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Ever - a callback-less event reactor for Ruby

Gem Version Ever Test MIT licensed

Ever is a libev-based event reactor for Ruby with a callback-less design. Events are emitted to an application-provided block inside a tight loop without registering and invoking callbacks.


  • Simple, minimalistic API
  • Zero dependencies
  • Callback-less API for getting events
  • Events for I/O readiness
  • Events for one-shot or recurring timers
  • Application-defined event semantic (an event can be identifed by any object)
  • Easy API for breaking a blocking poll, no need for setting a timeout or writing to a pipe
  • Cross-thread signalling and emitting of events


I'm planning to add a compatibility mode to Tipi, a new Polyphony-based web server for Ruby. In this mode, Tipi will not be using Polyphony, but will employ multiple worker threads for handling concurrent requests. The problem is that we have X number of threads that need to be able to deal with Y number of concurrent connections.

After coming up with a bunch of different ideas for how to achieve this, I settled on the following design:

  • The main thread runs a libev-based event reactor, and deals with accepting connections and distributing events.
  • One or more worker threads wait for jobs to execute.
  • When a new connection is accepted, the main thread starts watching for I/O readiness.
  • When a connection is ready for reading, the main thread puts the connection on the job queue.
  • A worker thread pulls the connection from the job queue and tries to read an incoming request. If the request is not complete, the connection is watched again for read readiness.
  • When the request is complete, the worker threads continues to run the Rack app, gets the response, and tries to write the response. If the response cannot be written, the connection is watched for write readiness.
  • When the response has been written, the connection is watched again for read readiness in preparation for the next request.

(A working sketch for this design is included here as an example.)

What's interesting about this design is that any number of worker threads can (theoretically) handle any number of concurrent requests, since each worker thread is not tied to a specific connection, but rather work on each connection in the queue as it becomes ready (for reading or writing).

Update: actually I have seen performance degrade when adding more worker threads (also see the section below on performance). Switching to a single-threaded design improves throughput by ~25%!


If you're using bundler just add it to your Gemfile:

source ''

gem 'ever'

You can then run bundle install to install it. Otherwise, just run gem install ever.


Start by creating an instance of Ever::Loop:

require 'ever'

evloop =

Setting up event watchers

All events are identified using an application-provided key. This means that your app should provide a unique key for each event you wish to watch. To watch for I/O readiness, use Loop#watch_io(key, io, read_write, oneshot) where:

  • key: unique event key (this can be any value, and in many cases you can just use the IO instance.)
  • io: IO instance to watch.
  • read_write: false for read, true for write.
  • oneshot: true for one-shot event monitoring, false otherwise.


result = socket.read_nonblock(16384, exception: false)
case result
when :wait_readable
  evloop.watch_io(socket, socket, false, true)

To setup up timers, use Loop#watch_timer(key, duration, interval) where:

  • key: unique event key
  • duration: timer duration in seconds.
  • interval: recurring interval in seconds. 0 for a one-shot timer.
evloop.watch_timer(:timer, 1, 1)
evloop.each do |key|
  case key
  when :timer
    puts "Got timer event"

Stopping watchers

To stop a specific watcher, use Loop#unwatch(key) and provide the key previously provided to #watch_io or #watch_timer:

evloop.watch_timer(:timer, 1, 1)
count = 0
evloop.each do |key|
  case key
  when :timer
    puts "Got timer event"
    count += 1
    evloop.unwatch(:timer) if count == 10

Processing events

To process events as they happen, use Loop#each, which will block waiting for events and will yield events as they happen. The application-provided block will be called with the event key for each event:

evloop.each do |key|

Alternatively you can use Loop#next_event to process events one by one, or using a custom loop. Note that while this method can block, it can also return nil in case no event was generated.

Emitting custom events

You can emit events using Loop#emit(key). In case the event loop is currently polling for events, it immediately return and the emitted event will be available.

Signalling the event loop

You can signal the event loop in order to stop it from blocking by using Loop#signal.

Stopping the event loop

An event loop that is currently blocking on Loop#each can be stopped using Loop#stop or by calling Loop#emit(:stop).

Signal handling

The created event loop will not trap signals by itself. You can setup signal traps and emit events that tell the app what to do. Here's an example:

evloop =
trap('SIGINT') { evloop.stop }
evloop.each { |key| handle_event(key) }

API Summary

Method Description create a new event loop.
Loop#each(&block) Handle events in an infinite loop.
Loop#next_event() Wait for an event and return its key.
Loop#watch_io(key, io, read_write, oneshot) Watch an IO instance for readiness.
Loop#watch_timer(key, duration, interval) Setup a one-shot/recurring timer.
Loop#unwatch(key) Stop watching specific event key.
Loop#emit(key) Emit a custom event.
Loop#signal() Signal the event loop, causing it to break if currently blocking.
Loop#stop() Stop an event loop currently blocking in #each.


I did not yet explore all the performance implications of this new design, but a sketch I made for an HTTP server shows it performing consistently at >60,000 reqs/seconds on my development machine, with a single worker thread.

However, adding more worker threads actually degrades the performance. This is both due to the cost associated with the GVL, and contention for the job queue.

A slightly modified HTTP server script, with a separate job queue for each thread, does not fare much better. A separate design with no worker thread (everything happens on the main thread), yields a throughput of ~75,000 reqs/seconds on the same machine, about ~25% better than the version with worker threads. Of course, when running a Rack app, having everything happen on the main thread means there's no concurrent handling of requests within a single process. Here are some indicative results, along with an equivalent implementation using nio4r:

Script -t2 -c10 -t4 -c64 -t8 -c256 -t8 -c1024
nio4r single thread 63775 (4.27ms) 58420 (28.80ms) 51302 (584.78ms) 47294 (1.21s)
nio4r 1 worker threads 25276 (89.69ms) 13458 (394.90ms) 6559 (1.83s) 2660 (1.99s)
nio4r 4 worker threads 23785 (104.84ms) 12826 (439.89ms) 6471 (1.08s) 2660 (2.00s)
nio4r 8 worker threads 24028 (106.38ms) 12825 (429.98ms) 6409 (956.85ms) 2600 (2.00s)
ever single thread 77994 (3.91ms) 75271 (32.32ms) 65799 (443.88ms) 56425 (1.99s)
ever 1 worker thread 64475 (4.05ms) 69883 (31.68ms) 61917 (327.95ms) 52975 (4.56s)
ever 4 worker threads 48763 (4.15ms) 60829 (26.15ms) 56906 (482.95ms) 54713 (6.03s)
ever 8 worker threads 41378 (4.18ms) 55959 (36.51ms)
ever 4 worker threads, separate queues
ever 8 worker threads, separate queues


Issues and pull requests will be gladly accepted. If you have found this gem useful, please let me know.


Callback-less event reactor for Ruby







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