Pipeline (software)

Chain of software processing elements / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In software engineering, a pipeline consists of a chain of processing elements (processes, threads, coroutines, functions, etc.), arranged so that the output of each element is the input of the next; the name is by analogy to a physical pipeline. Usually some amount of buffering is provided between consecutive elements. The information that flows in these pipelines is often a stream of records, bytes, or bits, and the elements of a pipeline may be called filters; this is also called the pipe(s) and filters design pattern. Connecting elements into a pipeline is analogous to function composition.

Narrowly speaking, a pipeline is linear and one-directional, though sometimes the term is applied to more general flows. For example, a primarily one-directional pipeline may have some communication in the other direction, known as a return channel or backchannel, as in the lexer hack, or a pipeline may be fully bi-directional. Flows with one-directional tree and directed acyclic graph topologies behave similarly to (linear) pipelines – the lack of cycles makes them simple – and thus may be loosely referred to as "pipelines".

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