Implementing a simple and generic thread pool in C ++ 11

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I want to create a thread pool for experimental purposes (and for the fun factor). It should be able to process a wide variety of tasks (so I can possibly use it in later projects).


In my thread pool class I'm going to need some sort of task queue. Since the Standard Library provides std::packaged_task since the C++11 standard, my queue will look like std::deque<std::packaged_task<?()> > task_queue, so the client can push std::packaged_tasks into the queue via some sort of public interface function (and then one of the threads in the pool will be notified with a condition variable to execute it, etc.).


My question is related to the template argument of the std::packaged_task<?()>s in the deque.

The function signature ?() should be able to deal with any type/number of parameters, because the client can do something like:

std::packaged_task<int()> t(std::bind(factorial, 342)); thread_pool.add_task(t);

So I don't have to deal with the type/number of parameters.

But what should the return value be? (hence the question mark)

  • If I make my whole thread pool class a template class, one instance of it will only be able to deal with tasks with a specific signature (like std::packaged_task<int()>).

    I want one thread pool object to be able to deal with any kind of task.

  • If I go with std::packaged_task<void()> and the function invoked returns an integer, or anything at all, then thats undefined behaviour.


So the hard part is that packaged_task<R()> is move-only, otherwise you could just toss it into a std::function<void()>, and run those in your threads.

There are a few ways around this.

First, ridiculously, use a packaged_task<void()> to store a packaged_task<R()>. I'd advise against this, but it does work. ;) (what is the signature of operator() on packaged_task<R()>? What is the required signature for the objects you pass to packaged_task<void()>?)

Second, wrap your packaged_task<R()> in a shared_ptr, capture that in a lambda with signature void(), store that in a std::function<void()>, and done. This has overhead costs, but probably less than the first solution.

Finally, write your own move-only function wrapper. For the signature void() it is short:

struct task {
  template<class F,
    class dF=std::decay_t<F>,
    class=decltype( std::declval<dF&>()() )
  >
  task( F&& f ):
    ptr(
      new dF(std::forward<F>(f)),
      [](void* ptr){ delete static_cast<dF*>(ptr); }
    ),
    invoke([](void*ptr){
      (*static_cast<dF*>(ptr))();
    })
  {}
  void operator()()const{
    invoke( ptr.get() );
  }
  task(task&&)=default;
  task&operator=(task&&)=default;
  task()=default;
  ~task()=default;
  explicit operator bool()const{return static_cast<bool>(ptr);}
private:
  std::unique_ptr<void, void(*)(void*)> ptr;
  void(*invoke)(void*) = nullptr;
};

and simple. The above can store packaged_task<R()> for any type R, and invoke them later.

This has relatively minimal overhead -- it should be cheaper than std::function, at least the implementations I've seen -- except it does not do SBO (small buffer optimization) where it stores small function objects internally instead of on the heap.

You can improve the unique_ptr<> ptr container with a small buffer optimization if you want.