async_msg Template Class



This feature is deprecated and will be removed in the future.

async_msg is a special message class used to implement intercommunication between an Intel® Threading Building Blocks (Intel® TBB) flow graph and an external parallel activity, such as a thread or a device.


template < typename T >
class async_msg;


#include "tbb/flow_graph.h"


An async_msg, or a user type derived from async_msg, acts like a "future" that is specially handled by flow graph nodes. An async_msg<T> is a representation of an asynchronous job result of type T that can be processed by the graph while the result is not ready yet. The result can be provided by the asynchronous activity with the async_msg<T>::set( T result ) method at any moment. Other classes can inherit from async_msg<T> to create advanced async messages with additional data. Ports and nodes that accept messages of type T and async messages can both receive async messages and can be connected with the make_edge interface, but handle them differently. If the node accepts an async message, it will react to an incoming async message immediately, for example by passing the message directly to its body. However, if the node accepts the result type T, the virtual method async_msg<T>::finalize() will be called and the node will wait for the result availability. The async_msg<T>::finalize() method can be overridden in a derived async message type, e.g. to notify the asynchronous activity that a result is required and/or to set a callback.


The method async_msg<T>::set( T result ) must be called at most once. If the async message is never passed to a node that accepts the results of asynchronous activity than the result can be never set. However, if the async message is passed to a node that accepts the result of async message (the finalize() method will be called in this case), the result must be set.


If a node accepts an async message, but a message of result type T is provided to the node, an async message will be automatically created and the incoming message of type T will be immediately set as its result.


Nodes or ports that accepts async messages can accept only an async message of the same type or a message of the result type. Therefore, it is impossible to pass async_msg<T> to a node that accepts async messages of derived type from async_msg<T>.


The current implementation can call the async_msg<T>::finalize() method many times and does not call the method if the result has been previously set. However, this behavior can be changed in future releases.

The graph::wait_for_all() method waits until the results are ready for all async messages created and consumed by nodes of the graph. However if async messages are created and send to the graph by an external activity, it must use increment_ref_count() and decrement_ref_count() methods to prevent completion of the graph before it sends all the async messages. Once an async message is sent to the graph, wait_for_all() will wait for its result to be ready.

The simplest usage scenario of the async_msg is shown in the figure below: the left flow graph node (n1) starts an asynchronous activity in its body and returns an async_msg object without waiting for the result to be set. The next node (n2) automatically receives the ready result when it’s set by the asynchronous activity through its copy of the async_msg.

The simplest scenario steps are described below:

  • A function_node n1 creates an instance of async_msg<T>.
  • n1 sends work to an external asynchronous activity along with a copy of the async_msg.
  • n1 puts async_msg<T> to its successor.
  • The external asynchronous activity returns the result back to the flow graph by calling the method set(result) in the async_msg instance obtained in the step 2.
  • The successor node gets the data of type T as usual.

The simplest scenario with the async_msg.
The simplest scenario with the async_msg.

In this scenario, async_msg and function_node together provide behavior very similar to the async_node class.

The main advantage of async_msg over the async_node is the ability to pass such a message through the flow graph unmodified or even updated, as in the following usage scenario:

  • A function_node n1 creates an instance of async_msg<T>.
  • n1 sends work to an external asynchronous activity, along with a copy of the async_msg.
  • n1 puts async_msg<T> to the next node n2.
  • n2 sends the second part of work to an external asynchronous activity. It can update the async_msg message instance if it’s needed.
  • When the async_msg<T> comes to the final node (receiving type T) in the graph, its virtual method finalize() is automatically called by the library. This method might be overridden in custom asynchronous messages. Its intended use is to set a callback for the asynchronous activity to return its result to the flow graph.


    async_msg<T>::finalize() may be called a few times by the library, but the method will never be called after the set() method has been invoked on the async_msg.

  • The next node n3 gets the UserDataType data as usual.

The scenario with a processing chain.
The scenario with a processing chain.


Usually the first node in the processing chain uploads data to the external asynchronous activity (thread or device). The next nodes in the chain can continue the data processing without any additional data uploading and downloading. And only the last node in the chain will get the activity result.

Any user class derived from async_msg can be used in the use-cases above. For example, a derived asynchronous message class may be implemented that stores or updates additional states or flags while the data processing chain is working.


The example below shows an input_node that submits some work to AsyncActivity for processing by a user thread. An async_msg is used to communicate the result to a downstream function_node.


#include <thread>
#include <atomic>
#include "tbb/flow_graph.h"
#include "tbb/concurrent_queue.h"

using namespace tbb::flow;
typedef int input_type;
typedef int output_type;
typedef tbb::flow::async_msg<output_type> async_msg_type;

class AsyncActivity {
    struct work_type {
        input_type input;
        async_msg_type msg;

    AsyncActivity() : my_the_end(false), service_thread( [this]() {
        work_type w;
        while( ! my_the_end ) {
            while( my_work_queue.try_pop(w) ) {
                output_type result = do_work( w.input );
                //send the result back to the graph
    } ) {}

    ~AsyncActivity() {
        my_the_end = true; // indicates that the thread should exit

    void submit( input_type i, const async_msg_type& msg ) {
        work_type w = {i, msg};

    output_type do_work(input_type& v) {
        // performs the work on input converting it to output

    tbb::concurrent_queue<work_type> my_work_queue;
    std::atomic<bool> my_the_end;

    std::thread service_thread;

int main() {
    tbb::flow::graph g;
    AsyncActivity async_activity;

   tbb::flow::input_node<async_msg_type> s(g, [&](async_msg_type& v)->bool {
       /* produce data for async work */
       if ( /* source is not over */ ) {
           async_msg_type msg;
           /* generate "input" here */
           async_activity.submit(input, msg);
           v = msg;
           return true;
       return false;

    tbb::flow::function_node<output_type> f( g, unlimited, [](const output_type& v) 
    { /* consume data from async work */ });

    tbb::flow::make_edge( s, f );
    return 0;


namespace tbb {
    namespace flow {

        template <typename T>
        class async_msg {
            typedef T async_msg_data_type;

            virtual ~async_msg() {}

            void set(const T& t);
            void set(T&& t);

            // Can be overridden in derived class to inform that 
            // async calculation chain is over
            virtual void finalize() const {}

The following table provides additional information on the members of this template class.
Member Description
typedef T async_msg_data_type

User data type definition.


Default constructor.

async_msg(const async_msg&)

Auto-generated copy constructor.



void set(const T& t)

Call the method to return a result from the asynchronous activity back to the flow graph.


set() must be called once only per async_msg.

void set(T&& t)

The same as the previous set(const T&) method but using C++ 'move' semantics.

async_msg& operator = (const async_msg&)

Auto-generated assignment operator.

virtual void finalize() const

Override the method in the derived class to inform the asynchronous activity that the data handling chain is over and the activity should return the result (via the set() call).


An asynchronous activity can call the set() method at any time, but the finalize() synchronization call allows it to wait until there is at least one node waiting for the result in the flow graph.

Default implementation is empty.


The async_msg class is copyable, so the user must provide correct copy routines in any derived class.

See Also

For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.