An Erlang implementation of the meganalysis project
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101companies, Meganalysis

This is a very quick Erlang implementation of the basics of the 101companies tasks. See further down for a description of the implementation.

Current list of things that should be done:

  • Implement persistence
  • Implement distribution
  • Consider outsourcing the data store to Mnesia
  • Add spec constraints
  • Implement some of the more specialized versions
  • Parallelize the work done.
  • Improve roboustness.

Prerequisites, building, testing

First, in order to run this code, you need three tools:

  • Make, preferably GNU make, though the makefile should be BSD-make compatible. It can be skipped if you want. The Makefiles only serves as a canonical interface that makes Emacs and Vim's build-triggers work nicely.

  • A Recent Erlang/OTP distribution. I used R14B02, but anything from R13B04 and up ought to work for this. Avoid R14A if possible. It is a beta-release.

  • Rebar. Rebar is an Erlang build tool. It is available from

    When rebar has been boot-strapped, you place it into your path after which you have access to a build system that is bearable to work with.


Once the above requirements are satisfied, the code can be built with

 make compile

It should complete with no warnings.


To test the code, we use

 make console

which will spawn a console in the Erlang system, but with an altered code-load path so it can find our compiled bytecode .beam files. Now you can test it by:

 1> meganalysis:run(). % Press return here :)
 2> q().

Note the '.', which marks the end of the expression to the parser.

Implementation details

The code makes extensive use of the OTP (Open Telecom Platform). Aptly misnamed, this is a library of common concurrency tasks which most concurrent programs will use. Rather than writing code that uses the primitive send (!) and receive (receive .. end) constructs, these are wrapped in OTP.

A common OTP idiom is that OTP provides a generic version of a task, a server, a supervisor, and so on. This generic version is then specialized by injecting the name of a module. Whenever specific hook points in the generic server is reached, a callback is made to the module according to a protocol. Thus our code is call-backed to handle the specialization. A consequence as that we don't have to handle all the gritty parts of message passing concurrency.

The code consist of several modules:

  • [] This file describes a manifest of the maganalysis application.

  • [meganalysis_app] A callback interface to the generic application system in OTP. An application is a collection of processes that so some task together. The Erlang VM is an application server in which you store several applications. Should we want to provide a web interface for instance, we can spawn a webserver application later.

  • [meganalysis_sup] Provides the callbacks for the generic supervisor construction. The supervisor is built to mostly live in hibernation supervising concrete workers. If the worker dies due to a program error or some unforseen event, then the supervisor will restart its worker according to some rules. We use the one_for_one strategy here, but there are several possible. If the worker crashes too often however, the supervisor itself dies. This trigger application death in our case, but usually a nested tree of supervisors can withstand supervisor crashes as the error usually only propagates up the tree to a certain point.

  • [meganalysis_process] A generic server implementation. That is, we provide a set of callbacks for the gen_server OTP generic server behaviour. Note that we export a neat interface which hides the gen_server parts. Specifically, we export total() and cut(). Total is a call meaning that it is synchronous. A caller will wait on the server to return an answer. Cut is a cast on the other hand. It is asynchronous and the caller is not going to wait on its completion.

    the handle_* parts are the protocol for the gen_server callbacks. That is actually doing the meat of the work.

  • [meganalysis] It is common to provide a nice API to the rest of the Erlang system, to hide the complexities of processes. An user of the application will only use this API to work with the application. Thus, we decouple the internal design of the application with its interface.