# NIO - Networking

# Using Selector to wait for events (example with OP_CONNECT)

NIO appeared in Java 1.4 and introduced the concept of "Channels", which are supposed to be faster than regular I/O. Network-wise, the SelectableChannel (opens new window) is the most interesting as it allows to monitor different states of the Channel. It works in a similar manner as the C select() system call: we get woken-up when certain types of events occur:

  • connection received (OP_ACCEPT)
  • connection realized (OP_CONNECT)
  • data available in read FIFO (OP_READ)
  • data can be pushed to write FIFO (OP_WRITE)

It allows for separation between detecting socket I/O (something can be read/written/...) and performing the I/O (read/write/...). Especially, all I/O detection can be done in a single thread for multiple sockets (clients), while performing I/O can be handled in a thread pool or anywhere else. That allows for an application to scale easily to the number of connected clients.

The following example shows the basics:

  1. Create a Selector (opens new window)
  2. Create a SocketChannel (opens new window)
  3. Register the SocketChannelto the Selector
  4. Loop with the Selector to detect events
Selector sel = Selector.open(); // Create the Selector
SocketChannel sc = SocketChannel.open(); // Create a SocketChannel
sc.configureBlocking(false); // ... non blocking
sc.setOption(StandardSocketOptions.SO_KEEPALIVE, true); // ... set some options

// Register the Channel to the Selector for wake-up on CONNECT event and use some description as an attachement
sc.register(sel, SelectionKey.OP_CONNECT, "Connection to google.com"); // Returns a SelectionKey: the association between the SocketChannel and the Selector
System.out.println("Initiating connection");
if (sc.connect(new InetSocketAddress("www.google.com", 80)))
    System.out.println("Connected"); // Connected right-away: nothing else to do
else {
    boolean exit = false;
    while (!exit) {
        if (sel.select(100) == 0) // Did something happen on some registered Channels during the last 100ms?
            continue; // No, wait some more
        // Something happened...
        Set<SelectionKey> keys = sel.selectedKeys(); // List of SelectionKeys on which some registered operation was triggered
        for (SelectionKey k : keys) {
            System.out.println("Checking "+k.attachment());
            if (k.isConnectable()) { // CONNECT event
                System.out.print("Connected through select() on "+k.channel()+" -> ");
                if (sc.finishConnect()) { // Finish connection process
                    k.interestOps(k.interestOps() & ~SelectionKey.OP_CONNECT); // We are already connected: remove interest in CONNECT event
                    exit = true;
                } else
            // TODO: else if (k.isReadable()) { ...
        keys.clear(); // Have to clear the selected keys set once processed!
System.out.print("Disconnecting ... ");
sc.shutdownOutput(); // Initiate graceful disconnection
// TODO: emtpy receive buffer

Would give the following output:

Initiating connection
Checking Connection to google.com
Connected through 'select()' on java.nio.channels.SocketChannel[connection-pending remote=www.google.com/] -> done!
Disconnecting ... done

# Remarks

SelectionKey (opens new window) defines the different selectable operations and information between its Selector (opens new window) and Channel (opens new window). In particular, the attachment (opens new window) can be used to store connection-related information.

Handling OP_READ is pretty straight-forward. However, care should be taken when dealing with OP_WRITE: most of the time, data can be written to sockets so the event will keep firing. Make sure to register OP_WRITE only before you want to write data (see that answer (opens new window)).

Also, OP_CONNECT should be cancelled once the Channel has connected (because, well, it is connected. See this (opens new window) and that (opens new window) answers on SO). Hence the OP_CONNECT removal after finishConnect() succeeded.