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The Safetyvalve Erlang application provides overload protection for Erlang systems. It provides queueing facilities for tasks to be executed so their concurrency and rate can be limited on a running system.


This project uses semantic versioning. Tags are declared like vX.Y.Z (do note the v). The meaning is:

  • X changes: There have been backwards-incompatible changes to the sv API functions which are meant to be the only functions exported. Or there has been changes to the way the configuration file format is specified.
  • Y changes: These are additions to the API, but existing functionality has not been broken.
  • Z changes: Bug fixes.

See the document for a usage example.



This release introduces better type specifications to quell the dialyzer, thanks to work by Luis Rascão


This release adds a new feature and fixes a grave bug introduced in v2.4.0.

The bug has to do with terminating processes which got rejected on the queue due to the queue being full. This test was not covered by the QuickCheck model, and as such, it escaped scrutiny.

In addition, this release adds the ability to create queues dynamically, provided by Luis Rascão. Some systems are better off creating queues as they go along in the system, rather than keeping a small set of static queues present.


This release changes some important internals inside SV. There is a tracking table of the processes we are currently doing work for. This table was a gb_set but it has been changed to an (unnamed) ETS table. This means each queue now takes two ETS tables to operate if you run with the default queue settings. If your system has many ETS tables, this may be a problem.

Secondly, the queue now correctly monitors a process over its full lifetime. This means that if a process currently being queued is killed, then the system correctly removes that process from the queue. The old behavior was to keep the process queued and make it count against the normal processing, consuming a token. A dead process won't consume tokens with this change.

The larger rationale for the change is to allow for more advanced schemes of queueing in the future. One can imagine queueing without blocking and then aborting the queueing operation by cancelling it toward the queue for instance.


Introduce release 17.0 as a supported architecture. Update the lager dependency.


Add explicit calls to sv:ask/2 and sv:done/3. These calls allows one to run resource acquisition and release in different scopes. While this is slighty dangerous, there are places where one needs exactly this behaviour in systems.


Allow to pass parameters to queue algorithms. In particular, use this to provide parameters to the CoDel classifier. Change should be fully backwards compatible.


Enable a new configuration parameter, queue_type. This parameter defines a module which handles the queueing strategy used by the system. In short, queues are now plugable. If omitted, the queue defaults to sv_queue_ets which is an ETS-based queueing strategy. Hence, the minor version bump as it should not affect any users and be fully backwards compatible.


Remove sv:run/3 and replace it with sv:run/2 for now. The return value is still changed according to the changes in v1.0.0. This change is done to hide certain internal structure for now until we get it fleshed out more. It also enables us to do more advanced queueing strategies.


The return value of sv:run/3 changed from Res | {error, Reason} to {ok, Res} | {error, Reason}. This better reflects the system and we can distinguish between an error term from the function we run and safetyvalve itself.


Safetyvalve owes its inspiration to Ulf Wigers jobs framework, but it is a different implementation and a different approach as well. The main difference is that safetyvalve serves as a simpler solution (for now).

One goal is to employ QuickCheck to prove certain properties of Safetyvalve over time. This was hard with jobs - but this tool should be designed around the idea that it can be tested more.


Safety Valve is still under development. The current state is that we have a quickcheck model for the following configuration (it is described below what this configuration means):

QDef = {my_queue, [{hz, undefined},
                   {rate, 1..5},
                   {token_limit, 1..5},
                   {size, 1..5},
                   {concurrency, 1..5 }]}

Where the value 1..5 means choose(1,5) in QuickCheck terminology. That is, we randomly select a value between 1 and 5 (inclusive).

For this configuration we have passed the QuickCheck model. While this does not prove the system correct, it does argue most of the system has been tested.


To configure a safety valve for your project, add the following section to your sys.config

  [{queues, [QDef, QDef, ...]}]}

Where each QDef is a queue definition of a queue. For now all queues are Token Bucket Regulators with a rate limit and a poll frequency:

QDef = {my_queue, [{queue_type, sv_queue_ets},
                   {hz, 1000}, % Poll the queue every 1000 ms
                   {rate, 5},  % Produce 5 requests per poll
                   {token_limit, 15}, % Allow a 15 token burst
                   {size, 60}, % Keep at most 60 tasks waiting
                   {concurrency, 3}]} % Start at most 3 jobs simultaneously

The most important flag is the queue_type which sets up what type of queue we want to run. Currently, you can pick among the following:

  • sv_queue_ets - An ETS based queue. Jobs are stored in an ordered_set ETS table as {Timestamp, Job} and are picked by calling ets:first/1.
  • sv_codel - A CoDel classifier (Controlled Delay - pronounced 'coddle'). CoDel is a parameterless, burst permitting delay controller. the CoDel algorithm targets a given wanted latency for a job in queue and begins rejecting jobs if that latency is not met. Also, it has hysteresis-like capabilities which allows the algorithm to handle sudden bursts of traffic. CoDel is currently experimental.
  • {sv_codel, [Target, Interval]} - A CoDel classifier with tuned parameters. The Target parameter determines the desired queue latency in ms. The default is 5ms, used by the parameterless CoDel classifier. The Interval parameter defines the window before CoDel should begin dropping packets. The default is 100ms. So if we have been above the target for interval ms, then the queue algorithm will begin dropping. For some jobs, however, it may be desirable to tune these parameters up. CoDel is currently experimental.

The rest of the configuration will tell the queue to poll once every 1000ms via the hz value. Setting this value lower makes the queue reconsider its tokens more often, with a less jagged performance as a result. Setting this value too low may however make your Erlang VM spend a high amount of time in a poller loop, doing essentially nothing. It is also possible to specify undefined in which case it will never poll. You have to call sv_queue:poll(QName) to manually poll. This is very useful for testing!

  • The rate is the number of tokens to add per poll.
  • The token_limit configures how many tokens there can be in the bucket at a given point in time. This allows you to "burst" out quickly in the beginning.
  • The size parameter configures the size of the queue
  • The concurrency parameter configures how many concurrent jobs/tasks this queue will allow once a task has gotten the "go" signal.

Then, to get jobs onto this queue, do the following

Res = sv:run(my_queue, fun work/0)

The result value Res will either be the output of the work/0 function or the tuple {error, Reason} if there is some overload condition preventing it from running.

License and Copyright

The source code is Copyright Erlang Solutions Ltd.

It is licensed under the Apache 2.0 License. See the file LICENSE in the repository for the details of this license.