Win32-ProcFarm - system for parallelization of code under Win32

How Win32::ProcFarm::Parent Works

Because the Win32::ProcFarm::Parent/Win32::ProcFarm::Child concept is critical to the Win32::ProcFarm::Pool, I will start with a demonstration of the "RPC" system first.

In this demonstration, the child process has one function: dir. The function sleeps for five seconds before returning the results of executing dir on the passed parameter. The parent will spin off one child, tell it to do a dir on C:\, and return the results.


The child is fairly simple to implement. First we start off with some boilerplate code that imports Win32/ProcFarm/Child.pl, initiates the communications with the parent, and the main loop implementation.

  require 'Win32/ProcFarm/Child.pl';

  while(1) {

We then implement our demonstration function, dir, which sleeps for five seconds and then returns the result of a dir on the passed argument.

  sub dir {
    my($string) = @_;

    return `dir $string`;

That's it for the child. Note that the child script can have multiple subroutines if desired.


The parent is a little more complicated. Again, much of the code is boilerplate. We start with the default includes:

  use Win32::ProcFarm::Parent;
  use Win32::ProcFarm::Port;

We then create a Win32::ProcFarm::Port object and pass the port number we wish to use. If we want to use the process farm in multiple scripts that will be run simultaneously, we need to use different port numbers.

  $port_obj = Win32::ProcFarm::Port->new(9000, 1);

We then instantiate a Win32::ProcFarm::Parent object which will act as a stand-in for the child process. We use new_async which starts the child process without connecting to it. We also pass it the name of the child script, and the desired working directory.

  $interface = Win32::ProcFarm::Parent->new_async($port_obj, "DirChild.pl", Win32::GetCwd);

Once we have the process spun off, we call connect on the stand-in to initiate communications with the child process.


Once we have initiated communications, we can start sending commands to the child process. The execute method takes first the name of the command to execute as a string and then any parameters that need to be passed to it. The parameters will be packaged up using Data::Dumper for passing to the child process.

  $interface->execute('dir', "C:\\");

We then wait for get_state to return fin, which indicates that the command has finished execution and the return values can be retrieved.

  until($interface->get_state eq 'fin') {
    print "Waiting for ReturnValue.\n";
  print "GotReturnValue.\n";

Once we know that check has been successful, we can use get_retval to get the returned values

  print $interface->get_retval;

As you may have noticed, for a single process system, Win32::ProcFarm::Parent is overly complicated. The main reason for this is that it was designed to enable asynchronous operation so that the pool would work, and so we will turn to the pool.

Using Win32::ProcFarm::Pool

In this demonstration, a range pinger is implemented. The idea is that the user can specify the base 3 octets along with the start and end values for the last octet and the program will ping all IP addresses in that range and return the IP addresses that are in use.


This child is so simplistic I'm just pasting the code in here. Of note, $p is a global variable so it only has to be created once.

  use Net::Ping;

  require 'Win32/ProcFarm/Child.pl';

  while(1) { &main_loop };

  sub ping {
    my($host) = @_;

    $p or $p = Net::Ping->new("icmp", 1);
    return $p->ping($host);


This is where the real fun begins. First we start with the use statement:

  use Win32::ProcFarm::Pool;

We then check the passed parameters from the command line:

  $ARGV[0] =~ /^(\d{1,3}\.\d{1,3}\.\d{1,3})\.(\d{1,3})-(\d{1,3})$/ or
      die "Pass me the range to ping in the format start_address-end (i.e.\n";
  ($base, $start, $end) = ($1, $2, $3);

We then decide on a pool size based on the number of addresses we are planning to ping. In general, the optimal number of processes is proportional to the square root of the number of jobs. I also output some text to let the user know what is going on and set a timer (the timer code is in two subroutines at the end of the script).

  $poolsize = int(sqrt(($end-$start+1)*2));
  print "Creating pool with $poolsize threads . . .\n";

The pool is then created. This takes as parameters to new the number of processes to create for the pool, the mutex string root, the port number to which to bind, the name of the child process, and the working directory in which to start those child processes.

  $Pool = Win32::ProcFarm::Pool->new($poolsize, 9000, 'PingChild.pl',
  Win32::GetCwd); print "Pool created in ".&get_timer." seconds.\n";

Once the pool is created we can now add jobs to the waiting queue. The add_waiting_job method takes several parameters: First, a unique identifier for the thread that will be used by the pool as the hash key for the return values. Second, the name of the command to execute. Third, any parameters that need to be passed to that command.

  foreach $i ($start..$end) {
    $ip_addr = "$base.$i";
    $Pool->add_waiting_job($ip_addr, 'ping', $ip_addr);

Finally, we tell the pool to execute all the commands. The parameter passed is the number of seconds to pause between checking the process pool for process that have finished execution.


After all the jobs have been executed, get_return_data will return a hash containing the returned data. The keys to the hash were passed when the jobs were added to the waiting pool and the return values are stored in an anonymous array. Of note, if you wish to re-use the process farm later in the same code, the clear_return_data method will clear the hash so that the data from multiple runs are not co-mingled.

  %pingdata = $Pool->get_return_data;

Finally, the results can be printed out. Notice that the data has to be pulled out of the anonymous array (the ->[0]).

  $retval = 0;
  foreach $i ($start..$end) {
    $ip_addr = "$base.$i";
    if ($pingdata{$ip_addr}->[0]) {
      print "$ip_addr\n";
  print "Total of $retval addresses responded in ".&get_timer." seconds.\n";

Finally, the set_timer and get_timer functions used to provide quick and dirty timing results.

  sub set_timer {
    $start_clock = Win32::GetTickCount();

  sub get_timer {
    return (Win32::GetTickCount()-$start_clock)/1000;

Rudimentary Docs on a few things to think about


Normal pools are designed for the problem: "I have this list of jobs to do. Execute all of them and display/record/summarize the results."

Perpetual pools are designed for the problem: "I want to monitor this (possible changing, but largely static) list of machines/accounts/entities steadily and display/record/summarize the results continually."

In a normal pool, jobs move from the waiting_pool to the thread_pool and then disappear (although the results are added to the results hash). In a perpetual pool, jobs move from the waiting_pool to the thread_pool, but when they finish they move back into the waiting_pool. Every so often, a subroutine is run that updates the list of machines/account/entities being executed, and the perpetual pool code takes care of adding new ones into the waiting_pool and when the delete ones show up for execution, they get purged.

If your problem falls into the second category, take a look at the PingPerpetual.pl sample.

Think about setting a timeout value

The support for timeouts on child process job execution sits at a fairly low level in the code base - it's actually in the Win32::ProcFarm::Parent code. This means you don't even have to use a pool to make use of the support. If you have a problem where you don't need parallelization support, but you have code that keeps hanging, you can use split your code into two parts and use a Win32::ProcFarm::Parent object to take care of the killing the child process when it takes too long to do something.

Check out result_sub

If you want to be able to return the results asychronously as the jobs execute, result_sub is your friend. You've probably noticed that printing to STDOUT from child processes is a big no-no - you end up with merged and mixed up output. Use result_sub - it's available in Win32::ProcFarm::Pool and Win32::ProcFarm::PerpetualPool. It's not in Win32::ProcFarm::TkPool, but that has support for independent callbacks on every job instead.

Think about max_rate

If you have jobs that take a variable amount of time to execute, but you want them started on a fairly consistent schedule, look at max_rate. It's only available with Win32::ProcFarm::Pool, but it allows you to restrict the rate at which jobs are started (which can be useful if those jobs cause other machines to impose a load on a shared resource).