the examples directory:

https://github.com/josdejong/workerpool/tree/master/examples

API

The API of workerpool consists of two parts: a function workerpool.pool to create a worker pool, and a function workerpool.worker to create a worker.

pool

A workerpool can be created using the function workerpool.pool:

workerpool.pool([script: string] [, options: Object]) : Pool

When a script argument is provided, the provided script will be started as a dedicated worker. When no script argument is provided, a default worker is started which can be used to offload functions dynamically via Pool.exec. Note that on node.js, script must be an absolute file path like __dirname + '/myWorker.js'.

The following options are available:

  • minWorkers: number | 'max'. The minimum number of workers that must be initialized and kept available. Setting this to 'max' will create maxWorkers default workers (see below).
  • maxWorkers: number. The default number of maxWorkers is the number of CPU's minus one. When the number of CPU's could not be determined (for example in older browsers), maxWorkers is set to 3.

A worker pool contains the following functions:

  • Pool.exec(method: Function | string, params: Array | null) : Promise.<*, Error>
    Execute a function on a worker with given arguments.

    • When method is a string, a method with this name must exist at the worker and must be registered to make it accessible via the pool. The function will be executed on the worker with given parameters.
    • When method is a function, the provided function fn will be stringified, send to the worker, and executed there with the provided parameters. The provided function must be static, it must not depend on variables in a surrounding scope.
  • Pool.proxy() : Promise.<Object, Error>
    Create a proxy for the worker pool. The proxy contains a proxy for all methods available on the worker. All methods return promises resolving the methods result.

  • Pool.stats() : Object
    Retrieve statistics on workers, and active and pending tasks.

    Returns an object containing the following properties:

    {
      totalWorkers: 0,
      busyWorkers: 0,
      idleWorkers: 0,
      pendingTasks: 0,
      activeTasks: 0
    }
  • Pool.terminate([force: boolean [, timeout: number]])

    If parameter force is false (default), workers will finish the tasks they are working on before terminating themselves. When force is true, all workers are terminated immediately without finishing running tasks. If timeout is provided, worker will be forced to terminal when the timeout expires and the worker has not finished.

  • Pool.clear([force: boolean])
    Deprecated: use Pool.terminate instead
    . Clear all workers from the pool. If parameter force is false (default), workers will finish the tasks they are working on before terminating themselves. When force is true, all workers are terminated immediately without finishing running tasks.

The function Pool.exec and the proxy functions all return a Promise. The promise has the following functions available:

  • Promise.then(fn: Function.<result: *>)
    Get the result of the promise once resolve.
  • Promise.catch(fn: Function.<error: Error>)
    Get the error of the promise when rejected.
  • Promise.cancel()
    A running task can be cancelled. The worker executing the task is enforced to terminate immediately. The promise will be rejected with a Promise.CancellationError.
  • Promise.timeout(delay: number)
    Cancel a running task when it is not resolved or rejected withing given delay in milliseconds. The timer will start when the task is actually started, not when the task is created and queued. The worker executing the task is enforced to terminate immediately. The promise will be rejected with a Promise.TimeoutError.

Example usage:

var workerpool = require('workerpool');

function add(a, b) {
  return a + b;
}

var pool1 = workerpool.pool();

// offload a function to a worker
pool1.exec(add, [2, 4])
    .then(function (result) {
      console.log(result); // will output 6
    })
    .catch(function (err) {
      console.error(err);
    });

// create a dedicated worker
var pool2 = workerpool.pool(__dirname + '/myWorker.js');

// supposed myWorker.js contains a function 'fibonacci'
pool2.exec('fibonacci', [10])
    .then(function (result) {
      console.log(result); // will output 55
    })
    .catch(function (err) {
      console.error(err);
    });

// create a proxy to myWorker.js
pool2.proxy()
    .then(function (myWorker) {
      return myWorker.fibonacci(10)
    })
    .then(function (result) {
      console.log(result); // will output 55
    })
    .catch(function (err) {
      console.error(err);
    });

// create a pool with a specified maximum number of workers
var pool3 = workerpool.pool({maxWorkers: 7});

worker

A worker is constructed as:

workerpool.worker([methods: Object.<String, Function>])

Argument methods is optional can can be an object with functions available in the worker. Registered functions will be available via the worker pool.

Example usage:

// file myWorker.js
var workerpool = require('workerpool');

function add(a, b) {
  return a + b;
}

function multiply(a, b) {
  return a * b;
}

// create a worker and register functions
workerpool.worker({
  add: add,
  multiply: multiply
});

Asynchronous results can be handled by returning a Promise from a function in the worker:

// file myWorker.js
var workerpool = require('workerpool');

function timeout(delay) {
  return new Promise(function (resolve, reject) {
    setTimeout(resolve, delay)
  });
}

// create a worker and register functions
workerpool.worker({
  timeout: timeout
});

Utilities

Following properties are available for convenience:

  • platform: The Javascript platform. Either node or browser
  • isMainThread: Whether the code is running in main thread or not (Workers)
  • cpus: The number of CPUs/cores available

Roadmap

  • Implement functions for parallel processing: map, reduce, forEach, filter, some, every, ...
  • Implement graceful degradation on old browsers not supporting webworkers: fallback to processing tasks in the main application.
  • Implement session support: be able to handle a series of related tasks by a single worker, which can keep a state for the session.

Sources of inspiration

Build

First clone the project from github:

git clone git://github.com/josdejong/workerpool.git
cd workerpool

Install the project dependencies:

npm install

Then, the project can be build by executing the build script via npm:

npm run build

This will build the library workerpool.js and workerpool.min.js from the source files and put them in the folder dist.

Test

To execute tests for the library, install the project dependencies once:

npm install

Then, the tests can be executed:

npm test

To test code coverage of the tests:

npm run coverage

To see the coverage results, open the generated report in your browser:

./coverage/lcov-report/index.html

License

Copyright (C) 2014-2018 Jos de Jong wjosdejong@gmail.com

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.