The Spring TaskScheduler abstraction - Java-Springs

In addition to the TaskExecutor abstraction, Spring 3.0 introduces a TaskScheduler with a variety of methods for scheduling tasks to run at some point in the future.

public interface TaskScheduler {
ScheduledFuture schedule(Runnable task, Trigger trigger);
ScheduledFuture schedule(Runnable task, Date startTime);
ScheduledFuture scheduleAtFixedRate(Runnable task, Date startTime, long period);
ScheduledFuture scheduleAtFixedRate(Runnable task, long period);
ScheduledFuture scheduleWithFixedDelay(Runnable task, Date startTime, long delay);
ScheduledFuture scheduleWithFixedDelay(Runnable task, long delay);

The simplest method is the one named 'schedule' that takes a Runnable and Date only. That will cause the task to run once after the specified time. All of the other methods are capable of scheduling tasks to run repeatedly. The fixed-rate and fixed-delay methods are for simple, periodic execution, but the method that accepts a Trigger is much more flexible.

The Trigger interface

The Trigger interface is essentially inspired by JSR-236, which, as of Spring 3.0, has not yet been officially implemented. The basic idea of the Trigger is that execution times may be determined based on past execution outcomes or even arbitrary conditions. If these determinations do take into account the outcome of the preceding execution, that information is available within a TriggerContext. The Trigger interface itself is quite simple:

public interface Trigger {
Date nextExecutionTime(TriggerContext triggerContext);

As you can see, the TriggerContext is the most important part. It encapsulates all of the relevant data, and is open for extension in the future if necessary. The TriggerContext is an interface (a SimpleTriggerContext implementation is used by default). Here you can see what methods are available for Trigger implementations.

public interface TriggerContext {
Date lastScheduledExecutionTime();
Date lastActualExecutionTime();
Date lastCompletionTime();

Trigger implementations

Spring provides two implementations of the Trigger interface. The most interesting one is the CronTrigger. It enables the scheduling of tasks based on cron expressions. For example the following task is being scheduled to run 15 minutes past each hour but only during the 9-to-5 "business hours" on weekdays.

scheduler.schedule(task, new CronTrigger("* 15 9-17 * * MON-FRI"));

The other out-of-the-box implementation is a PeriodicTrigger that accepts a fixed period, an optional initial delay value, and a boolean to indicate whether the period should be interpreted as a fixed-rate or a fixed-delay. Since the TaskScheduler interface already defines methods for scheduling tasks at a fixed-rate or with a fixed-delay, those methods should be used directly whenever possible. The value of the PeriodicTrigger implementation is that it can be used within components that rely on the Trigger abstraction. For example, it may be convenient to allow periodic triggers, cron-based triggers, and even custom trigger implementations to be used interchangeably. Such a component could take advantage of dependency injection so that such Triggers could be configured externally.

TaskScheduler implementations

As with Spring's TaskExecutor abstraction, the primary benefit of the TaskScheduler is that code relying on scheduling behavior need not be coupled to a particular scheduler implementation. The flexibility this provides is particularly relevant when running within Application Server environments where threads should not be created directly by the application itself. For such cases, Spring provides a TimerManagerTaskScheduler that delegates to a CommonJ TimerManager instance, typically configured with a JNDI-lookup.

A simpler alternative, the ThreadPoolTaskScheduler, can be used whenever external thread management is not a requirement. Internally, it delegates to a ScheduledExecutorService instance. ThreadPoolTaskScheduler actually implements Spring's TaskExecutor interface as well, so that a single instance can be used for asynchronous execution as soon as possible as well as scheduled, and potentially recurring, executions.

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