#async #erlang #supervisor #supervision #reliability

async-backplane

Simple, Erlang-inspired reliability framework for Rust Futures

3 unstable releases

0.1.1 Jul 7, 2021
0.1.0 Aug 1, 2020
0.0.0 Jul 22, 2020

#327 in Asynchronous

43 downloads per month

MPL-2.0 license

42KB
539 lines

async-backplane

License Package Documentation

Easy, Erlang-inspired fault-tolerance framework for Rust Futures.

Features:

  • The secrets of Erlang's legendary reliability.
  • Idiomatic Rust API with low-level control.
  • Simple. Easy to learn and use.
  • Plays nicely with the existing Futures Ecosystem
  • Uses no unstable features or unsafe code.
  • High performance and (relatively) low memory
  • Lightweight: ~600 lines of code, 6 deps, fresh build in seconds.
  • No Box<dyn Any>, LOL.

Status.

Everything is believed to work correctly, but we're still too new to be sure. The API may change slightly before 1.0, but nothing major, I hope.

Please note that this is a more general purpose, lower-level tool than most libraries that claim to be inspired by erlang. It is the plan that other libraries will provide a higher level experience. I'm working on some, which will be coming soon:

Guide

Introduction

The Backplane (that's a fancy word for 'motherboard') is a dynamic mesh of Devices - owned objects representing a backplane presence. On dropping a Device or calling its disconnect() method, other Devices that have chosen to hear about it will be notified.

All erlang-style reliability springs from this one capability to be notified of the failure of your dependencies. It is the lower-level tool upon which more advanced concepts such as the famous supervisors are built.

Creating a Device is easy:

use async_backplane::Device;

fn device() -> Device { Device::new() }

What is a Device? What does having a presence in the backplane mean?

  • We maintain a list of Devices to notify.
  • When we disconnect, we will notify those Devices.

There are two triggers for a disconnect:

  • The Device is dropped.
  • The Device's disconnect() method is called.

Once a Device has disconnected, you can no longer use it. No more linking, no more messaging, it is done.

The Device is a futures Stream and can be polled for Messages. A message is one of two things:

  • A request to shut down with the DeviceID of the requestor.
  • A notification that another Device has disconnected. This contains the DeviceID of the disconnecting Device and an Option<Fault> describing the nature of the disconnect.

Here's an example of polling it in an async fn:

use async_backplane::{Device, Message};
use futures_lite::StreamExt; // for `.next()` on Stream

async fn next_message(device: &mut Device) -> Option<Message> {
    device.next().await
}

This is much more useful if there is something to listen for, which is where linking comes in!

Linking

Linking is how we configure Devices to notify each other when they disconnect (drop or have .disconnect() called on them). There are three types of link mode (LinkMode):

  • Monitor - be notified when the other Device disconnects.
  • Notify - notify the other Device when this Device disconnects.
  • Peer - both notify each other when they disconnect.

Linking is pretty easy if you have a pair of Devices (such as when you're spawning a new Device):

use async_backplane::Device;

// `l` will be notified when `r` disconnects
fn monitor(l: &Device, r: &Device) { l.link(r, LinkMode::Monitor); }

// `r` will be notified when `l` disconnects
fn notify(l: &Device, r: &Device) { l.link(r, LinkMode::Notify); }

// `l` will be notified when `r` disconnects
// `r` will be notified when `l` disconnects
fn peer(l: &Device, r: &Device) { l.link(r, LinkMode::Peer); }

Now we have something to listen for, let's keep restarting a failing task for all eternity:


use async_backplane::*;
use futures_lite::StreamExt; // for `.next()` on Stream
use smol::Task; // just a small and simple futures executor

async fn never_stop<F: Fn(Device)>(mut device: Device, spawn: F) {
    loop { /// We want to go forever
        let d = Device::new();
        device.link(&d, LinkMode::Monitor);
        spawn(d);
        while let Some(message) = device.next().await {
            match message {
                Message::Shutdown(id) => (), // ignore!
                Message::Disconnected(_id, _fault) => { break; } // restart!
            }
        }
    }
}

/// This is quite obviously not going to succeed. Maybe yours should!
fn failing_task(device: Device) {
    smol::Task::spawn(async {
      device.disconnect(Some(Fault::Error(())))
    }).detach();
}

fn main() {
    never_stop(failing_task)
}

In a sense, we have just written our first supervisor! A new crate, async-supervisor is coming soon with erlang-style supervisors.

Managed devices

Exciting as all this low level control over how we respond to exits is, if we take the erlang model seriously, we generally leave this to supervisors, and most of our tasks are not supervisors.

Non-supervisor tasks just want to get on with their work. That means if any Device they are monitoring disconnects with a Fault, they too will want to disconnect with a Fault. In this sense, links are a dependency graph between Devices (which are proxies for the computations using those Devices).

We call this extremely common scenario managed mode. It can be accessed through the Device.manage() method:

use async_backplane::*;
use smol::Task;

fn example() {
    let device = Device::new();
    Task::spawn(async move {
        device.manage(async { Ok(()) }); // Succeed!
    }).detach();
}

There are three logical steps here:

  • Creating the Device (Device::new()).
  • Spawning a Future on the executor (Task::spawn(...).detach()).
  • In the spawned Future, putting the Device into managed mode with an async block to execute (device.manage(async { Ok(()) })).

The async block you provide to Device.manage() should return a Result of some kind. If you return Ok, the Device will be considered to have completed without fault. If you return Err, the Device will be considered to have faulted.

Managed devices will run until the first of:

  • The provided future/async block returning a result.
  • The provided future/async block unwind panicking.
  • A Device sending us a message:
    • On receiving a shutdown request, complete successfully.
    • On receiving a disconnect notification that is fatal, fault.

By calling .manage(), you are giving up ownership of the Device permanently. When one of the above happens, any Devices that are monitoring us will be notified.

The manage() method returns a Result<T, Crash<C>> where T and C are the success and error types of the Result<T,C> returned by the async block. Crash is just an enum with an arm for each kind of failure. It contains detailed information about what went wrong, whereas any notification of our disconnection contains only basic information.

I'm still trying to work out what to do with crashes. I don't want this library to be too opinionated or to bloat the dependency tree too much. Maybe I'll do an opinionated library that uses this one, or maybe you'll just create your own manage_panic() function in each project and use that? Suggestions gratefully received!

Dynamic link topologies

Often, we will want to use Device.manage() to get the automatic management behaviour, but we'll also want to link with new Devices as part of that work But manage() takes ownership of the Device permanently, so what do we do?

A Line is a cloneable reference to a Device in the style of an Arc (and indeed, contains one). The gotcha is that because the Line is non-owning, the Device it references could have disconnected by the time you try to use it, so linking may fail:

use async_backplane::*;

fn example() {
    let a = Device::new();
    let b = Device::new();
    let line = b.line();
    a.link_line(line, LinkMode::Monitor) // suspiciously like `.link()`...
      .unwrap(); // b clearly did not disconnect yet
    // ... spawn both ...
}

Note that link_line() consumes the Line. This is because internally, the list of notifiable Devices is actually a list of Line, so we avoid a clone in the case you no longer need the Line.

You can link between Lines directly as well, since Line also has a link_line() method:

use async_backplane::*;

fn demo() {
    let a = Device::new();
    let b = Device::new();
    let c = Device::new();
    let c2 = c.line();
    let d = Device::new();
    let d2 = d.line();
    a.link(&b, LinkMode::Peer); // Device-Device link
    b.link_line(c2, LinkMode::Peer).unwrap(); // Device-Line link
    c2.link_line(d2, LinkMode::Peer).unwrap(); // Line-Line link
    // ... now go spawn them all ...
}

Any time you will want dynamically link while you are using Device.manage(), you should create a Line first.

A note of caution on dynamic topologies

Once you have linked with something through a Line, you should only unlink it through the Line. Device-to-Device linkage is fast because it avoids the work that would make it handle this case correctly. In general, you should only link or unlink with Devices when you know you have not previously linked with the corresponding Lines.

Differences from Erlang/OTP

While I am very heavily inspired by Erlang and the OTP principles, there's a bit of an impedance mismatch Rust and Erlang, in particular when it comes to ownership versus garbage collection. backplane is thus an adaptation of the principles that "feels right" for Rust.

Where it's ended up after a few months of R+D is as a lower level tool that tries not to be too pushy and opinionated and is extremely small.

Here are some of the more striking differences

Separation between Device and logic

In erlang, when you wish to spawn a process, you provide a 0-arity function. By default, it works essentially like Device.manage() without the transfer of ownership.

In backplane, I do not want to force my choice of executor or execution policy on you, so creating a Device is totally independent of spawning the Future that will use it, out of necessity.

This means that while most code will called Device.manage(), you have full freedom to implement whatever logic you want and to store the Device where you want.

Separation between Device and Mailbox

In erlang, all messages sent to a process go through the same channel (the mailbox). In a sense, a Device does have a mailbox, but it is of strictly limited utility. Devices do not handle any messages other than Message, whereas erlang messages may be anything. In order to exchange general messages with the tasks using the Devices, you would need to e.g. open an async-channel channel.

FAQ

Why erlang?

Your author has been an Elixir programmer by profession for the last few years and has come to appreciate deeply the principles underlying the reliability of Erlang, upon which Elixir is based. Above all, what I value is the simplicity. The entire system is simple enough to be able to reason about at scale.

Haven't other people already tried this? Why reinvent the wheel?

Much of it is taste. I don't think any existing solutions really capture the essence of what erlang reliability is about, or give a feel for its essential beauty. People seem to get too tied up in actors and supervision and focus less on the fundamentals.

Existing solutions also tend to be large, complex things that are difficult to learn and reason out and pull in a lot of dependencies. The whole point of erlang to me is that it makes concurrency and dependency so simple, you can reason about them at scale. But I fear we're drifting back to discussing taste.

I also gave a specific comparison with bastion on reddit by request. Just my opinion, others are available.

Library pairing recommendations

These work great alongside async-backplane:

  • async-oneshot - a fast, small, full-featured, no-std compatible oneshot channel library.
  • async-channel - great all-purpose async-aware MPMC channel.
  • smol - small, high-performance multithreaded futures executor.

These will, when they're finished:

Performance

I didn't spend terribly long developing the benchmarks, you should conduct your own if it really matters.

Here are numbers from my Ryzen 3900X:

     Running target/release/deps/device-90347ed9496e0aaa

running 11 tests
test create_destroy              ... bench:         231 ns/iter (+/- 3)
test device_monitor_drop         ... bench:         526 ns/iter (+/- 11)
test device_monitor_drop_notify  ... bench:         604 ns/iter (+/- 12)
test device_monitor_error_notify ... bench:         632 ns/iter (+/- 9)
test device_peer_drop_notify     ... bench:         659 ns/iter (+/- 10)
test device_peer_error_notify    ... bench:         671 ns/iter (+/- 10)
test line_monitor_drop           ... bench:         634 ns/iter (+/- 11)
test line_monitor_drop_notify    ... bench:         687 ns/iter (+/- 11)
test line_monitor_error_notify   ... bench:         717 ns/iter (+/- 8)
test line_peer_drop_notify       ... bench:         764 ns/iter (+/- 14)
test line_peer_error_notify      ... bench:         778 ns/iter (+/- 9)

test result: ok. 0 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 11 measured; 0 filtered out

     Running target/release/deps/line-750db620e6752c99

running 6 tests
test create_destroy            ... bench:           8 ns/iter (+/- 0)
test line_monitor_drop         ... bench:         637 ns/iter (+/- 8)
test line_monitor_drop_notify  ... bench:         670 ns/iter (+/- 11)
test line_monitor_error_notify ... bench:         698 ns/iter (+/- 8)
test line_peer_drop_notify     ... bench:         843 ns/iter (+/- 7)
test line_peer_error_notify    ... bench:         917 ns/iter (+/- 11)

And it still performs reasonably on my old 2015 macbook pro:

     Running target/release/deps/device-8add01b9803770b5

running 11 tests
test create_destroy              ... bench:         212 ns/iter (+/- 9)
test device_monitor_drop         ... bench:         585 ns/iter (+/- 64)
test device_monitor_drop_notify  ... bench:         771 ns/iter (+/- 39)
test device_monitor_error_notify ... bench:         798 ns/iter (+/- 39)
test device_peer_drop_notify     ... bench:         964 ns/iter (+/- 40)
test device_peer_error_notify    ... bench:         941 ns/iter (+/- 304)
test line_monitor_drop           ... bench:         805 ns/iter (+/- 48)
test line_monitor_drop_notify    ... bench:         975 ns/iter (+/- 48)
test line_monitor_error_notify   ... bench:         993 ns/iter (+/- 55)
test line_peer_drop_notify       ... bench:       1,090 ns/iter (+/- 62)
test line_peer_error_notify      ... bench:       1,181 ns/iter (+/- 65)

test result: ok. 0 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 11 measured; 0 filtered out

     Running target/release/deps/line-c87021ef05fddd66

running 6 tests
test create_destroy            ... bench:          13 ns/iter (+/- 4)
test line_monitor_drop         ... bench:         793 ns/iter (+/- 51)
test line_monitor_drop_notify  ... bench:         968 ns/iter (+/- 357)
test line_monitor_error_notify ... bench:       1,018 ns/iter (+/- 54)
test line_peer_drop_notify     ... bench:       1,343 ns/iter (+/- 70)
test line_peer_error_notify    ... bench:       1,370 ns/iter (+/- 77)

Note that when linking, it is cheaper to use a Device than a Line, that is:

  • device.link() is fastest.
  • device.link_line() is slightly more expensive.
  • line.link_line() is slightly more expensive still.

If performance really matters, always link Device to Device. Also spend some time optimising this library, because we didn't yet.

Forthcoming work

  • no_std support.
  • Actors. Maybe.

Changelog

v0.1.1

  • Fixed Crash.is_completed

I also fixed the clippy lints and rearranged a tiny bit of code.

Copyright and License

Copyright (c) 2020 James Laver, async-backplane Contributors

This Source Code Form is subject to the terms of the Mozilla Public License, v. 2.0. If a copy of the MPL was not distributed with this file, You can obtain one at http://mozilla.org/MPL/2.0/.

Dependencies

~605KB
~11K SLoC

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