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Using Task Blocks

The define_task_block, run and the wait functions implemented based on N4411 are based on the task_block concept that is a part of the common subset of the Microsoft Parallel Patterns Library (PPL) and the Intel Threading Building Blocks (TBB) libraries.

This implementations adopts a simpler syntax than exposed by those libraries - one that is influenced by language-based concepts such as spawn and sync from Cilk++ and async and finish from X10. It improves on existing practice in the following ways:

Consider an example of a parallel traversal of a tree, where a user-provided function compute is applied to each node of the tree, returning the sum of the results:

template <typename Func>
int traverse(node& n, Func && compute)
{
    int left = 0, right = 0;
    define_task_block(
        [&](task_block<>& tr) {
            if (n.left)
                tr.run([&] { left = traverse(*n.left, compute); });
            if (n.right)
                tr.run([&] { right = traverse(*n.right, compute); });
        });

    return compute(n) + left + right;
}

The example above demonstrates the use of two of the functions, define_task_block and the run member function of a task_block.

The task_block function delineates a region in a program code potentially containing invocations of threads spawned by the run member function of the task_block class. The run function spawns an HPX thread, a unit of work that is allowed to execute in parallel with respect to the caller. Any parallel tasks spawned by run within the task block are joined back to a single thread of execution at the end of the define_task_block. run takes a user-provided function object f and starts it asynchronously - i.e. it may return before the execution of f completes. The HPX scheduler may choose to run f immediately or delay running f until compute resources become available.

A task_block can be constructed only by define_task_block because it has no public constructors. Thus, run can be invoked (directly or indirectly) only from a user-provided function passed to define_task_block:

void g();

void f(task_block<>& tr)
{
    tr.run(g);          // OK, invoked from within task_block in h
}

void h()
{
    define_task_block(f);
}

int main()
{
    task_block<> tr;    // Error: no public constructor
    tr.run(g);          // No way to call run outside of a define_task_block
    return 0;
}

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