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How can I Interleave / merge async iterables?

Suppose I have some async iterable objects like this:

const a = {
  [Symbol.asyncIterator]: async function * () {
    yield 'a';
    await sleep(1000);
    yield 'b';
    await sleep(2000);
    yield 'c';
  }, 
};

const b = {
  [Symbol.asyncIterator]: async function * () {
    await sleep(6000);
    yield 'i';
    yield 'j';
    await sleep(2000);
    yield 'k';
  }, 
};

const c = {
  [Symbol.asyncIterator]: async function * () {
    yield 'x';
    await sleep(2000);
    yield 'y';
    await sleep(8000);
    yield 'z';
    await sleep(10000);
    throw new Error('You have gone too far! ');
  }, 
};

And for completeness:

// Promisified sleep function
const sleep = ms => new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
  setTimeout(() => resolve(ms), ms);
});

Now, suppose I can concat them like this:

const abcs = async function * () {
  yield * a;
  yield * b;
  yield * c;
};

The (first 9) items yielded will be:

(async () => {
  const limit = 9;
  let i = 0; 
  const xs = [];
  for await (const x of abcs()) {
    xs.push(x);
    i++;
    if (i === limit) {
      break;
    }
  }
  console.log(xs);
})().catch(error => console.error(error));

// [ 'a', 'b', 'c', 'i', 'j', 'k', 'x', 'y', 'z' ]

But imagine that I do not care about the order, that a, b and c yield at different speeds, and that I want to yield as quickly as possible.

How can I rewrite this loop so that xs are yielded as soon as possible, ignoring order?


It is also possible that a, b or c are infinite sequences, so the solution must not require all elements to be buffered into an array.

Answer

There is no way to write this with a loop statement. async/await code always executes sequentially, to do things concurrently you need to use promise combinators directly. For plain promises, there’s Promise.all, for async iterators there is nothing (yet) so we need to write it on our own:

async function* combine(iterable) {
    const asyncIterators = Array.from(iterable, o => o[Symbol.asyncIterator]());
    const results = [];
    let count = asyncIterators.length;
    const never = new Promise(() => {});
    function getNext(asyncIterator, index) {
        return asyncIterator.next().then(result => ({
            index,
            result,
        }));
    }
    const nextPromises = asyncIterators.map(getNext);
    try {
        while (count) {
            const {index, result} = await Promise.race(nextPromises);
            if (result.done) {
                nextPromises[index] = never;
                results[index] = result.value;
                count--;
            } else {
                nextPromises[index] = getNext(asyncIterators[index], index);
                yield result.value;
            }
        }
    } finally {
        for (const [index, iterator] of asyncIterators.entries())
            if (nextPromises[index] != never && iterator.return != null)
                iterator.return();
        // no await here - see https://github.com/tc39/proposal-async-iteration/issues/126
    }
    return results;
}

Notice that combine does not support passing values into next or cancellation through .throw or .return.

You can call it like

(async () => {
  for await (const x of combine([a, b, c])) {
    console.log(x);
  }
})().catch(console.error);