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Make your code robust with Tillicum

Tillicum is a collection of utilities for instrumenting, debugging, and augmenting functions which implement and/or talk to network services. It makes use of python-ostrich for metrics.



Ratelimit will delay consumption of a sequence so it cannot exceed a given number of items per second.

from tillicum.ratelimit import ratelimit

# Limited to 10/s, this function will take 10s to run
def limit_seq():
    for x in ratelimit(xrange(100), 10):
        print x


The seqtimer function is used to monitor and report the time taken during consumption of a sequence. If the length of the sequence can be determined (or you explicitly provide it), seqtimer will provide an estimated time to completion.

  from tillicum.seqtimer import seqtimer

  def read_sequence(input):
      # Print summary every 100 items consumed.
      for element in seqtimer(input, items=100):

# Sample output:
# [1.00% 100/10000] 100 items in 0.11s @902.05/s; Avg @902.05/s, ETA 0:00:10
# [2.00% 200/10000] 100 items in 0.11s @910.81/s; Avg @906.18/s, ETA 0:00:10
# [3.00% 300/10000] 100 items in 0.11s @906.16/s; Avg @906.05/s, ETA 0:00:10
# [4.00% 400/10000] 100 items in 0.11s @897.70/s; Avg @903.86/s, ETA 0:00:10

Error handling


Backoff adds an increasing delay depending on the error rate of the wrapped function. This is useful when your remote service has periods of high latency, as it applies back pressure to your client(s) to let the service recover. As the error rate drops, so does the delay.

Backoff can be used as a decorator or a context manager.

from tillicum.backoff import backoff

@backoff(exceptions=(socket.timeout, socket.error))
def talk():
    remote = urllib2.urlopen('http://some.service:2351')
    return  # -> Will delay more based on error rate

def talk():
    with backoff(exceptions=(socket.timeout, socket.error)):
        remote = urllib2.urlopen('http://some.service:2351')
        return  # -> Will delay more based on error rate


The retry decorator will restart a function if it raises one of a predefiend list of exceptions. This is good for talking to flaky services, where you would like to retry if it times out.

import urllib2
import socket

from tillicum.retry import retry

@retry(exceptions=(socket.timeout, socket.error))
def talk():
    remote = urllib2.urlopen('http://some.service:2351')
    return  # -> Will retry up to 3 times


Suppress creates a context manager which will ignore specific exceptions unless they exceed a specified error rate. It can be composed with the retry decorator, or used on its own for non-critical failure-prone operations.

import socket

from tillicum.suppress import make_suppress
from tillicum.retry import retry

manager = make_suppress((socket.error, socket.timeout), interval=60, threshold=10)

def talk():
    def _internal():
        remote = urllib2.urlopen('http://some.service:2351')

    with manager():
        return _internal()


Throttle is used to slow down calls to functions by delaying by a factor of the time the function call took. It’s useful when you need to talk to a fragile service without overwhelming it with requests.

Throttle can be used as a decorator or context manager. It measures the time taken to execute the wrapped code, then delays by that time multipled by a factor before returning. Additionally, it can delay only if there was an error raised instead of delaying for every call.

import time
import urllib2

from tillicum.throttle import throttle

def a_method():
    time.sleep(1)  # -> will delay 3s before returning

def talk():
    with throttle(3):
        remote = urllib2.urlopen('http://some.service:2351')
        return  # -> will delay 3s before returning



Tillicum has tools for entering an interactive debugger session either when an unhandled exception is raised, or when a signal is sent to the process. These use stdin / stdout, so you’ll need to run your code in the foreground when using them.

When using the signal-based debuggers, any extant signal handlers will be saved and restored as the debug_on_signal code is entered and exited.

As with most of the other parts of Tillicum, they can be used as decorators or context managers.

import signal
import time

from tillicum.debug import debug_on_exception, debug_on_signal

def signal_debugger_manager():
    with debug_on_signal(signal.SIGALRM):

def signal_debugger_decorator():

def exc_debugger_manager():
    with debug_on_exception(KeyError):
        return {}['foo']

def exc_debugger_decorator():
    return {}['foo']



Timer is a generic tool for determining how long it took to execute a function or section of code. It’s used by some of the other tools in Tillicum, but is also useful on its own.

import time

from tillicum.timer import timer

def time_section():
    with timer() as timings:

    return timings  # -> (start_time, stop_time, duration)

@timer()  # Returns (return_value, timing_info)
def timed_method():
    return "Test 123"  # -> Returns (1, "Test 123")

print time_section()
# [1317166112.0971849, 1317166113.0973971, 1.0002121925354004]

print timed_method()
# ('Test 123', [1317166113.097517, 1317166114.0976491, 1.0001320838928223])

They go better together

All the tools in Tillicum are designed to do one thing and compose well. For example, to delay when errors begin to occur and retry, just compose those two functions:

def talk():

To make sure that ratelimit is doing what you expect, you can time a rate-limited sequence:

for x in seqtimer(ratelimit(iter(100), 1)):