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TaskQueue

Build Status GitHub license Swift 4 Platforms MacOS | iOS | tvOS | watchOS Carthage Compatible CocoaPods

A TaskQueue is basically a FIFO queue where tasks can be enqueued for execution. The tasks will be executed concurrently up to an allowed maximum number.

A task is simply a non-throwing asynchronous function with a single parameter which is a completion handler called when the task finished.

Features

  • Employs the execution of asynchronous "non-blocking" tasks.
  • The maximum number of concurrently executing tasks can be set, even during the execution of tasks.
  • Employs a "barrier" task which serves as a synchronisation point which allows you to "join" all previous enqueued tasks.
  • Task and TaskQueue can be a used as a replacement for NSOperation and NSOperationQueue.

Description

With a TaskQueue we can control the maximum number of concurrent tasks that run "within" the task queue. In order to accomplish this, we enqueue tasks into the task queue. If the actual number of running tasks is less than the maximum, the enqueued task will be immediately executed. Otherwise it will be delayed up until enough previously enqueued tasks have been completed.

At any time, we can enqueue further tasks, while the maximum number of running tasks is continuously guaranteed. Furthermore, at any time, we can change the number of maximum concurrent tasks and the task queue will adapt until the constraints are fulfilled.

Installation

Note:
Swift 4.0, 3.2 and 3.1 requires slightly different syntax:
For Swift 4 use version >= 0.9.0.
For Swift 3.2 compatibility use version 0.8.0 and for Swift 3.1 use version 0.7.0.

Carthage

Add

github "couchdeveloper/TaskQueue"

to your Cartfile. This is appropriate for use with Swift 4, otherwise specify version constraints as noted above.

In your source files, import the library as follows

import TaskQueue

CocoaPods

Add the following line to your Podfile:

pod 'cdTaskQueue'

This is appropriate for use with Swift 4, otherwise specify version constraints as noted above.

In your source files, import the library as follows

import cdTaskQueue

SwiftPM

To use SwiftPM, add this to your Package.swift:

.Package(url: "https://github.com/couchdeveloper/TaskQueue.git")

Usage

Suppose, there one or more asynchronous tasks and we want to execute them in some controlled manner. In particular, we want to make guarantees that no more than a set limit of those tasks execute concurrently. For example, many times, we just want to ensure, that only one task is running at a time.

Furthermore, we want to be notified when all tasks of a certain set have been completed and then take further actions, for example, based on the results, enqueue further tasks.

So, what's a task anyway?

A task is a Swift function or closure, which executes asynchronously returns Void and has a single parameter, the completion handler. The completion handler has a single parameter where the eventual Result - which is computed by the underlying operation - will be passed when the task completes.

We can use any type of "Result", for example a tuple (Value?, Error?) or more handy types like Result<T> or Try<T>.

Canonical task function:

func task(completion: @escaping (R)->()) {
    ...
}

where R is for example: (T?, Error?) or Result<T> or (Data?, Response?, Error?) etc.

Note, that the type R may represent a Swift Tuple, for example (T?, Error?), and please not that there are syntax changes in Swift 4:

Caution:
In Swift 4 please consider the following changes regarding tuple parameters:
If a function type has only one parameter and that parameter’s type is a tuple type, then the tuple type must be parenthesized when writing the function’s type. For example, ((Int, Int)) -> Void is the type of a function that takes a single parameter of the tuple type (Int, Int) and doesn’t return any value. In contrast, without parentheses, (Int, Int) -> Void is the type of a function that takes two Int parameters and doesn’t return any value. Likewise, because Void is a type alias for (), the function type (Void) -> Void is the same as (()) -> () — a function that takes a single argument that is an empty tuple. These types are not the same as () -> () — a function that takes no arguments.

So, this means, if the result type of the task´s completion handler is a Swift Tuple, for example (String?, Error?), that task must have the following signature:

func myTask(completion: @escaping ((String?, Error?))->()) {
    ...
}

Now, create a task queue where we can enqueue a number of those tasks. We can control the number of maximum concurrently executing tasks in the initialiser:

 let taskQueue = TaskQueue(maxConcurrentTasks: 1)
 // Create 8 tasks and let them run:
 (0...8).forEach { _ in
   taskQueue.enqueue(task: myTask) { (String?, Error?) in
      ...
   }   
 }

Note, that the start of a task will be delayed up until the current number of running tasks is below the allowed maximum number of concurrent tasks.

In the above code, the asynchronous tasks are effectively serialised, since the maximum number of concurrent tasks is set to 1.

Using a barrier

A barrier function allows us to create a synchronisation point within the TaskQueue. When the TaskQueue encounters a barrier function, it delays the execution of the barrier function and any further tasks until all tasks enqueued before the barrier have been completed. At that point, the barrier function executes exclusively. Upon completion, the TaskQueue resumes its normal execution behaviour.

 let taskQueue = TaskQueue(maxConcurrentTasks: 4)
 // Create 8 tasks and let them run (max 4 will run concurrently):
 (0...8).forEach { _ in
   taskQueue.enqueue(task: myTask) { (String?, Error?) in
      ...
   }   
 }
 taskQueue.enqueueBarrier {
   // This will execute exclusively on the task queue after all previously
   // enqueued tasks have been completed.
   print("All tasks finished")
 }

 // enqueue further tasks as you like

Specify a Dispatch Queue Where to Start the Task

Even though, a task should always be designed such, that it is irrelevant on which thread it will be called, the practice is often different. Fortunately, we can specify a dispatch queue in function enqueue where the task will be eventually started by the task queue, if there should be such a limitation.

If a queue is not specified, the task will be started on the global queue (DispatchQueue.global()).

taskQueue.enqueue(task: myTask, queue: DispatchQueue.main) { Result<String> in
    ...
}

Note, that this affects only where the task will be started. The task's completion handler will be executed on whatever thread or dispatch queue the task is choosing when it completes. There's no way in TaskQueue to specify the execution context for the completion handler.

Constructing a Suitable Task Function from Any Other Asynchronous Function

The function signature for enqueue requires that we pass a task function which has a single parameter completion and returns Void. The single parameter is the completion handler, that is a function, taking a single parameter or a tuple result and returning Void.

So, what if our asynchronous function does not have this signature, for example, has additional parameters and even returns a result?

Take a look at this asynchronous function from URLSession:

dataTask(with url: URL,
  completionHandler: @escaping (Data?, URLResponse?, Error?) -> Swift.Void)
  -> URLSessionDataTask

Here, besides the completion handler we have an additional parameter url which is used to configure the task. It also has a return value, the created URLSessionTask object.

In order to use this function with TaskQueue, we need to ensure that the task is configured at the time we enqueue it, and that it has the right signature. We can accomplish both requirements by applying currying to the given function.

The basic steps are as follows:

Given any asynchronous function with one or more additional parameters and possibly a return value:

func asyncFoo(param: T, completion: @escaping (Result)->()) -> U {
  ...
}

we transform it to:

func task(param: T) -> (_ completion: @escaping (Result) -> ()) -> () {
  return { completion in
    let u = asyncFoo(param: param) { result in
      completion(result)
    }
    // handle return value from asyncFoo, if any.
  }
}

That is, we transform the above function asyncFoo into another, whose parameters consist only of the configuring parameters, and returning a function having the single remaining parameter, the completion handler, e.g.:

((Result) -> ()) -> ().

The signature of this returned function must be valid for the task function required by TaskQueue. "Result" can be a single parameter, e.g. Result<T> or any tuple, e.g. (T?, Error?) or (T?, U?, Error?), etc.

Note, that any return value from the original function (here asyncFoo), if any, will be ignored by the task queue. It should be handled by the implementation of the task function, though.

You might want to examine this snippet a couple of times to get used to it ;)

Then use it as follows:

taskQueue.enqueue(task: task(param: "Param")) { result in
    // handle result
    ...
}

This ensures, that the task will be "configured" with the given parameters at the time it will be enqueued. The execution, though, will be delayed up until the task queue is ready to execute it.

Example

Here, we wrap a URLSessionTask executing a "GET" into a task function:

func get(_ url: URL) -> (_ completion: @escaping ((Data?, URLResponse?, Error?)) -> ()) -> () {
    return { completion in
        URLSession.shared.dataTask(with: url) { data, response, error in
            completion((data, response, error))
        }.resume()
    }
}

Then use it as follows:

let taskQueue = TaskQueue(maxConcurrentTasks: 4)
taskQueue.enqueue(task: get(url)) { (data, response, error) in
    // handle (data, response, error)
    ...
}

Having a list of urls, enqueue them all at once and execute them with the constraints set in the task queue:

let urls = [ ... ]
let taskQueue = TaskQueue(maxConcurrentTasks: 1) // serialise the tasks
urls.forEach {
  taskQueue.enqueue(task: get($0)) { (data, response, error) in
      // handle (data, response, error)
      ...
  }  
}

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