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HHReactor — almost InteractiveX streams for strict Hack

$ composer require hhreact/hhreactor

Getting started

The what

If you know what InteractiveX is, HHReactor matches the InteractiveX philosophy closely, really only straying significantly for the binding operators.

If, alternatively, you know what ReactiveX is, InteractiveX is the "pull" analogue, where enumerables take the place of observables.

If you know what AsyncGenerator and AsyncIterator are, HHReactor lets you clone, reduce and expand async generators, and lets you enforce precise policies on buffering.

In action

// Producer and connection_factory contain most of the functionality
use HHReactor\Producer; // *
use function HHReactor\HTTP\connection_factory; // **
use HHReactor\WebSocket\RFC6455;

\HH\Asio\join(async {

	// * BASIC * //
	// Start with any AsyncIterator
	$iter_numbers = async {
		for($i = 0; ; $i++) {
			yield $i;
			await \HH\Asio\later();

	// Now make it really P R O D U C E
	$number_producer = Producer::create($iter_numbers);

	// Transform a stream, e.g. map
	$square_producer = (clone $number_producer)->map(async ($root) ==> pow($root, 2));
	// Transform two streams into one, e.g. zip
	$cube_producer = Producer::zip($number_producer, $square_producer, ($root, $square) ==> $root * $square);
	// Transform many streams into one, e.g. merge
	foreach(Producer::merge(Vector{ $number_producer, $square_producer, $cube_producer }) await as $some_number) {
		// numbers flying at your face! Beware: no guaranteed order with `merge`

	// Note that Producer wraps transparently:
	foreach(clone $producer await as $item) { /* same items as $iter_numbers */ }
	// ** HTTP ** //
	// Merge stream of requests from ports 80 and 8080
	$http_firehose = Producer::merge(Vector{ connection_factory(80), new connection_factory(8080) });
	// To cancel/dispose, just use what the language gives you: `break`, `return` and `throw`;
	//  the iterating scope is in full control.
	foreach(clone $http_firehose await as $connection) {
		await $connection->write('No, _you_ deal with this');
		break; // great for if you don't like commitment
		// The "Details of Producer" section further down explains what
		//  happens when you cancel a Producer partway
	// If you're up for it, do something more interesting than quitting immediately
	foreach(clone $http_firehose await as $maybe_connection) {
		try {
			// try to parse headers; fail if client fails to send them all
			$connection = await $maybe_connection;
			$request = $connection->get_request();
			if($request->getHeader('Upgrade') === 'websocket') {
				$handler = $websocket_router->route($request->getUri());
				// wrap the connection object in a `WebSocketConnection` to
				//  handle handshake and websocket frames
				$handler(new RFC6455($connection))
			else {
				// non-websocket requests
				$handler = $router->route($request->getMethod(), $request->getUri());
				$handler($connection); // stream the rest of the body (if there is one)
		catch(\Exception $e) {
	// In general, don't try iterate the original AsyncGenerator:
	//  you'll probably get a "Generator already started" exception

The context (the sales pitch)

Trying to bring ReactiveX thinking into Hack using its native async-await and asynchronous generators proves unnatural because they advertise opposite control schemes: await-async gives control to the consuming scope to manage iteration, whereas ReactiveX employs callbacks to give the Observable the control over iteration. ReactiveX actually has a more obscure dual known as InteractiveX that replaces IObservable with IEnumerable and far better describes a Reactive approach in an async-await scheme. Bart De Smet gives a cogent (and, judging by the lack of competition, authoritative) 55-minute presentation on InteractiveX considerations, especially buffering in the final 15.

Hack's async generators sound very promising out of the box for streaming usages since no setup is required: HHVM has a built-in, hidden scheduler. However, the generators they are limited in their simplicity; foreach-await is almost their only advertised use case. So, a wrapper over many streams can really only concat these streams, by successively iterating them in serial.

With careful use of ConditionWaitHandles, HHReactor's Producer is able to parallelize, expand and reduce streams, and so brings the rich suite of InteractiveX operators to Hack's async iterators. Producer is also designed to be minimally-intrusive: it fits the AsyncIterator signature down to a +T (emphasis on the covariance), it matches the behavior of the underlying iterators and it is almost stateless if no operators or cloning are applied.

* Compatibility with HHVM >3.23

The maintainers of Hack have moved to remove destructors from strict Hack entirely in coming releases sometime in HHVM >3.23. HHReactor relies on eager refcounting and defines a custom destructor on BaseProducer for timing to work properly. Without a guarantee that the destructor will be called at all, Producer is bound to leak when it's paused, which is a critical, if not application-breaking bug.

Hence, I do not recommend running the current version (~1.0) of HHReactor on HHVM >3.23. This will be a tough patch if it is even worth it, and the solution will probably involve manual disposal, which is much dirtier than the automatic disposal in place for HHVM <3.23.

HHReactor: what's in the box

  • BaseProducer: manages cloning and accounting on running clones
  • Producer extends BaseProducer: InteractiveX operators and support for arbitrary scheduling and higher-order iterators. The ⭐ of the show
  • connection_factory: listens on a TCP stream for HTTP requests, parses headers, and produces streams of the request bodies
  • Connection extends BaseProducer: Streams bodies from HTTP requests, and sends responses to clients


Most of the operators match the canonical InteractiveX/ReactiveX signatures. The quickest way to scan the signatures is to look at the reference documentation.

Major discrepancies:

  1. "Binding" operators – share, memoize, publish: these are replaced by cloning.
  2. debounce operator: not yet implemented due to technical challenges, but high on the priority list.
  3. defer operator: no strong motivation to implement it.
  4. never operator: non-terminating, lazy Awaitables and AsyncIterators are impossible in Hack (right now anyways; 2017-06-17)
  5. Order preservation where natural, e.g. in map, reduce, and filter. The Hack spec doesn't protect against extremely pathological race conditions, where the single arc from an iterator yielding into a Producer's buffer is overtaken by the cascade of arcs to restart the iterator from another scope, obtain the next value then put it in the shared buffer. As of HHVM 3.19, it doesn't look like the actual async implementation allows this, but without specification, order preservation sadly can't be guaranteed.

Dynamics of Producer

If two or more scopes consume the same stream, they can either clone or not clone the Producer:

  1. [Ix's Memoize & Publish] If the Producer is cloned, the buffer is also cloned, so consumers will receive the same elements from the moment of cloning. In this way, clones act like InteractiveX's Memoize and ReactiveX's Replay.

Ix Memoize and Publish marble diagram

To emphasize: the clone doesn't see any elements produced by that Producer before the clone exists. In this way, Memoize and Publish behavior differ only in when/of what the consumer takes a clone. Cloning from a Producer that is never iterated will give Memoize behavior. Cloning moving Producers will give Publish behavior.

Note however that, because the consumer is in control of iteration, the underlying iterators aren't started until the first clone requests the first element.

Behavioral Note: as will be mentioned below too, the buffer is managed like Publish rather than Memoize. Producer is very straightforward with deciding which nodes are reclaimed because it relies on the garbage collector: once the laggiest consumer advances, the node is reclaimed. It is then a simple and explicit matter of keeping or not keeping unstarted Producers, which will or won't hold elements from the very beginning respectively.

  1. [Ix's Share] If the Producer is not cloned, consumers all share the same buffer, and hence they compete directly for values.

Share marble diagram

Behavioral note: All operators implicitly clone their operands to avoid competing with other operators or raw consumers for values; they all implicitly Publish.

HTTP Server

1. connection_factory

connection_factory starts an HTTP server when called, accepts connections through a TCP socket. It accepts each connection and offloads the work to a separate async function to parse the headers, hence it produces an Awaitable that will fail if the headers are incomplete when the stream closes.

2. Connection

Proper headers will result in a Connection object which, as an async iterator, streams the body of the request, and also provides an async write method to respond to the client.


When a WebSocket request is identified, the Connection object for that Request can be used to construct a (most likely) RFC6455 object which subclasses WebScoketConnection. It handles the handshake, parses frames and produces strings from the client and and breaks out an asynchronous write_frames method to send string frames back to the client.

Reference Documentation

hphpdoc makes reference documentation really easy to compile as needed:

$ mkdir doc
$ ./vendor/appertly/hphpdoc/bin/hphpdoc -o doc -- src
$ # View in browser at ./doc/index.html

Details of Producer

Details of buffering

The producing and consuming timelines are separated by a buffer and a notifying signal that tells the consumer there is at least one item in the queue. It works like a kitchen at a diner: the items are produced and queued, then a "bell" is rung to signal the worker to serve the items at their earliest convenience to the consumer.

The signalling is so weak because timing and ordering rules in the Hack scheduler are correspondingly weak. Notably, if many await statements are queued in parallel and are ready to be resumed simultaneously, the Hack scheduler makes no guarantees about the order they'll be processed. Producers await various iterators they hold, and the consumer awaits the Producer; these are queued in parallel, which is subject to the weakness of the ordering rules. To implement Producer without a buffer, we would have to guarantee the consumer gets control right after any iterator under that Producer yields, which is unreliable in general.

Producer relies on the garbage collector to clear the buffer it accumulates from differences in consumption rates between consumers. As the laggiest consumers step their way through the buffer, their references to the earliest nodes of the buffer linked list are shed and the garbage collector clears these unreachable nodes.

While this is subject to change, the way PHP works forces HHVM somewhat to adopt eager refcounting, which helps clear the spent nodes faster.

Arbitrary scheduling and higher-order iterators

/* Condensed signature */
Producer<T>::__construct(Vector<(function((function(AsyncIterator<T>): void)): AsyncIterator<T>)> $generators)

/* Expanded signature */
	Vector< /* many-to-one */
		(function( /* factories of AsyncIterators */
			(function(AsyncIterator<T>): void) /* that can append new ones at any time */
		): AsyncIterator<T>)
	> $generators

Producer::create is the starting point for most cases to apply operators to an AsyncGenerator. However, Producer::create is just a special case of the constructor, which allows the generating functions to merge iterators they create into the output stream at any point by calling an "appending" function that is passed to it. This is useful behavior in general, because it means async code can manufacture more async code and run it without blocking itself.

Friendly note: the appending is signalled weakly through the same bell the values use, so iterators are not necessarily iterated immediately.

flat_map uses this behavior the most directly — the main body of the operator must iterate the Producer in parallel with iterating the AsyncIterators that are coming off of it as they arrive. That parallelization is accomplished with the appending function.

Without using the appender, the constructor for the Producer will merge the value streams from the generating functions into a common output. merge is implemented exactly that way in fact!

Friendly note: For higher-order Producers like Producer<Producer<T>>, outer Producers will not automatically clone the inner Producers as they're yielded. This is less restrictive but could be surprising: clones of the outer producer will produce identical inner Producers which will be Shared, so their consumers will compete for values, even though the outer producer is cold.

Running, pausing and exiting early

The how

You can stop consuming from a Producer in a few ways, each with different consequences for resources.

  1. Just drop all references to it, and free resources as quickly as possible. This includes all clones and all Producers that come from operations on the Producer of interest.
  2. Drop only the running instances/clones, and stop consuming resources quickly, but maybe restart later.
  3. To free resources quickly, but maybe restart later:
// given:
$producer = Producer::create($async_generator);


$iterator_edge = $producer->get_iterator_edge(); // Awaitable<void>
$producer = null; // drop the references like they're hot
await $iterator_edge; // wait for $async_generator `next` to become available

// ...

foreach($async_generator await as $v) { /* begin iterating it again */ }

The why

When disposing of Producers, there are two determining factors to the iterators and buffers in their ecosystem after they become unreachable:

  1. Has next ever been called on it, its clones, or Producers coming from its operators?
  2. What do they wrap?
    • Other Producers (e.g. are they results of operators on other Producers)?
    • AsyncGenerators?
    • (Notably, what happens to an opened TCP stream?)

Producer is designed with pausing in mind, to meet the need to arbitrarily stop buffering values but keep resources open to resume later. Some informative aspects of the process:

  1. When the first item is requested from a Producer, it begins "running".
  2. Each Producer knows the number of running clones.
  3. detaching a running Producer decrements the running count.
  4. When the running count drops back to 0, the Producer:
    1. Stops running its children (which stops the buffer from growing) and
    2. "detaches" from its child Producers by decrementing their running refcounts.*

See 1. Producer::_attach; 2. BaseProducer::running_count, BaseProducer::this_running, BaseProducer::some_running; 3. Producer::__destruct; 4.1. Producer::awaitify; 4.2. Producer::detach.

*A Producer knows it holds running references to all of its children because, as part of its attachment routine, Producer must start iterating them all.

A connection_factory iterator wrapped by a Producer would stop buffering, but it wouldn't close the TCP socket until its refcount drops to 0, so the system queue for that socket might begin to fill instead. Again, HHReactor leans on the garbage collector to close these sockets, and only when all references to the connection_factory iterator are dropped (not just running ones).


Producer-based Reactor for Hack







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