How to Create Controllable Futures in Scala

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How to Create Controllable Futures in Scala

In this article, we discuss how to create controllable Futures in Scala with the help of Promises.

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This article is for the Scala programmer who has at least used or heard about Futures before. You can also find this over at the Rock the JVM blog or on YouTube in video form or embedded below:

In this article, I'm going to address the problem of "deterministic" Futures in Scala. You probably know by now that Futures are inherently non-deterministic, in the sense that if you create a Future

You know the value inside will be evaluated on "some" thread, at "some" point in time, without your control.

The Scenario

Here, I will speak to the following scenario which comes up often in practice. Imagine you're designing a function like this:

with the assumption that you're issuing a request to some multi-threaded service which, is getting called all the time. Let's also assume that the service looks like this:

The service has two API methods:
  1. A "production" function that is completely deterministic.
  2. A submission function that has a pretty terrible API because the function argument will be evaluated on one of the service's threads, and you can't get the returned value back from another thread's call stack.
Let's assume this important service is also impossible to change, for various reasons (API breaks, etc). In other words, the "production" logic is completely fixed and deterministic. However, what's not deterministic is when the service will actually end up calling the production function. In other words, you can't implement your function as:

because spawning up the thread responsible for evaluating the production function is not up to you.

The Solution

Introducing Promises — a "controller" and "wrapper" over a Future. Here's how it works. You create a Promise, get its Future and use it (consume it) with the assumption that it will be filled in later:

Then pass that promise to someone else, perhaps an asynchronous service:

And at the moment, the promise contains a value. Its future will automatically be fulfilled with that value, which will unlock the consumer.

How to Use it

For our service scenario, here's how we would implement our function:

We create a promise and then we return its future at the end for whoever wants to consume it. In the middle, we submit a function that will be evaluated at some point out of our control. At that moment, the service produces the value and fulfills the Promise, which will automatically fulfill the Future for the consumer.

This is how we can leverage the power of Promises to create "controllable" Futures, which we can fulfill at a moment of our choosing. The Promise class also has other methods, such as failure, trySuccess/ tryFailure and more.

I hope this was useful!
functional programming, future, jvm, promise, scala, tutorial

Published at DZone with permission of Daniel Ciocirlan . See the original article here.

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