Distributed Stopify
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Distribufy is an extension to Stopify implementing serializable continuations. Distribufy levarages serializable continuations to build a synchronous programming model for asynchronous I/O on the serverless OpenWhisk platform.

Distribufy exposes a checkpoint function to JavaScript programs, which captures and serializes a program's continuation. Checkpoints provide the basis for more complex compositions of I/O driven programs.


Clone and build Distribufy locally if you are planning on developing Distribufy itself.

$ git clone https://github.com/baxtersa/distribufy.git
$ cd <distribufy-root>
$ yarn install

The distribufy and distribufy-compiler workspaces contain the Distribufy runtime and compiler code respectively.


Distribufy consists of a command-line compiler and runtime framework for checkpointing cloud functions.

Recommended usage is to install the compiler globally, and install the distribufy package as a dependency in your project's package.json.

Compiler: distribufy

The distribufy command compiles programs and instruments them to support capturing continuations. The default invocation from the command line is:

$ distribufy <src> <dst> --func -t catch

These command line flags require brief explanation.

  • --func tells the compiler not to wrap the source file in a top-level function. Without this option, extra insrumentation is injected to generate a standalone, runnable output file. Distribufy relies on programs being wrapped by its launcher to run.

  • -t catch tells the compiler which instrumentation method to use to capture continuations. This strategy has shown the best performance on some benchmarks.


Compiled programs can be deployed and run on OpenWhisk. This requires deploying a zip action structured in a certain way. The following commands show how to set up a local dev environment, and compile, deploy, and invoke checkpointing functions.

Initializing a cloud function project

First, install the distribufy@compiler package globally, and initialize a local npm project.

$ # Install the `distribufy-compiler` package globally
$ npm install -g distribufy-compiler
$ mkdir <project-root> && cd <project-root>
$ npm init -y

From the root of the new project, install the distribufy package as a dependency in package.json.

$ npm install distribufy

Modify the main entrypoint of package.json.

  "main": "node_modules/distribufy/dist/src/cloud.js",

Compiling and deploying a checkpointing cloud function

Once the cloud function project has been properly initialized, we can develop, compile, and deploy our checkpointing cloud function.

First, compile the source program into node_modules/distribufy/dist/tmp.js.

$ distribufy <src> node_modules/distribufy/dist/tmp.js --func -t catch

Next, create the .zip archive to be deployed.

$ zip -r <action>.zip node_modules package.json

Now, deploy the function to openwhisk with the annotation --annotation conductor true.

$ wsk action create <action> <action>.zip --kind nodejs:8 --annotation conductor true

Finally, the action can be invoked normally, optionally passing parameters to the function.

$ wsk action invoke <action> ...[-p key value] --result


There are some limitations on the types of programs currently supported by Distribufy. These are listed and discussed briefly.

  • Files should have a single function entrypoint declared with module.exports = <function>.

  • Top-level statements should be restricted to require statements, declarations of functions, values, and non-checkpointing paths of execution.

  • Full Promise support is not yet implemented. Certain patterns of interleaving Promises with checkpoints may work, but have not been fully developed or tested.

  • Library calls should not be reentrant. Callback-driven and higher-order APIs are not currently supported.


Simple Sleeping Checkpointing

This program prints a line before and after a 5s sleep, demonstrating that sequential code is properly checkpointed and not re-executed upon resumption.

const runtime = require('distribufy');
const utils = runtime.require('distribufy/dist/src/utils/utils')
  .register(runtime, '<external-service-url>');

function main() {
  console.log('before sleep');
  console.log('after sleep');

module.exports = main;

Nondeterministic Top-level Declarations

Nondeterministic top-level program statements can be persisted across checkpoints. Without calling persist, each log would print a unique timestamp.

const runtime = require('distribufy');

let timestamp = runtime.persist('i', () => Date.now());

function checkpointThenTimestamp() {
  return timestamp;

function main() {

module.exports = main;

Closures and Free Variables

This program demonstrates support for checkpointing within nested closures which mutate captured state. The top-level require('assert') is also closed over by the function main.

const runtime = require('distribufy');
const assert = require('assert');

function main() {
  let x = 0;
  let y = 1;
  let z = 2;

  function foo() {
    function bar() {
      function baz() {
        return x+y+z;
      return { baz };
    return { bar };

  const o1 = foo();     // increments x (0->1), returns bar
  const o2 = o1.bar();  // increments y (1->2), returns baz
  const a = o2.baz();   // increments z (2->3), returns x+y+z = 1+2+3
  foo();                // increments x (1->2)

  assert.equal(a, 6);
  assert.equal(x, 2);
  assert.equal(y, 2);
  assert.equal(z, 3);

module.exports = main;

Checkpointing I/O

The checkpoint.js program demonstrates checkpointing at an I/O boundary before making an asynchronous request, and restoring with the I/O result from the serialized checkpoint. This assumes the http.js function has been deployed in the same namespace.

http.js - makes a HTTP request and returns the response body.

const needle = require('needle');

function main(params) {
  const { method, uri } = params;

  return needle(method, uri, { json: true })
    .then(response => response.body);

checkpoint.js - creates local state, checkpoints and invokes 'http.js', and returns a combination of the restored local state and HTTP response.

const runtime = require('distribufy');
const utils = runtime.require('distribufy/dist/src/utils/utils')
  .register(runtime, '<external-service-url>');

function main() {
  const options = {
    method: 'GET',
    uri: 'api.open-notify.org/iss-now.json',

 * response: {
 *   iss_position: {
 *     latitude: string,
 *     longitude: string,
 *   },
 *   message: string,
 *   timestamp: number,
 * }
  const response = utils.invoke('http', options);

  return {
    input: options,
    output: response,

module.exports = main;