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May 24, 2021
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May 24, 2021

popol

Minimal non-blocking I/O for Rust.

See examples/ folder for usage.

Overview

Async I/O in Rust is still an unsolved problem. With the stabilization of async/await, we are seeing a number of libraries and runtimes crop up, such as async-std and smol, while others such as tokio and mio are maturing. The problem with async/await is that you can't use any of the standard library traits, such as Read and Write. The async ecosystem comes with an entirely separate suite of traits (eg. AsyncRead and AsyncWrite) and I/O libraries. Furthermore, most of these runtimes have a large dependency footprint, partly from having to provide async alternatives to the standard library functions, and partly due to the complexity of these runtimes.

What do we need? For most use-cases, the ability to handle between a dozen and up to a few hundred open connections without blocking, is all we need. This places us squarely within the territory of the venerable poll() function, which is available on almost all platforms.

Popol is designed as a minimal ergonomic wrapper around poll(), built for peer-to-peer networking.

By building on poll, we have the following advantages:

  • Much smaller implementation than even the smallest async/await runtimes
  • All of the Rust standard library just works (io::Read, io::Write, etc.)
  • Virtually zero-dependency (the libc crate is the only dependency)
  • No "runtime". Keeps the code much easier to reason about

Why not use epoll? A couple of reasons:

  1. It is more complex than poll and requires us to write more code
  2. It isn't portable (only works on Linux)
  3. poll is sufficient for handling most workloads

Compared to mio, popol is:

  • A lot smaller (about 10% of the size)
  • A little more flexible and easy to use
  • Supports standard library sockets
  • Currently focused on unix-based system compatibility

Some of the advantages of popol's API over mio's:

  • popol supports multiple wakers per wait call.
  • popol event source identifiers are not limited to u64.
  • popol's API is composed mostly of infallible functions.

On the other hand, mio is more mature and probably better at handling very large number of connections. Mio also currently supports more platforms.

License

This software is licensed under the MIT license. See the LICENSE file for details.

About

(c) Alexis Sellier https://cloudhead.io