WEST (Web/Event-driven Systems Tool) is another messaging tool written in Erlang, that enables the building of messaging-based systems
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Web/Event-driven Systems Tool

Authors: Carlos Andres Bolaños R.A. (candres@niagara.io).

A new way to build real-time and high scalable messaging-based applications, not centralized but distributed!


WEST is a simple and lightweight tool that enables easy development of distributed highly-scalable event-based systems, EDA based systems, giving properties such as: massive concurrency, fault-tolerance, horizontal scaling, high performance, and high availability. WEST breaks the traditional messaging systems with centralized model (Broker, ESB, MoM, etc.), implementing a real P2P communication system.

WEST provides a number of useful features:

  • Relies on remarkable, top notch and mature projects such as: Gproc, Riak Core, YAWS / Cowboy.

  • Messaging patterns like Pub/Sub and Req/Rep.

  • Provides an Erlang native client (fine-grained interface). This is useful if you want to run WEST embedded within another larger Erlang application. In this case, larger Erlang Apps should consume the native client instead of WebSocket API.

  • Provides a coarse-grained interface via WebSockets in order that can be used by external applications, no matter the platform or programming language. You can integrate applications written in any language (C/C++, Java, CSharp, Python, Ruby, JavaScript, etc.) with WEST.

  • WebSocket API comes with different protocols options such as: JSON, Text and Protocol Buffers.

  • Provides two options to run in distributed fashion: 1) west_dist (Gproc + Riak Core) that implements a sharding topology enabling horizontal scaling and linear growth. 2) gproc_dist (Gproc global + gen_leader).

  • Also can run in a simpler way, local in a single node (this is the default behavior). In his case you don't need riak_core.

  • WEST is flexible, you can add or remove pieces as you need.

  • WEST provides two Web Server options: Cowboy or YAWS.

About the infrastructure used by WEST:

  • Gproc (process dictionary for Erlang) serves as messaging infrastructure. WEST implements messaging patterns like Pub/Sub and Req/Rep using gproc.

  • Jiffy is used as JSON encoder/decoder.

  • Protobuffs is used for Google Protocol Buffers support.

  • Riak Core is used by WEST to run in distributed way. In this case, gproc runs locally on each node, and with riak_core WEST creates a Sharding topology, storing data records (channel keys in this case) across multiple gproc instances. Optionally, you can also configure more advanced topologies like Sharding + Peer-To-Peer Replication (like Riak). WEST runs by default with replication factor 1.

  • YAWS or Cowboy serves as web server, in order to provide WebSockets infrastructure mainly.


WEST has main dependencies such as: gproc, jiffy, and protobuffs. These dependencies are fetched by default. Due to WEST exposes a WebSocket API, cowboy dependency is fetched too, despite to be complementary (can be skip it if you want).

There are others complementary dependencies like yaws and riak_core. Since most people don't actively use either, they are no longer fetched by default, but they can be fetched on demand.

To enable fetching complementary dependencies you must export the corresponding OS environment variable, depending on what dependency you want to fetch.

  • To enable fetching of riak_core and support distributed WEST, export the OS environment variable WEST_DIST=true.

  • To enable fetching of yaws, export the OS environment variable WEST_YAWS=true.

  • No need to do anything for cowboy, is fetched by default, instead if you want to skip it, export the OS environment variable WEST_COWBOY=false.

  • For ease, if you want to fetch all dependencies, export the OS environment variable WEST_ALL=true.

This can be done e.g. from a GNU Makefile, from shell (CLI), or editing your .bash_profile/.bashrc (Unix, Linux, Mac OSX).

E.g. supposing that you want to set the OS variables permanently, in your home directory, edit .bashrc or .bash_profile to add these lines:

export WEST_DIST=true
export WEST_YAWS=true
export WEST_COWBOY=false

Building WEST

Assuming you have a working Erlang (R16B02 or later) installation, building WEST should be as simple as:

    $ git clone https://github.com/cabol/west.git
    $ cd west
    $ make rel
  • Note: remember set the OS variables that you need before to build WEST in order to fetch the necessary dependencies (check dependencies section above).

Configuring WEST

Once you have built WEST, a folder west (your build) is created within rel folder (./rel/west), with this structure:


In your build rel/west you'll find:

  • /etc/app.config: This file contains configuration for WEST and support applications (Riak Core, Cowboy, Yaws, Sasl). If you need to change default configuration, this is the file that you need to modify.
  • /etc/vm.args: This file contains the arguments that are passed to Erlang VM when is executed. If you need to add or modify VM arguments, this is the place to do it.
  • /bin/west: WEST executable.
  • /bin/west-admin: WEST admin executable.

Starting WEST

Once you have successfully built WEST, you can start the server with the following commands:

$ cd $WEST/rel/west
$ bin/west start

Note that the $WEST/rel/west directory is a complete, self-contained instance of WEST and Erlang. It is strongly suggested that you move this directory outside the source tree if you plan to run a production instance.

Now, due to WEST was started as daemon, if you want to see what is happening, you can attach your console to WEST process.

$ ./rel/west/bin/west attach

You can use west from web client (http://localhost:8080) or directly with Erlang west module. See below the different ways to use it and test it.

  • Note: WEST doesn't runs in distributed fashion by default, it runs locally in each node and just relies on Gproc. If you want to run distributed WEST, you will need riak_core dependency, and you must change dist property (from gproc to west_dist) in etc/app.config (WEST section):

    {west, [
            {dist, west_dist}

Distributed WEST

The application west is distributed by nature, and its distribution model relies on riak_core as distributed framework to balance the requests around the cluster, and gproc that runs locally on each node and provides the extended process dictionary and messaging patterns (point-to-point and publish-subscribe).

  • Note: To run WEST in distributed fashion you need riak_core dependency. Therefore, when you built WEST you should have set the OS variable WEST_DIST=true.

Build the devrel

We going to build devrel stage, in order to create tree nodes (default) and set them up in cluster.

$ make
$ make devrel
  • Note that you can generate more nodes if you want, you have to modify the release files if you want it automatic. But you can also copy the the dev node as much as you want, and modify the configuration files on each copied node (dev#/etc/*). Now we just going to follow default building.

Start the Cluster

$ for d in dev/dev*; do $d/bin/west start; done
$ for d in dev/dev{2,3}; do $d/bin/west-admin join west1@; done

In tha same way as previously, you can attach your console to any WEST daemon. For example, let's see what is happening with vnode 1 (dev1):

$ ./dev/dev1/bin/west attach

Now you have tree nodes running in cluster, we're ready to use west distributed.

You can use west from web client or directly with west module. See below the different ways to use it and test it.

NOTE: If you don't want to run WEST as daemons, alternatively, you can start each vnode from the console (instead of west attach). Open tree instances of console and run each WEST vnode respectively.

$ ./dev/dev#/bin/west console

WEST Web Client

WEST contains a web user interface, in order to provide to the users a simple way to interact with it.

You can open a tab in your browser and set the URL http://host:port/index.html. You can use this web client to work with west. In the page are instructions to get started.

Note that the host and port are Web Server properties, and you can find them in the /etc/app.config file, if you want to change them.

If you ran west in single node, from ./rel/west/bin, you can try: http://localhost:8080


If you are running west in cluster, and you have several instances of Web Server listen in different host:port, you can open several browser TABs, pointing to different west instances, e.g.: some tabs to http://HostX:PortX/index.html, others to http://HostY:PortY/index.html, and in this way to others (is like a manual HTTP load balancing).

Now you can try: http://localhost:8081 http://localhost:8082 http://localhost:8083

WEST Native Client

Is possible interact with west in programmatic way with Erlang using the native west module.

$ ./rel/west/bin/west console
(west@> F = fun(Event, Args) -> io:format("Event: ~p~nArgs: ~p~n", [Event, Args]) end.
(west@> {ok, Pid} = west:start_link("u1", {none, F, ["Hello"]}, []).
(west@> {ok, Pid2} = west:start_link("u2", {none, F, ["Hello"]}, []).
(west@> west:reg(Pid, <<"r1">>).
(west@> west:reg(Pid2, <<"r2">>).

So far, we've created two clients to west, and one is registered to channel r1 and other to channel r2. Now let's send some messages:

(west@> west:send(Pid, <<"r2">>, "hello!").
Event: {"u1",r2,"hello!"}
Args: ["Hello"]
(west@> west:send(Pid2, <<"r1">>, "hello!").
Event: {"u2",r1,"hello!"}
Args: ["Hello"]

Now, let's test a pub/sub scenario. We going to subscribe Pid and Pid2 to pub/sub channel ps1, and after we'll publish some messages.

(west@> west:sub(Pid, <<"ps1">>).
(west@> west:sub(Pid2, <<"ps1">>).
(west@> west:pub(Pid, <<"ps1">>, "All").
Event: {"u1",ps1,"All"}
Args: ["Hello"]
Event: {"u1",ps1,"All"}
Args: ["Hello"]
(west@> west:pub(Pid2, <<"ps1">>, "All").
Event: {"u2",ps1,"All"}
Args: ["Hello"]
Event: {"u2",ps1,"All"}
Args: ["Hello"]

Note that either Pid and Pid2 received the published messages, both executed the callback function.


WEST has other way to run in cluster, supported on gproc_dist, which consists in using gproc distributed model based on gen_leader (see Gproc).

  1. You need to modify the /etc/app.config file:

     {west, [ {dist, gproc_dist} ]}
  2. Add the -gproc gproc_dist all to the vm arguments in /etc/vm.args file:

    -gproc gproc_dist all
  3. Start west in cluster, in the same way explained previously.

  4. Now you need to restart gproc on each node, in order that it can configure itself.

     ./dev/dev1/bin/west attach
     (west1@> rpc:multicall(application, stop, [gproc]).
     (west1@> rpc:multicall(application, start, [gproc]).

However, is recommended run west in distributed fashion with gproc local and riak_core support.


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