Awesome asynchronous I/O for Ruby.
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README.md

Async

Async is a composable asynchronous I/O framework for Ruby based on nio4r and timers.

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Motivation

Several years ago, I was hosting websites on a server in my garage. Back then, my ADSL modem was very basic, and I wanted to have a DNS server which would resolve to an internal IP address when the domain itself resolved to my public IP. Thus was born RubyDNS. This project was originally built on top of EventMachine, but a lack of support for IPv6 at the time and other problems, meant that I started looking for other options. Around that time Celluloid was picking up steam. I had not encountered actors before and I wanted to learn more about it. So, I reimplemented RubyDNS on top of Celluloid and this eventually became the first stable release.

Moving forward, I refactored the internals of RubyDNS into Celluloid::DNS. This rewrite helped solidify the design of RubyDNS and to a certain extent it works. However, unfixed bugs and design problems in Celluloid meant that RubyDNS 2.0 was delayed by almost 2 years. I wasn't happy releasing it with known bugs and problems. After sitting on the problem for a while, and thinking about possible solutions, I decided to build a small event reactor using nio4r and timers, the core parts of Celluloid::IO which made it work so well. The result is this project.

In addition, there is a similarly designed C++ library of the same name. These two libraries share similar design principles, but are different in some areas due to the underlying semantic differences of the languages.

Installation

Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem "async"

And then execute:

$ bundle

Or install it yourself as:

$ gem install async

Usage

Async::Reactor is the top level IO reactor, and runs multiple tasks asynchronously. The reactor itself is not thread-safe, so you'd typically have one reactor per thread or process.

An Async::Task runs using a Fiber and blocking operations e.g. sleep, read, write yield control until the operation can succeed.

The design of this core library is deliberately simple in scope. Additional libraries provide asynchronous networking, process management, etc. It's likely you will prefer to depend on async-io for actual wrappers around IO and Socket.

Main Entry Points

Async::Reactor.run

The highest level entry point is Async::Reactor.run. It's useful if you are building a library and you want well defined asynchronous semantics.

def run_server
	Async::Reactor.run do |task|
		# ... acccept connections
	end
end

If Async::Reactor.run(&block) happens within an existing reactor, it will schedule an asynchronous task and return. If Async::Reactor.run(&block) happens outside of an existing reactor, it will create a reactor, schedule the asynchronous task, and block until it completes. The task is scheduled by calling Async::Reactor.async(&block).

This puts the power into the hands of the client, who can either have blocking or non-blocking behaviour by explicitly wrapping the call in a reactor (or not). The cost of using Async::Reactor.run is minimal for initialization/server setup, but is not ideal for per-connection tasks.

Async::Task#async

If you can guarantee you are running within a task, and have access to it (e.g. via an argument), you can efficiently schedule new tasks using the Async::Task#async(&block) method.

def do_request(task: Task.current)
	task.async do
		# ... do some actual work
	end
end

This method effectively creates a child task. It's the most efficient way to schedule a task. The task is executed until the first blocking operation, at which point it will yield control and #async will return. The result of this method is the task itself.

Reactor Tree

Async::Reactor and Async::Task form nodes in a tree. Reactors and tasks can spawn children tasks. When you invoke Async::Reactor#async, the parent task is determined by calling Async::Task.current? which uses fiber local storage. A slightly more efficient method is to use Async::Task#async, which uses self as the parent task.

When invoking Async::Reactor#stop, you will stop all children tasks of that reactor. Tasks will raise Async::Stop if they are in a blocking operation. In addition, it's possible to only stop a sub-tree by issuing Async::Task#stop, which will stop that task and all it's children (recursively). When you design a server, you should return the task back to the caller. They can use this task to stop the server if needed, independently of any other unrelated tasks within the reactor, and it will correctly clean up all related tasks.

Resource Management

In order to ensure your resources are cleaned up correctly, make sure you wrap resources appropriately, e.g.:

Async::Reactor.run do
	socket = connect(remote_address) # May raise Async::Stop
	
	begin
		socket.write(...) # May raise Async::Stop
		socket.read(...) # May raise Async::Stop
	ensure
		socket.close
	end
end

As tasks run synchronously until they yield back to the reactor, you can guarantee this model works correctly. While in theory IO#autoclose allows you to automatically close file descriptors when they go out of scope via the GC, it may produce unpredictable behavour (exhaustion of file descriptors, flushing data at odd times), so it's not recommended.

Caveats

Enumerators

Due to limitations within Ruby and the nature of this library, it is not possible to use to_enum on methods which invoke asynchronous behavior. We hope to fix this issue in the future.

Contributing

  1. Fork it
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am 'Add some feature')
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create new Pull Request

See Also

  • async-io — Asynchronous networking and sockets.
  • async-http — Asynchronous HTTP client/server.
  • falcon — A rack compatible server built on top of async-http.
  • async-process — Asynchronous process spawning/waiting.
  • async-websocket — Asynchronous client and server websockets.
  • async-dns — Asynchronous DNS resolver and server.
  • async-rspec — Shared contexts for running async specs.
  • rubydns — A easy to use Ruby DNS server.

License

Released under the MIT license.

Copyright, 2017, by Samuel G. D. Williams.

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.