Compute in a new thread and refer to results later in R


In clojure I can do something like this:

<pre class="lang-lisp prettyprint-override">(def x ;; perform some expensive computation in a new thread ;; the repl is not blocked, so you can go on do something else (future (do (Thread/sleep 500) 3.14))) ;; ... do something else ;; now when you need x ;; just deref the future, get 3.14 @x

Is there something similar to this in R?


On Linux you can fork a process and then collect it later, as illustrated on the help page ?parallel::mccollect(); this is more of a hack than a robust feature like future.

> p <- mcparallel({ Sys.sleep(5); "done" }) > sqrt(1:5) [1] 1.000000 1.414214 1.732051 2.000000 2.236068 > mccollect(p) $`15666` [1] "done"

One can implement a similar strategy with snow::sendCall() / snow::recvResult(); see the implementation of snow::clusterCall() and note that a cluster can be subset, e.g., cl[1] to set a single node to work. (identically named functions are available in the parallel package, but not exported).

To check whether a job has finished, use wait = FALSE. Example:

require(parallel) p1 = mcparallel({Sys.sleep(90); list(tag = "job1", res = 1}) p2 = mcparallel({Sys.sleep(80); 2}) p3 = mcparallel({Sys.sleep(60); 3}) res = mccollect(list(p1, p2, p3), wait = FALSE) is.null(res)

If none of these 3 jobs has been finished, then res is NULL.


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