#async #tokio #async #actor #actors


Lifeline is a dependency injection library for asynchronous message-based applications

11 releases (5 breaking)

0.6.1 Feb 2, 2021
0.6.0 Jan 19, 2021
0.5.0 Jan 11, 2021
0.4.0 Oct 24, 2020
0.1.0 Aug 24, 2020

#84 in Asynchronous

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MIT license

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Lifeline is a dependency injection library for message-based applications. Lifeline produces applications which are:

  • Clean: Bus implementations provide a high-level overview of the application, and services clearly define the messages they send and receive.
  • Decoupled: Services and tasks have no dependency on their peers, as they only depend on the message types they send and receive.
  • Stoppable: Services and tasks are trivially cancellable. For example, you can terminate all tasks associated with a connection when a client disconnects.
  • Greppable: The impact/reach of a message can be easily understood by searching for the type in the source code.
  • Testable: Lifeline applications communicate via messages, which makes unit testing easy. Create the bus, spawn the service, send a message, and expect an output message.

In order to achieve these goals, lifeline provides patterns, traits, and implementations:

  • The Bus, which constructs & distributes channel Senders/Receivers, and Resources.
  • The Carrier, which translates messages between two Bus instances. Carriers are critical when building large applications, and help minimize the complexity of the messages on each bus.
  • The Service, which takes channels from the bus, and spawns tasks which send and receive messages.
  • The Task, an async future which returns a lifeline when spawned. When the lifeline is dropped, the future is immedately cancelled.
  • The Resource, a struct which can be stored in the bus, and taken (or cloned) when services spawn.

For a quick introduction, see the hello.rs example. For a full-scale application see tab-rs.


Lifeline can be used with the tokio and async-std runtimes. By default, lifeline uses tokio.

lifeline = "0.6"

async-std can be enabled with the async-std-executor feature. And the mpsc implementation can be enabled with the async-std-channels feature:

lifeline = { version = "0.6", default-features = false, features = ["dyn-bus", "async-std-executor", "async-std-channels"] }

Lifeline also supports postage channels, a library that provides a portable set of channel implementations (compatible with any executor). Postage also provides Stream and Sink combinators (similar to futures StreamExt), that are optimized for async channels.
Postage is intended to replace the LifelineSender/LifelineReceiver wrappers that were removed in lifeline v0.6.0.


v0.6.0 contains several breaking changes:

  • The LifelineSender and LifelineReceiver wrappers were removed. This was necessary due to the recent changes in the Stream ecosystem, and the upcoming stabilization of the Stream RFC. If you need Stream/Sink combinators, take a look at postage, or tokio-stream.
  • The barrier channel was removed. It can be replaced with postage::barrier.
  • The subscription channel was removed. If you need it back, you can find the code before the removal here.
  • The Sender and Receiver traits were removed from prelude. This is so that importing the lifeline prelude does not conflict with Sink/Stream traits. You can import them with: use lifeline::{Sender, Receiver}.

The Bus

The bus carries channels and resources. When services spawn, they receive a reference to the bus.

Channels can be taken from the bus. If the channel endpoint is clonable, it will remain available for other services. If the channel is not clonable, future calls will receive an Err value. The Rx/Tx type parameters are type-safe, and will produce a compile error if you attempt to take a channel for an message type which the bus does not carry.

Bus Example

use lifeline::lifeline_bus;
use lifeline::Message;
use lifeline::Bus;
use myapp::message::MainSend;
use myapp::message::MainRecv;
use tokio::sync::mpsc;

lifeline_bus!(pub struct MainBus);

impl Message<MainBus> for MainSend {
    type Channel = mpsc::Sender<Self>;

impl Message<MainBus> for MainRecv {
    type Channel = mpsc::Sender<Self>;

fn use_bus() -> anyhow::Result<()> {
    let bus = MainBus::default();

    let tx_main = bus.tx::<MainRecv>()?;
    tx_main.send(MainRecv {});


The Carrier

Carriers provide a way to move messages between busses. Carriers can translate, ignore, or collect information, providing each bus with the messages that it needs.

Large applications have a tree of Busses. This is good, it breaks your app into small chunks.

- MainBus
  | ConnectionListenerBus
  |  | ConnectionBus
  | DomainSpecificBus
  |  | ...

Carriers allow each bus to define messages that minimally represent the information it's services need to function, and prevent an explosion of messages which are copied to all busses.

Carriers centralize the communication between busses, making large applications easier to reason about.

Carrier Example

Busses deeper in the tree should implement FromCarrier for their parents - see the carrier.rs example for more details.

let main_bus = MainBus::default();
let connection_listener_bus = ConnectionListenerBus::default();
let _carrier = connection_listener_bus.carry_from(&main_bus)?;
// you can also use the IntoCarrier trait, which has a blanket implementation
let _carrier = main_bus.carry_into(&main_bus)?;

The Service

The Service synchronously takes channels from the Bus, and spawns a tree of async tasks (which send & receive messages). When spawned, the service returns one or more Lifeline values. When a Lifeline is dropped, the associated task is immediately cancelled.

It's common for Service::spawn to return a Result. Taking channel endpoints is a fallible operation. This is because, depending on the channel type, the endpoint may not be clonable. Lifeline clones endpoints when it can (mpsc::Sender, broadcast::*, and watch::Receiver). Lifeline tries to make this happen as early as possible.

use lifeline::{Service, Task};
pub struct ExampleService {
    _greet: Lifeline,

impl Service for ExampleService {
    type Bus = ExampleBus;
    type Lifeline = Lifeline;

    fn spawn(bus: &Self::Bus) -> Self::Lifeline {
        let mut rx = bus.rx::<ExampleRecv>()?;
        let mut tx = bus.tx::<ExampleSend>()?;
        let config = bus.resource::<ExampleConfig>()?;

        Self::task("greet", async move {
            // drive the channels!

The Task

The Task executes a Future, and returns a Lifeline value when spawned. When the lifeline is dropped, the future is immediately cancelled.

Task is a trait that is implemented for all types - you can import it and use Self::task in any type. In lifeline, it's most commonly used in Service implementations.

Tasks can be infallible:

Self::task("greet", async move {
    // do something

Or, if you have a fallible task, you can return anyhow::Result<T>. Anyhow is required to solve type inference issues.

Self::try_task("greet", async move {
    // do something
    let something = do_something()?;


One of the goals of Lifeline is to provide interfaces that are very easy to test. Lifeline runtimes are easy to construct in tests:

async fn test() -> anyhow::Result<()> {
    // this is zero-cost.  channel construction is lazy.
    let bus = MainBus::default();
    let service = MainService::spawn(&bus)?;

    // the service took `bus.rx::<MainRecv>()`
    //                + `bus.tx::<MainSend>()`
    // let's communicate using channels we take.
    let tx = bus.tx::<MainRecv>()?;
    let rx = bus.rx::<MainSend>()?;

    // drop the bus, so that any 'channel closed' errors will occur during our test.
    // this would likely happen in practice during the long lifetime of the program


    // wait up to 200ms for the message to arrive
    // if we remove the 200 at the end, the default is 50ms
    lifeline::assert_completes!(async move {
        let response = rx.recv().await;
        assert_eq!(MainSend::MyResponse, response);
    }, 200);


The Details


Tasks (via log) provide debug logs when the are started, ended, or cancelled.

If the task returns a value, it is also printed to the debug log using Debug.

2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] START ExampleService/ok_task
2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] END ExampleService/ok_task

2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] START ExampleService/valued_task
2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] END ExampleService/valued_task: MyStruct {}

If the task is cancelled (because it's lifeline is dropped), that is also printed.

2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] START ExampleService/cancelled_task
2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] CANCEL ExampleService/cancelled_task

If the task is started using Task::try_task, the Ok/Err value will be printed with Display.

2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] START ExampleService/ok_task
2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] OK ExampleService/ok_task
2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] END ExampleService/ok_task

2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] START ExampleService/err_task
2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 ERROR [lifeline::service] ERR: ExampleService/err_task: my error
2020-08-23 16:45:10,422 DEBUG [lifeline::spawn] END ExampleService/err_task

A note about autocomplete

rust-analyzer does not currently support auto-import for structs defined in macros. Lifeline really needs the struct defined in the macro, as it injects magic fields which store the channels at runtime.

There is a workaround: define a prelude.rs file in your crate root that exports pub use for all your bus implementations.

pub use lifeline::*;
pub use crate::bus::MainBus;
pub use crate::other::OtherBus;

Then in all your modules: use crate::prelude::*

The Resource

Resources can be stored on the bus. This is very useful for configuration (e.g MainConfig), or connections (e.g. a TcpStream).

Resources implement the Storage trait, which is easy with the impl_storage_clone! and impl_storage_take! macros.

use lifeline::{lifeline_bus, impl_storage_clone};
pub struct MainConfig {
    pub port: u16


fn main() {
    let bus = MainBus::default()
    bus.store_resource::<MainConfig>(MainConfig { port: 12345 });
    // from here

Lifeline does not provide Resource implementations for Channel endpoints - use bus.rx() and bus.tx().

The Channel

Channel senders must implement the Channel trait to be usable in an impl Message binding.

In most cases, the Channel endpoints just implement Storage, which determines whether to 'take or clone' the endpoint on a bus.rx() or bus.tx() call.

Here is an example implem

use lifeline::Channel;
use crate::{impl_channel_clone, impl_channel_take};
use tokio::sync::{broadcast, mpsc, oneshot, watch};

impl<T: Send + 'static> Channel for mpsc::Sender<T> {
    type Tx = Self;
    type Rx = mpsc::Receiver<T>;

    fn channel(capacity: usize) -> (Self::Tx, Self::Rx) {

    fn default_capacity() -> usize {


Broadcast senders should implement the trait with the clone_rx method overriden, to take from Rx, then subscribe to Tx.


~114K SLoC