An Introduction Of Hierarchical Timing Wheels

Posted by SingChia Blog on November 25, 2017


Timer is a so important component be needed in many projects to limit an action or to trigger an event, we used to start a thread or coroutine to implement one for rapid development. But some of you may encountered the scenario that requires lot of timers, like developing a restful server or a message server, then a high-performance timer is strongly needed. we got serveral options to choose:

  • Ordered Linked Timer List
  • Heap Based Timer
  • Hashed Timing Wheels
  • Hierarchical Timing Wheels

And this documentation illustrates hierarchical timing wheels algorithm and an implemention of it.


I drew some easy-understand diagrams which are time ordered to describe the algorithm, and some corresponding comments had been written next to the graphic content.
Let’s name a fixed internal of time going-by as ticking, naming a pre-set-able event as tick which be called timer in common, and timer presents the algorithm. So let’s start with the case with simple 2 wheels.

ticking 0

Assuming we got a clean enviroment and doing nothing at ticking 0.

ticking 1

Calculate 2 5-ticking-after ticks’s positions in wheels respectively and insert into right place.

ticking 6

Since nothing special happened from ticking 1 to ticking 5, they’ve all omitted. At ticking 6, the ticks set at ticking 1 fired.

ticking 7

Add another 3 ticks into timer.

ticking 8

This ticking is important because it illustrates what happened when a lower wheel’s ticking rotated back at position 0, and this, will raise the ticking of higher wheel.

ticking 24

Two ticks set at ticking 8 fired, one of them ended and another one be set into lower wheel.

ticking 27

The tick in wheel 0 fired.

ticking 56

The last tick set at ticking 7 fired and be set into lower wheel.

ticking 63

The last tick fired and ended.

ticking 64

Everything cleaned up as ticking 0.


see implementation in golang here