Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Future notes (part II)

There's some really nice aspects to Scala's Futures that make them very different to Java's. Because they're monadic, you can do all sorts of interesting things.

Differences between Java and Scala Futures

In Java, you merely block while waiting for the result by calling get(). That's it.

However, you can cancel Java futures. Scala "Futures come without a built-in support for cancellation" [1] although there are ways to roll-your-own.

So what can you do that's so special?

Because both Lists and Futures are monadic, you can "blend" them. For instance, say you have a List of Futures, you can convert them into a Future of Lists. This allows you to react to just a single Future with all the data rather than worrying about many Futures each with some data.

This is built in to the Scala API via Future.sequence. It basically folds over the monadic structure (eg a List) that's passed to it.

A somewhat simplified version of this code (I use the more specific List rather than sequence's more general TraversableOnce and avoids the magic of CanBuildFrom) looks like this:

  def mySequence[T](futures: List[Future[T]])(implicit ec: ExecutionContext): Future[List[T]] = {
    def foldFn(agg: Future[List[T]], ft: Future[T]): Future[List[T]] = {
      agg flatMap { list =>
        ft map {
          element => list :+ element

    val seed: Future[List[T]] = Future {

    futures.foldLeft (seed) (foldFn)

Or, we could use a for-comprehension to give it some syntactic sugar:

foldFn(agg: Future[List[T]], ft: Future[T]): Future[List[T]] = for {
      list <- agg
      t <- ft
    } yield (list :+ t)

They're equivalent. Whether it's this simplified method or the more complicated one in the Scala API, you'd call it with something like:

    val listOfFutures = List(createSimpleFuture("this"), createSimpleFuture("is"), createSimpleFuture("a"), createSimpleFuture("test"))
    val futureOfLists = mySequence(listOfFutures)
    val lists         = Await.result(futureOfLists, Duration(5, TimeUnit.SECONDS))
    println("lists from future of lists from list of futures: " + lists) 

  def createSimpleFuture(eventualResult: String)(implicit ec: ExecutionContext): Future[String] = {
    Future {

which prints out:

List(this, is, a, test)

More funky stuff in part III.

[1] Learning Concurrent Programming in Scala by Prokopec, Aleksandar - Aleksandar Prokopec

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