Distributed computing


Marie-Hélène Burle

Launching several Julia processes

Julia supports distributed computing thanks to the module Distributed from its standard library.

There are two ways to launch several Julia processes (called “workers”):

Launch Julia on n workers

Julia can be started with the -p flag followed by the number of workers by running (in a terminal):

julia -p n

This launches n workers, available for parallel computations, in addition to the process running the interactive prompt (so there are n + 1 Julia processes in total).

The module Distributed is needed whenever you want to use several workers, but the -p flag loads it automatically.


julia -p 4

Within Julia, you can see how many workers are running with:


The total number of processes can be seen with:


Start workers from within a Julia session

Alternatively, workers can be started from within a Julia session. In this case, you need to load the module Distributed explicitly:

using Distributed

To launch n workers:




Managing workers

To list all the worker process identifiers:


The process running the Julia prompt has id 1.

To kill a worker:


where <pid> is the process identifier of the worker you want to kill (you can kill several workers by providing a list of pids).

Using workers

There are a number of macros that are very convenient here:

  • To execute an expression on all processes, there is @everywhere

For instance, if your parallel code requires a module or an external package to run, you need to load that module or package with @everywhere:

@everywhere using DataFrames

If the parallel code requires a script to run:

@everywhere include("script.jl")

If it requires a function that you are defining, you need to define it on all the workers:

@everywhere function <name>(<arguments>)
  • To assign a task to a particular worker, you use @spawnat

The first argument indicates the process id, the second argument is the expression that should be evaluated:

@spawnat <pid> <expression>

@spawnat returns of Future: the placeholder for a computation of unknown status and time. The function fetch waits for a Future to complete and returns the result of the computation.


The function myid gives the id of the current process. As I mentioned earlier, the process running the interactive Julia prompt has the pid 1. So myid() normally returns 1.

But we can “spawn” myid on one of the worker, for instance the first worker (so pid 2):

@spawnat 2 myid()

As you can see, we get a Future as a result. But if we pass it through fetch, we get the result of myid ran on the worker with pid 2:

fetch(@spawnat 2 myid())

If you want tasks to be assigned to any worker automatically, you can pass the symbol :any to @spawnat instead of the worker id:

@spawnat :any myid()

To get the result:

fetch(@spawnat :any myid())

If you run this multiple times, you will see that myid is run on any of your available workers. This will however never return 1, except when you only have one running Julia process (in that case, the process running the prompt is considered a worker).