NIO Library for lightweight networking
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Niol is a NIO Library written in Scala and designed to make server programming easier.

Abstract Inputs/Outputs

The two traits NiolInput and NiolOutput represent something that can receive/give data. They provide convenient operations like writeVarint and writeString, and shortcuts like >>:(Array[Byte]).

NiolInput example:

val in: NiolInput = ... // some input
val n = in.getVarint()
val bytes = new Array[Byte](100)
bytes <<: in // equivalent to in.getBytes(bytes)

NiolOutput example:

val out: NiolOutput = ... // some output
true >>: out // equivalent to out.putBoolean(true)
("string", UTF_8) >>: out // equivalent to out.putString("string", UTF_8)
bytes >>: out // equivalent to out.putBytes(bytes)

Any input can be directly written to an output:

in >>: out // equivalent to out.putBytes(in)


Niol uses the standard Java NIO channels ScatteringByteChannel and GatheringByteChannel. They can be used with any NiolInput/Output.

scatteringChannel >>: out
gatheringChannel <<: in

You can create ChannelInputs and ChannelOutputs from files or from any channel:

val fileOut = new ChannelOutput(nioFilePath)
val fileIn = new ChannelInput(nioFilePath)

val channelOut = new ChannelOutput(scatteringChannel)
val channelIn = new ChannelInput(gatheringChannel)


Buffers are the core of Niol. A buffer is a data container that inherits from both NiolOutput and NiolInput. buffer hierarchy

Read and write operations are separated from each other, that is, two different position indexes are used.

NiolBuffer vs RandomAccessBuffer

NiolBuffer is the superclass of all buffers. It exposes basic reading and writing methods, but hides the read and write positions. The benefit is that "special" buffers can be created, that doesn't have a linear storage, like the CircularBufer.

On the contrary, a RandomAccessBuffer is a simpler, linear data container, very similar to a java ByteBuffer but with two positions instead of one.

NioBaseBuffer - Like ByteBuffer, but better

As the name suggests, the NioBaseBuffer is based on the Java NIO ByteBuffer and serves as a base for the other buffers. It is a simple wrapper that adds no special functionality.

The underlying ByteBuffer can be either direct or non-direct (see the ByteBuffer documentation).

Buffer Providers

A NiolBaseBuffer cannot be created with a constructor. You have to use a BufferProvider, for instance the DefaultOffHeapProvider :

val buff: BaseBuffer = BufferProvider.DefaultOffHeapProvider.getBuffer(capacity)

Niol also provides a StageBufferPool, which is organized in capacity intervals.

val builder = new StageBufferPoolBuilder()
builder += (100, 250) // keep up to 250 buffers of capacity 100
builder += (1000, 10) // keep up to 10 buffers of capacity 1000
builder.defaultHandler(HeapNioAllocator.getBuffer) // above 1000, allocate on-demand on the heap
val pool =
val smalBuffer = pool.getBuffer(75) // 75 <= 100 so this returns a buffer of capacity 100
val bigBuffer = pool.getBuffer(101) // returns a buffer of capacity 1000
val hugeBuffer = pool.getBuffer(2048) // returns a buffer of capacity 2048

Memory Management

To make the provider system work and to release the direct buffers more efficiently, you have to call the discard() method when you don't need a buffer anymore.

A discarded buffer must never be used. Calling a method on a discarded buffer may or may not work, Niol provides no guarantee at all.

Some operations like duplicate() and sub() create buffers that are linked to the original buffer. The original buffer won't be collected until all its sub buffers plus itself are discarded.

val buff = DirectNioAllocator.getBuffer(4096)
val dup = buff.duplicate
// work
buff.discard() // discard the original - this can be done before or after discarding the duplicate, it doesn't matter!
dup.discard() // discard the duplicate -> triggers memory cleanup (see below)
// Both the original and the duplicate have been discarded, therefore the buffer's memory is released as soon as possible.

Non-blocking TCP Server on multiple ports

The ScalableSelector allows you to quickly create a TCP server that handles multiple ports and clients simultaneously.


The class ScalableSelector uses the Java NIO Selector and ServerSocketChannels. First, create a selector with its basic handlers:

val errorHandler = (e: Exception) => {
// Reacts to an exception. You can decide to throw an exception to stop the server, or to continue.
val startHandler = () => {
// Called when the selector is started
val stopHandler = () => {
// Called when the selector is stopped
val selector = new ScalableSelector(errorHandler, startHandler, stopHandler)

Get a BufferProvider that will create one message buffer per client. Here we'll use a StageBufferPool to avoid creating a new buffer each time we receive a packet.

val poolBuilder = new StageBufferPoolBuilder
poolBuilder += (100, 100, DirectNioAllocator.getBuffer)
poolBuilder += (5000, 100, DirectNioAllocator.getBuffer)
val bufferPool =

Then, create a subclass of ClientAttach to handle the server's clients. Each client has its instance of ClientAttach, which contains the client's informations and handles the incoming and outgoing messages.

final class MyAttach(val server: ServerChannelInfos[MyAttach],
                     val clientChannel: SocketChannel)
  extends ClientAttach(server, clientChannel) {

  override def readHeader(buffer: NiolBuffer): Int = {
    // Parses the message's header
    // Returns the message's size
	override def handleData(buffer: NiolBuffer): Unit = {
    // Parses the message's data.

Finally, listen on the port you want by registering a TcpListener to the ScalableSelector.

selector.listen(port, 3000, bufferPool, new TcpListener[MyAttach] {
	override def onAccept(clientChannel: SocketChannel, server: ServerChannelInfos[MyAttach]): MyAttach = {
    // Creates a new ClientAttach for the newly connected client
    new MyAttach(server, clientChannel)

	override def onDisconnect(clientAttach: MyAttach): Unit = {
		// Called when a client disconnects

Sending messages to clients

To send a message to the client, put it (the header + the data) in a buffer and call the ClientAttach.write method. You can add a completionHandler (in the form of a Runnable) that will be executed once the write operation is completed.

client.write(buffer) // Without completion handler
client.write(buffer, () => {
  // Reacts to the completion of the write operation

The write methods are thread-safe and may be called from any thread.


  • Only one thread for all the connections, with the NIO Selector.
  • Reacts to events: client accepted, client disconnected, message received, message sent, etc.
  • Handles messages' headers and data separately.
  • Efficient buffer management that avoids copying the data.
  • Robust exception handling.