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1. Overview

The Spring ThreadPoolTaskExecutor is a JavaBean that provides an abstraction around a java.util.concurrent.ThreadPoolExecutor instance and exposes it as a Spring org.springframework.core.task.TaskExecutor. Further, it is highly configurable through the properties of corePoolSize, maxPoolSize, queueCapacity, allowCoreThreadTimeOut and keepAliveSeconds. In this tutorial, we'll look at the corePoolSize and maxPoolSize properties.

2. corePoolSize vs. maxPoolSize

Users new to this abstraction may easily get confused about the difference in the two configuration properties. Therefore, let's look at each independently.

2.1. corePoolSize

The corePoolSize is the minimum number of workers to keep alive without timing out. It is a configurable property of ThreadPoolTaskExecutor. However, the ThreadPoolTaskExecutor abstraction delegates setting this value to the underlying java.util.concurrent.ThreadPoolExecutor. To clarify, all threads may time out — effectively setting the value of corePoolSize to zero if we've set allowCoreThreadTimeOut to true.

2.2. maxPoolSize

In contrast, the maxPoolSize defines the maximum number of threads that can ever be created. Similarly, the maxPoolSize property of ThreadPoolTaskExecutor also delegates its value to the underlying java.util.concurrent.ThreadPoolExecutor. To clarify, maxPoolSize depends on queueCapacity in that ThreadPoolTaskExecutor will only create a new thread if the number of items in its queue exceeds queueCapacity.

3. So What's the Difference?

The difference between corePoolSize and maxPoolSize may seem evident. However, there are some subtleties regarding their behavior.

When we submit a new task to the ThreadPoolTaskExecutor, it creates a new thread if fewer than corePoolSize threads are running, even if there are idle threads in the pool, or if fewer than maxPoolSize threads are running and the queue defined by queueCapacity is full.

Next, let's look at some code to see examples of when each property springs into action.

4. Examples

Firstly, let's say we have a method that executes new threads, from the ThreadPoolTaskExecutor, named startThreads:

public void startThreads(ThreadPoolTaskExecutor taskExecutor, CountDownLatch countDownLatch, 
  int numThreads) {
    for (int i = 0; i < numThreads; i++) {
        taskExecutor.execute(() -> {
            try {
                Thread.sleep(100L * ThreadLocalRandom.current().nextLong(1, 10));
                countDownLatch.countDown();
            } catch (InterruptedException e) {
                Thread.currentThread().interrupt();
            }
        });
    }
}

Let's test the default configuration of ThreadPoolTaskExecutor, which defines a corePoolSize of one thread, an unbounded maxPoolSize, and an unbounded queueCapacity. As a result, we expect that no matter how many tasks we start, we'll only have one thread running:

@Test
public void whenUsingDefaults_thenSingleThread() {
    ThreadPoolTaskExecutor taskExecutor = new ThreadPoolTaskExecutor();
    taskExecutor.afterPropertiesSet();

    CountDownLatch countDownLatch = new CountDownLatch(10);
    this.startThreads(taskExecutor, countDownLatch, 10);

    while (countDownLatch.getCount() > 0) {
        Assert.assertEquals(1, taskExecutor.getPoolSize());
    }
}

Now, let's alter the corePoolSize to a max of five threads and ensure it behaves as advertised. As a result, we expect five threads to be started no matter the number of tasks submitted to the ThreadPoolTaskExecutor:

@Test
public void whenCorePoolSizeFive_thenFiveThreads() {
    ThreadPoolTaskExecutor taskExecutor = new ThreadPoolTaskExecutor();
    taskExecutor.setCorePoolSize(5);
    taskExecutor.afterPropertiesSet();

    CountDownLatch countDownLatch = new CountDownLatch(10);
    this.startThreads(taskExecutor, countDownLatch, 10);

    while (countDownLatch.getCount() > 0) {
        Assert.assertEquals(5, taskExecutor.getPoolSize());
    }
}

Similarly, we can increment the maxPoolSize to ten while leaving the corePoolSize at five. As a result, we expect to start only five threads. To clarify, only five threads start because the queueCapacity is still unbounded:

@Test
public void whenCorePoolSizeFiveAndMaxPoolSizeTen_thenFiveThreads() {
    ThreadPoolTaskExecutor taskExecutor = new ThreadPoolTaskExecutor();
    taskExecutor.setCorePoolSize(5);
    taskExecutor.setMaxPoolSize(10);
    taskExecutor.afterPropertiesSet();

    CountDownLatch countDownLatch = new CountDownLatch(10);
    this.startThreads(taskExecutor, countDownLatch, 10);

    while (countDownLatch.getCount() > 0) {
        Assert.assertEquals(5, taskExecutor.getPoolSize());
    }
}

Further, we'll now repeat the previous test but increment the queueCapacity to ten and start twenty threads. Therefore, we now expect to start ten threads in total:

@Test
public void whenCorePoolSizeFiveAndMaxPoolSizeTenAndQueueCapacityTen_thenTenThreads() {
    ThreadPoolTaskExecutor taskExecutor = new ThreadPoolTaskExecutor();
    taskExecutor.setCorePoolSize(5);
    taskExecutor.setMaxPoolSize(10);
    taskExecutor.setQueueCapacity(10);
    taskExecutor.afterPropertiesSet();

    CountDownLatch countDownLatch = new CountDownLatch(20);
    this.startThreads(taskExecutor, countDownLatch, 20);

    while (countDownLatch.getCount() > 0) {
        Assert.assertEquals(10, taskExecutor.getPoolSize());
    }
}

Likewise, if we had set the queueCapactity to zero and only started ten tasks, we'd also have ten threads in our ThreadPoolTaskExecutor.

5. Conclusion

ThreadPoolTaskExecutor is a powerful abstraction around a java.util.concurrent.ThreadPoolExecutor, providing options for configuring the corePoolSize, maxPoolSize, and queueCapacity. In this tutorial, we looked at the corePoolSize and maxPoolSize properties, as well as how maxPoolSize works in tandem with queueCapacity, allowing us to easily create thread pools for any use case.

As always, you can find the code available over on Github.

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Ismail
Ismail
8 months ago

It is still not clear for me. What is the purpose of corepoolsize

Loredana Crusoveanu
6 months ago
Reply to  Ismail

Hi Ismail,
ThreadPoolExecutor’s corePoolSize parameter is the number of core threads that will be instantiated and kept in the pool. If you submit a new task, and there are less than corePoolSize threads running, the pool will create a new thread. If there are more than corePoolSize threads running, then it will check for an available thread in the queue, and only add a new one, if there are none idle.

This particular article focuses on contrasting this parameter with the same class’ maxPoolSize.
Please refer to our introductory article on the subject to gain more insight.

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