Musings by @thedevel

Go Fan-In Function

602 words · 11 Sep 2013

Rob Pike introduced the use of a fan-in function in his talk Go Concurrency Patterns (slides, video) for allowing channels to communicate freely as they are ready to a single channel.

Fan-in Gophers

I expanded on the core ideas including use of channels, the select statement, an exit channel, and a timeout. The implementation below takes an array of channels which act as inputs, an output channel for the inputs to fan-in to, an exit channel for receiving a signal to cleanup and exit, and a timeout which if zero is disabled.

Here is a live example of the code below.

import (

// fanIn takes zero or more channels and merges the received data to a
// single output channel. For efficiency, the output channel should be
// buffered to the number of inputs to prevent goroutines blocking each
// other.
func fanIn(inputs []chan []byte, output chan []byte, exit chan bool, timeout time.Duration) {
    if len(inputs) == 0 {
        log.Println("zero inputs")

    defer log.Println("cleaning up fanIn")

    // Used for the buffered channel size, wait group size, and
    // knowing how many signals to send out.
    size := len(inputs)

    // Local proxy for exit channel
    signal := make(chan bool, size)

    // Wait group for spawned routines used after exit is signaled
    wg := sync.WaitGroup{}

    // Spawn goroutines for each input channel
    for i, input := range inputs {
        log.Println("spawning input", i)

        go func(input chan []byte, i int) {
            defer log.Println("closing input", i)
            defer wg.Done()

            // for-select idiom, receive input and write to output until
            // exit signal is received
            for {
                select {
                case m := <-input:
                    log.Printf("input %d -> %d\n", i, m)
                    output <- m
                case <-signal:
        }(input, i)

    // Block until an exit signal has been received.

    // Start a "cleanup" timer to prevent routines from blocking indefinitely
    // when waiting for them to be done. If the timeout is reached, force the
    // exit.
    if timeout > 0 {
        timer := time.AfterFunc(timeout, func() {
            log.Println("timeout occurred")
            exit <- true
        log.Println("timer for", timeout, "started")
        defer timer.Stop()

    // Signals all routines to finish (some or all may already be done)
    for i := 0; i < size; i++ {
        signal <- true

    // Wait until all routines are done and exit
    exit <- true

The log statements have been left in for visualizing what is happening and in what order. Here is a simple program to test the behavior:

func main() {
    // 5 inputs, no timeout
    testFanIn(5, 0)

// Takes int denoting how many inputs are used by the fanIn function
// and a timeout. Use a timeout of 0 to never timeout.
func testFanIn(n int, timeout time.Duration) {
    // Array of `n` inputs channels
    inputs := make([]chan []byte, n)

    // Output channel
    output := make(chan []byte)

    // Exit channel
    exit := make(chan bool)

    // Seeded random number generator for populating the input channels
    r := rand.New(rand.NewSource(time.Now().UnixNano()))

    // Initialize and populate buffered input channels with a few messages
    for i := 0; i < n; i++ {
        inputs[i] = make(chan []byte, n)

        for j := 0; j < n; j++ {
            inputs[i] <- []byte{byte(r.Intn(20))}

    // Spawn fanIn in a goroutine
    go fanIn(inputs, output, exit, timeout)

    // Spawn goroutine to read and log the values from the output channel
    // as they are received.
    go func() {
        for m := range output {
            log.Println("output <-", m)

    // Request exit
    log.Println("exit signaled")
    exit <- true

    // Wait for response from fanIn
    log.Println("exit confirmed")