Java 7 Fork/Join Framework

Java 7 Fork/Join Framework

The fork/join framework is an implementation of the ExecutorService interface that helps you take advantage of multiple processors. It is designed for work that can be broken into smaller pieces recursively. The goal is to use all the available processing power to enhance the performance of your application

As with any ExecutorService implementation, the fork/join framework distributes tasks to worker threads in a thread pool. The fork/join framework is distinct because it uses a work-stealing algorithm. Worker threads that run out of things to do can steal tasks from other threads that are still busy.

The center of the fork/join framework is the ForkJoinPool class, an extension of the AbstractExecutorService class. ForkJoinPool implements the core work-stealing algorithm and can execute ForkJoinTask processes.

Basic Use

The first step for using the fork/join framework is to write code that performs a segment of the work. Your code should look similar to the following pseudocode:

if (my portion of the work is small enough)   
    do the work directly
    split my work into two pieces invoke the two pieces and wait for the results

Wrap this code in a ForkJoinTask subclass, typically using one of its more specialized types, either RecursiveTask (which can return a result) or RecursiveAction.

ForkJoinTask objects feature two specific methods:

1) The fork() method allows a ForkJoinTask to be planned for asynchronous execution. This allows a new ForkJoinTask to be launched from an existing one.

2) In turn, the join() method allows a ForkJoinTask to wait for the completion of another one.

There are two types of ForkJoinTask specializations:

1) Instances of RecursiveAction represent executions that do not yield a return value.

2) In contrast, instances of RecursiveTask yield return values.

In general, RecursiveTask is preferred because most divide-and-conquer algorithms return a value from a computation over a data set. For the execution of tasks, different synchronous and asynchronous options are provided, making it possible to implement elaborate patterns.

After your ForkJoinTask subclass is ready, create the object that represents all the work to be done and pass it to the invoke() method of a ForkJoinPool instance.

Blurring for Clarity

To help you understand how the fork/join framework works, consider the following example. Suppose that you want to blur an image. The original source image is represented by an array of integers, where each integer contains the color values for a single pixel. The blurred destination image is also represented by an integer array with the same size as the source.

Performing the blur is accomplished by working through the source array one pixel at a time. Each pixel is averaged with its surrounding pixels (the red, green, and blue components are averaged), and the result is placed in the destination array. Since an image is a large array, this process can take a long time. You can take advantage of concurrent processing on multiprocessor systems by implementing the algorithm using the fork/join framework. Here is one possible implementation:

import java.awt.image.BufferedImage;

import java.io.File;

import java.util.concurrent.ForkJoinPool;

import java.util.concurrent.RecursiveAction;

import javax.imageio.ImageIO;

 * ForkBlur implements a simple horizontal image blur. It averages pixels in the
 * source array and writes them to a destination array. The sThreshold value
 * determines whether the blurring will be performed directly or split into two
 * tasks.
 * This is not the recommended way to blur images; it is only intended to
 * illustrate the use of the Fork/Join framework.

public class ForkBlur extends RecursiveAction {

    private int[] mSource;
    private int mStart;
    private int mLength;
    private int[] mDestination;
    private int mBlurWidth = 15; // Processing window size, should be odd.

    public ForkBlur(int[] src, int start, int length, int[] dst) {
        mSource = src;
        mStart = start;
        mLength = length;
        mDestination = dst;

    // Average pixels from source, write results into destination.
    protected void computeDirectly() {
        int sidePixels = (mBlurWidth - 1) / 2;
        for (int index = mStart; index < mStart + mLength; index++) {
            // Calculate average.
            float rt = 0, gt = 0, bt = 0;
            for (int mi = -sidePixels; mi <= sidePixels; mi++) {
                int mindex = Math.min(Math.max(mi + index, 0), mSource.length - 1);
                int pixel = mSource[mindex];
                rt += (float) ((pixel & 0x00ff0000) >> 16) / mBlurWidth;
                gt += (float) ((pixel & 0x0000ff00) >> 8) / mBlurWidth;
                bt += (float) ((pixel & 0x000000ff) >> 0) / mBlurWidth;

            // Re-assemble destination pixel.
            int dpixel = (0xff000000)
                    | (((int) rt) << 16)
                    | (((int) gt) << 8)
                    | (((int) bt) << 0);
            mDestination[index] = dpixel;
    protected static int sThreshold = 10000;

/**compute() method performs the blur directly or splits it into two smaller tasks. A simple array length threshold helps determine whether the work is performed or split.

    protected void compute() {
        if (mLength < sThreshold) {

        int split = mLength / 2;

        invokeAll(new ForkBlur(mSource, mStart, split, mDestination),
                new ForkBlur(mSource, mStart + split, mLength - split, 

    // Plumbing follows.
    public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
        String srcName = "red-tulips.jpg";
        File srcFile = new File(srcName);
        BufferedImage image = ImageIO.read(srcFile);

        System.out.println("Source image: " + srcName);

        BufferedImage blurredImage = blur(image);

        String dstName = "blurred-tulips.jpg";
        File dstFile = new File(dstName);
        ImageIO.write(blurredImage, "jpg", dstFile);

        System.out.println("Output image: " + dstName);


    public static BufferedImage blur(BufferedImage srcImage) {
        int w = srcImage.getWidth();
        int h = srcImage.getHeight();

        int[] src = srcImage.getRGB(0, 0, w, h, null, 0, w);
        int[] dst = new int[src.length];

        System.out.println("Array size is " + src.length);
        System.out.println("Threshold is " + sThreshold);

        int processors = Runtime.getRuntime().availableProcessors();
        System.out.println(Integer.toString(processors) + " processor"
                + (processors != 1 ? "s are " : " is ")
                + "available");

        ForkBlur fb = new ForkBlur(src, 0, src.length, dst);

        ForkJoinPool pool = new ForkJoinPool();

        long startTime = System.currentTimeMillis();
        long endTime = System.currentTimeMillis();

        System.out.println("Image blur took " + (endTime - startTime) + 
                " milliseconds.");

        BufferedImage dstImage =
                new BufferedImage(w, h, BufferedImage.TYPE_INT_ARGB);
        dstImage.setRGB(0, 0, w, h, dst, 0, w);

        return dstImage;

If the previous methods are in a subclass of the RecursiveAction class, then setting up the task to run in a ForkJoinPool is straightforward, and involves the following steps:

1) Create a task that represents all of the work to be done.

// source image pixels are in src

// destination image pixels are in dst

ForkBlur fb = new ForkBlur(src, 0, src.length, dst);

2) Create the ForkJoinPool that will run the task.

ForkJoinPool pool = new ForkJoinPool();

3) Run the task.



The article illustrated the use of fork/join framework on blurring an image example which is both compelling and easy to grasp.How useful the fork/join framework can be to write parallel programs; because we neither had to change the code nor tweak it or the Java Virtual Machine to maximize hardware core utilization.