Trail: Essential Classes
Lesson: Concurrency
Section: High Level Concurrency Objects
Subsection: Executors
Executor Interfaces
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Executor Interfaces

The java.util.concurrent package defines three executor interfaces:

Typically, variables that refer to executor objects are declared as one of these three interface types, not with an executor class type.

The Executor Interface

The Executor interface provides a single method, execute, designed to be a drop-in replacement for a common thread-creation idiom. If r is a Runnable object, and e is an Executor object you can replace

(new Thread(r)).start();



However, the definition of execute is less specific. The low-level idiom creates a new thread and launches it immediately. Depending on the Executor implementation, execute may do the same thing, but is more likely to use an existing worker thread to run r, or to place r in a queue to wait for a worker thread to become available. (We'll describe worker threads in the section on Thread Pools.)

The executor implementations in java.util.concurrent are designed to make full use of the more advanced ExecutorService and ScheduledExecutorService interfaces, although they also work with the base Executor interface.

The ExecutorService Interface

The ExecutorService interface supplements execute with a similar, but more versatile submit method. Like execute, submit accepts Runnable objects, but also accepts Callable objects, which allow the task to return a value. The submit method returns a Future object, which is used to retrieve the Callable return value and to manage the status of both Callable and Runnable tasks.

ExecutorService also provides methods for submitting large collections of Callable objects. Finally, ExecutorService provides a number of methods for managing the shutdown of the executor. To support immediate shutdown, tasks should handle interrupts correctly.

The ScheduledExecutorService Interface

The ScheduledExecutorService interface supplements the methods of its parent ExecutorService with schedule, which executes a Runnable or Callable task after a specified delay. In addition, the interface defines scheduleAtFixedRate and scheduleWithFixedDelay, which executes specified tasks repeatedly, at defined intervals.

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