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Concurrency orchestration patterns for Go
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Concurrency orchestration patterns for a concurrent language

I am working on a new version of this. Same ideas, cleaner semantics, much much nicer syntax.


(c) 2012 Gatlin Johnson See LICENSE for licensing details.

0. Introduction

Orc is a simple library to aid with concurrency orchestration. The goal is to write useful patterns once and to build more complex patterns out of intelligent, simple primitives.

1. Synopsis

package main

import (

func main() {

    // a site is a function which publishes a value asynchronously
    load_page := orc.Site{
        func(url orc.Void, publish orc.Voidchan) {
            resp, _ := http.Get(url.(string))
            defer resp.Body.Close()
            publish <- url

    // the built-in Cut function calls multiple sites concurrently and yields
    // the first return value
    loaded_first := orc.Cut([]orc.Voidchan{

    // for now, it's your job to assert types.
    // Void is interface{} and Voidchan is chan interface{}

    // rtimer publishes `t` after `t` seconds
    rtimer := orc.Site{
        func(t orc.Void, publish orc.Voidchan) {
            <-time.After(time.Duration(t.(int)) * time.Second)
            publish <- t

    // this site wraps fmt.Println
    site_print := orc.Site{
        func(msg orc.Void, publish orc.Voidchan) {
            publish <- nil

    // sites can be recursive if pre-declared
    // metronome also shows a nifty heart-beat pattern in Orc which could be
    // useful for fault-tolerance in distributed computations
    var metronome orc.Site
    metronome = orc.Site{
        func(t orc.Void, publish orc.Voidchan) {


2. Acknowledgements

The work is inspired by the language of the same name and everyone who has worked on it there.

My semantics are not exactly the same but this is a work in progress; I'd love it if someone sent me corrections.

3. Explain this Orc thing

Orc, is a language and concurrency calculus developed at the University of Texas, Austin. Based on the JVM, it is designed from the ground up to orchestrate concurrent operations and provides a nice functional syntax.

I've implemented some semantics of Orc in Go.

In Orc you have sites which are like functions except they "publish" values non-deterministically and may actually be implemented across the network. On top of this concept are four combinators: parallel, sequence, prune, and otherwise.

Parallel is pretty simple: given two site invocations, it re-publishes both of their values in tandem. F | G publishes the results of both F and G, which may be sites or other expressions built on them.

Sequence is also simple. F >x> G(x) means "do F, then with the results do G." If F is actually an expression (say, H | J), then each published value of F is run through G.

Prune is conceptually a little harder. F <x< G means "Do F and G in parallel, but hold the parts that rely on a value from G until you get one." The first value published by the expression G is used in F.

Otherwise returns to simplicity: F ; G means "do F, and if you get a nil value, publish G instead."

4. How this translates to Go

The actual Orc language makes certain things implicit - sites essentially are asynchronous message queues that can return anything at any time, and the combinators specified above really just implement schemes to manage non-deterministic values coming out of the pipes.

Thus, sites are represented by the Site struct, which contains a function and a Call method. Site functions don't return, but publish values to the channel supplied to them. I chose to implement Sites this way because in the future I'd like them to abstract where the Sites were defined and form the basis of something akin to distributed objects.

Parallel really just merges the output channels of two site calls (which happen concurrently thanks to Call using the go keyword), so it's represented as Merge: merge a slice of void channels into a single one.

Sequence becomes the void channel method ForEachDo which accepts a Site to be called for each value; sequence is essentially an implicit event loop, but Go has explicit loops.

Prune takes a huge semantic hit because at the moment, without metaprogramming, I'm not sure how I would know which parts of the right-hand-side depend on the left - so it's assumed that all of it does. In that regard, prune becomes the void channel method WithFirstDo. It accepts a site just like ForEachDo and on the first value does something. So it's similar in utility and semantics but not identical.

There will be practical and semantic changes; stay tuned.

5. Future

Right now I play fast and loose with the type system. I would eventually like to use the reflect package to allow library users to declare normal types, and let Orc simply ensure they're consistent. For now, though, we have type assertions.

Another goal is already suggested by my use of Site objects rather than simple functions: I would like for Sites to allow both local and remote computations. This requires a bit more thinking but I imagine net-chans and some kind of uniform Site registration and announcement system could make wide-area orchestration much more feasible.

If you write a cool function building on the ones supplied here, send me a pull request and I'll probably include it. It'd be neat to turn this into the one-stop-shop for concurrency patterns.

Also, better examples.

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