RxJava: Parallelisation

- 3 mins

Let’s define parallelism as processing multiple emissions at a time for a given Observable. Although, the Observable contract dictates that emissions must be pushed serially down to an Observable, RxJava gives enough operators and tools to be clever.

Let’s take the following example:

fun main() {
    Observable.range(1, 10)
        .map { i -> intenseCalculation(i) }
        .subscribe { System.out.println("Received $it ${LocalTime.now()}") }
}
Received 1 20:40:34.094
Received 2 20:40:36.109
Received 3 20:40:39.119
Received 4 20:40:42.128
Received 5 20:40:45.132
Received 6 20:40:45.132
Received 7 20:40:46.138
Received 8 20:40:49.140
Received 9 20:40:52.148
Received 10 20:40:54.149

The previous example took around 20 seconds to finish !

Operator: flatmap()

Let’s parallelise the previous example using flatmap:

fun main() {
    Observable.range(1, 10)
        .flatMap {
            Observable.just(it)
                .subscribeOn(Schedulers.computation())
                .map { i -> intenseCalculation(i) }
        }
        .subscribe { System.out.println("[${Thread.currentThread().name}] Received $it ${LocalTime.now()}") }

    TimeUnit.SECONDS.sleep(5)
}
[RxComputationThreadPool-1] Received 1 20:55:20.026
[RxComputationThreadPool-7] Received 7 20:55:20.982
[RxComputationThreadPool-10] Received 5 20:55:20.985
[RxComputationThreadPool-10] Received 10 20:55:20.985
[RxComputationThreadPool-3] Received 3 20:55:21.982
[RxComputationThreadPool-3] Received 4 20:55:21.983
[RxComputationThreadPool-3] Received 9 20:55:21.983
[RxComputationThreadPool-2] Received 2 20:55:22.982
[RxComputationThreadPool-2] Received 6 20:55:22.983
[RxComputationThreadPool-2] Received 8 20:55:22.983

This time, it took only 3 seconds to complete !

An Observable is created from each emission, emit it on a computation thread using subscribeOn(), perform the intenseCalculation(), and finally, flatMap() will merge all of the threads safely back into a serialised stream.

Note: If a thread is already pushing an emission out of flatMap() , any threads also waiting to push emissions will simply leave their emissions for that occupying thread to take ownership of.

Operator: groupBy()

Another way to parallelise the same example is by using groupBy() and GroupedObservables. This can be useful to restrict the number of thread to parallelise on (to the number of processor cores for example):

fun main() {
    val coreCount = Runtime.getRuntime().availableProcessors()
    val assigner = AtomicInteger(0)
    Observable.range(1, 10)
        .groupBy { assigner.incrementAndGet() % coreCount }
        .flatMap { groupedObservable ->
            groupedObservable
                .observeOn(Schedulers.io())
                .map { i -> intenseCalculation(i) }
        }
        .subscribe { System.out.println("[${Thread.currentThread().name}] Received $it ${LocalTime.now()}") }

    TimeUnit.SECONDS.sleep(5)
}
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-5] Received 5 21:29:20.407
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-5] Received 3 21:29:20.415
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-5] Received 4 21:29:20.415
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-5] Received 7 21:29:20.415
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-5] Received 9 21:29:20.415
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-8] Received 8 21:29:21.344
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-8] Received 10 21:29:21.344
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-6] Received 6 21:29:22.343
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-6] Received 1 21:29:22.343
[RxCachedThreadScheduler-2] Received 2 21:29:23.340

Again, it took only 3 seconds to complete!

Note: GroupedObservables are not necessarily impacted by subscribeOn() , that’s why observeOn() has been used here to parallelise instead.

Mouaad Aallam

Mouaad Aallam

Computer Software Engineer

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