Converting Old Java Future To CompletableFuture Monadic Goodness

June 21, 2019
java concurrency parallelism

In 2004 Java 5 was released introducing a load of new features: generics, autoboxing, annotations, and… java.util.concurrent. You could use the exciting new java.util.concurrent.Future class to represent the result of an asynchronous computation, but it did not have any methods to combine these computations withoung blocking to get a result.

In Java 8, the CompletableFuture class was introduced to solve that problem. It allows to register callbacks to be executed once the computation is complete. The CompletionStage interfaces (implemented by CompletableFuture) defines the contract for an asynchronous computation step that can be combined with other steps and, in turn, makes possible to efficiently support many operation that the basic Future interface cannot.


Many libraries still do not support the CompletableFuture, and never will. How to convert Future to CompletableFuture and use the power of new API?

The usual approch is to sacrifice a thread and block.

<T> CompletableFuture<T> blockInNewThread(Future<T> source) {
    CompletableFuture<T> target = new CompletableFuture<>();
    // or `ThreadFactory.newThread` or `Executor.execute`
    new Thread(() -> {
        try {
            // Thread is never interrupted.
        } catch (ExecutionException e) {
    return target;

<V> V getUninterruptibly(Future<V> future) throws ExecutionException {
    for (; ; ) {
        try {
            return future.get();
        } catch (InterruptedException ignore) {

The obvious problem with this approach is, that for each Future, a thread will be blocked to wait for the result. It works well for a few futures, but what if we have thousands of them? How to be notified, without blocking, when a task represented by j.u.c.Future completes since it has no callback methods?

It might be possible to do better than blocking thread for each future if we are willing to sacrifice some latency. For many use cases, like background tasks, it’s an acceptable trade-off. Instead of blockig, we can periodically poll future completion status. That way, we can monitor many futures using only one thread

pollSchedule = scheduler.scheduleAtFixedRate(() -> poll(), pollPeriod, pollPeriod, pollUnit);

void poll() {
    while (pendingPolls.hasNext()) {
        Poll poll =;
        if (poll.isReady()) {

How to use?

Future oldFuture = ...;
// poll every 100 ms - default
Poller poller = new Poller(100, TimeUnit.MILLISECONDS);

CompletableFuture cf = poller.register(oldFutue);

Full source code is on GitHub.