Parsl is designed to enable the straightforward orchestration of asynchronous tasks into dataflow-based workflows, in Python. Parsl manages the concurrent execution of these tasks across computation resources, scheduling each task only when its dependencies (e.g., input data dependencies) are met.

Developing a workflow is a two-step process:

  1. Define Parsl apps by annotating Python functions to indicate that they be executed concurrently.
  2. Use standard Python code to create tasks and define dependencies among them, by calling such apps and defining data sharing.

The following example demonstrates how Parsl can be used to specify a MapReduce computation.

from parsl import load, python_app
from parsl.configs.local_threads import config

# Map function that returns double the input integer
def app_double(x):
    return x*2

# Reduce function that returns the sum of a list
def app_sum(inputs=[]):
    return sum(inputs)

# Create a list of integers
items = range(0,4)

# Map phase: apply an *app* function to each item in list
mapped_results = []
for i in items:
    x = app_double(i)

# Reduce phase: apply an *app* function to the set of results
total = app_sum(inputs=mapped_results)


The program first defines two apps, app_double and app_sum, It then makes four calls to the app_double app and one call to the app_sum app; these execute concurrently, synchronized by mapped_result variable. The following figure shows the resulting task graph.


A call to a Parsl app results in the creation of one or more futures, representations of values that are to be computed in the future. Futures enable synchronization among concurrently executing tasks, as if they are passed as inputs to another app, that app can only execute when the app that is generating the future’s value has completed execution. Futures thus establish dependencies.

In the example, each call to the app_double app returns a future, x; the resulting four futures are stored in the list mapped_results; this list is provided as input to the app_sum app, which therefore cannot execute until all four values are available; and finally, the app_sum app computes the sum of the doubled values.

As the figure shows, a set of tasks and their dependencies form a directed acyclic graph. Indeed, Parsl can be viewed as a notation and a set of mechanisms for defining and executing such graphs. Note, however, that such graphs are never explicitly expressed in Parsl, and that the dependency graph is built dynamically and updated as the Parsl script executes. That is, the graph is not computed in advance and is only complete when the script finishes executing. Apps that have all their dependencies met are slated for execution (in parallel).