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Discord.SortedSet Version

SortedSet is a fast and efficient data structure that provides certain guarantees and functionality. The core data structure and algorithms are implemented in a Native Implemented Function in the Rust Programming Language, using the Rustler crate.


Add SortedSet to your dependencies and then install with mix do deps.get, deps.compile

def deps do
    {:sorted_set_nif, "~> 1.0.0"}

Implementation Details

Internally the Elixir terms stored in the SortedSet are converted to Rust equivalents and stored in a Vector of Vectors. The structure is similar to a skip-list, almost every operation on the SortedSet will perform a linear scan through the buckets to find the bucket that owns the term, then a binary search is done within the bucket to complete the operation.

Why not just a Vector of Terms? This approach was explored but when the Vector needs to grow beyond it's capacity, copying Terms over to the new larger Vector proved to be a performance bottle neck. Using a Vector of Vectors, the Bucket pointers can be quickly copied when additional capacity is required.

This strategy provides a reasonable trade off between performance and implementation complexity.

When using a SortedSet, the caller can tune bucket sizes to their use case. A default bucket size of 500 was chosen as it provides good performance for most use cases. See new/2 for details on how to provide custom tuning details.


  1. Terms in the SortedSet will be sorted based on the Elixir sorting rules.
  2. SortedSet is a Set, any item can appear 0 or 1 times in the Set.


There is some special functionality that SortedSet provides beyond sorted and uniqueness guarantees.

  1. SortedSet has a defined ordering, unlike a pure mathematical set.
  2. SortedSet can report the index of adding and removing items from the Set due to it's defined ordering property.
  3. SortedSet can provide random access of items and slices due to it's defined ordering property.


  1. Due to SortedSet's implementation, some operations that are constant time in sets have different performance characteristic in SortedSet, these are noted on the operations.
  2. SortedSets do not support some types of Elixir Terms, namely reference, pid, port, function, and float. Attempting to store any of these types (or an allowed composite type containing one of the disallowed types) will result in an error, namely, {:error, :unsupported_type}


Documentation is hosted on hexdocs.

For a local copy of the documentation, the mix.exs file is already set up for generating documentation, simply run the following commands to generate the documentation from source.

$ mix deps.get
$ mix docs

Running the Tests

There are two test suites available in this library, an ExUnit test suite that tests the correctness of the implementation from a black box point of view. These tests can be run by running mix test in the root of the library.

The rust code also contains tests, these can be run by running cargo test in the native/sorted_set_nif directory.

Running the Benchmarks

Before running any benchmarks it's important to remember that during development the NIF will be built unoptimized. Make sure to rebuild an optimized version of the NIF before running the benchmarks.

There are benchmarks available in the bench folder, these are written with Benchee and can be run with the following command.

$ OPTIMIZE_NIF=true mix run bench/{benchmark}.exs

Adding the OPTIMIZE_NIF=true will force the benchmark to run against the fully optimized NIF.

Basic Usage

SortedSet lives in the Discord namespace to prevent symbol collision, it can be used directly

defmodule ExampleModule do
  def get_example_sorted_set() do
    |> Discord.SortedSet.add(1)
    |> Discord.SortedSet.add(:atom),
    |> Discord.SortedSet.add("hi there!")

You can always add an alias to make this code less verbose

defmodule ExampleModule do
  alias Discord.SortedSet
  def get_example_sorted_set() do
    |> SortedSet.add(1)
    |> SortedSet.add(:atom),
    |> SortedSet.add("hi there!")

Full API Documentation is available, there is also a full test suite with examples of how the library can be used.


Elixir SortedSet backed by a Rust-based NIF




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