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Proposal: Go streaming API #70

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spenczar opened this issue Jan 29, 2018 · 28 comments
Closed

Proposal: Go streaming API #70

spenczar opened this issue Jan 29, 2018 · 28 comments

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@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jan 29, 2018

#3 lays out some ideas for how Twirp could support streaming RPCs on the wire. Equally important is how we support them in generated code.

This issue is for designing the generated Go code. When we've landed on a proposal that seems pretty good, I'll edit this top text with what we've got, and then we can look at implementing it.

Let's use this service to discuss what things would look like:

syntax = "proto3";

service Streamer {
  rpc Transaction(Req) returns (Resp);
  rpc Upload(stream Req) returns (Resp);
  rpc Download(Req) returns (stream Resp);
  rpc Bidirectional(stream Req) returns (stream Resp);
}

message Req {}
message Resp {}
@spenczar spenczar added this to the v6 milestone Jan 29, 2018
@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jan 29, 2018

Here's one way to do this.

The generated interface would use <Msg>Stream types:

type Streamer interface {
  Transaction(context.Context, *Req) returns (*Resp, error)
  Upload(context.Context, ReqStream) returns (*Resp, error)
  Download(context.Context, *Req) returns (RespStream, error)
  Bidirectional(context.Context, ReqStream) returns (RespStream, error)
}

These Stream types are an interface:

type ReqStream interface {
  Next(context.Context) (*Req, error)
}

As the recipient:

You call Next to get another message from the stream. If the stream has been closed by the sender, Next returns a nil *Req, and an error that describes the shutdown. This could either be a var ErrStreamComplete, indicating a "healthy" termination of the stream, or an error that indicates a problem.

To shut down the stream early as the recipient, cancel the context. Otherwise, you must call Next repeatedly until it returns nil, <error>. Failure to do one of these two things will leave the HTTP connection hanging open.

As the sender:

It's your responsibility to provide an implementation of this interface. The generated Twirp code will be calling Next, then serializing the objects it gets and shipping them to the recipient. It will call Next repeatedly until Next returns nil, <error>, so an implementation must promise to eventually return nil, <error> or it will leak an HTTP connection.

We will provide a constructor for a simple implementation of the interface for convenience. It might look like this, but I'm not attached to this API and it probably needs work:

type reqStreamSender struct {
  ch <- chan *Req
}

func NewReqStream(ch chan *Req) *reqStreamSender {
  return &reqStreamSender{ch: ch}
}

func (s *reqStreamSender) Next(ctx context.Context) (*Req, error) {
  select {
    case <- ctx.Done():
      return nil, ctx.Err()
    case v, ok := <- s.ch:
      if !ok {
        return nil, twirp.ErrStreamComplete
      }
      return v, nil
  }
}

Fleshing this out for the 4 unidrectional cases, using service Streamer as an example:

As a unidirectional client-sender:

You construct a message stream that fulfills the ReqStream interface, and then you call Upload(ctx, stream) on the generated client.

The generated client code immediately opens an HTTP request to the server. It then repeatedly calls stream.Next(ctx), serializing the messages until stream.Next(ctx) returns nil, <error> (it uses the provided ctx).

Then, it sends the error from stream.Next as a trailer. It reads the server's response, parses it, and returns it.

If the server recipient cancels the stream early, then the generated client will immediately return a nil value for *Resp, and an error explaining that the recipient aborted the stream.

For example:

client := NewStreamerClient("http://127.0.0.1", http.DefaultClient)
ch := make(chan *Req, 5)
stream := NewReqStream(ch)
go func() {
  for i := 0; i < 100; i++ {
    ch <- &Req{}
  }
  close(ch)
}()
resp, err := client.Upload(context.Background(), stream)

As a unidirectional server-recipient:

An incoming HTTP request comes in for the Upload API, and we construct a ReqStream to describe the stream. Upload(ctx, stream). You should block until stream.Next(ctx) returns nil, <error>. If you must abort, do so by canceling a context provided to stream.Next.

Once you return, the generated HTTP handler will call req.Body.Close() and send your response.

For example:

type *streamerImpl struct {...}

func (s *streamerImpl) Upload(ctx context.Context, s ReqStream) (*Resp, error) {
  var err
  for {
    var req *Req
    req, err = s.Next(ctx)
    if req == nil && err != nil {
      break
    }
    err = handle(req)
    if err != nil {
        ctx, cancel := context.WithCancel(ctx)
        cancel()
        s.Next(ctx)
        break
    }
  }
  if err == twirp.ErrStreamComplete {
    return &Resp{}, nil
  }
  return nil, err
}

As a unidirectional server-sender:

An incoming HTTP request triggers a call to Download(ctx, req). Your code should construct a message stream that fulfills the RespStream interface and then return it. If you don't like the request you received for some reason, you can return an error and a nil RespStream.

The generated code will call stream.Next() repeatedly until it gets nil, <error>, using the original request's context for each call.

If the client cancels the stream early, then we'll trigger the Error hook on *ServerHooks.

For example:

func (s *streamerImpl) Download(ctx context.Context, req *Req) (RespStream, error) {
  if !valid(req) {
    return nil, errInvalid
  }
  ch := make(chan *Resp, 10)
  go func () {
    for i := 0; i < 100; i++ {
      ch <- &Resp{}
    }
    close(ch)
  }()
  return NewRespStream(ch), nil
}

As a unidirectional client-recipient:

You call Download(ctx, req), receiving a RespStream. You should call Next on it repeatedly until you receive nil, <error>. You can abort by canceling the context. You must do one of these two things, or else we'll hold the HTTP connection open forever.

For example:

func doDownload(handle func(*Resp) error) {
  client := NewStreamerClient("http://127.0.0.1", http.DefaultClient)
  respStream, err := client.Download(context.Background(), &Req{})
  if err != nil {
    return err
  }

  for {
    resp, err := respStream.Next(context.Background())
    if err != nil {
      if err == twirp.ErrStreamComplete {
        return nil
      }
      return err
    }
    err = handle(resp)
    if err != nil {
      ctx, cancel := context.WithCancel(context.Background())
      cancel()
      respStream.Next(ctx)
      return err
    }
  }
}

Bidirectional clients and servers

Bidirectional clients and servers behave just as natural extensions of the above, with one wrinkle for the Go API: the client might return an error immediately if it cannot successfully negotiate an http/2 connection with the server.

The generated code's implementation might be a lot more complex, here. We need to investigate whether ServeHTTP provides enough to do this right.

Advantages of this design

The generated code is simple. The stream interface is really lightweight.

Canceling the stream is possible from both sides.

Senders can configure their own buffering strategy for outbound messages by providing their own implementation of <msg>Stream.

Recipients can set timeouts while waiting for a message, which is necessary for security - otherwise, clients can easily lock up servers.

Disadvantages of this design

Recipients can't pick a buffering strategy - we have to construct <msg>Stream for them.

We have to impose rules like "You must block until you get a nil, error response" or else users will leak.

The API for clients canceling the stream is pretty weird.

@rhysh
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@rhysh rhysh commented Jan 29, 2018

Good work finding an answer that keeps the client and server interfaces unified!


A nit: Can users provide closures rather than implementing a type with a Next method (like http.ServerHandler)? Or could the helper code convert from a func to the necessary type, rather than or in addition to the helper code to use channels?

type RespStreamFn func(ctx context.Context) (*Resp, error)

func (fn *RespStreamFn) Next(ctx context.Context) (*Resp, error) { return fn(ctx) }

A nit: Can twirp.ErrStreamComplete instead be io.EOF?


Consider a server-sender that reads a file from disk, returning its contents N bytes at a time. It's a unidirectional server-sender, but it has some clean up work to do at the end of the request (closing the file to release the file descriptor). It could get an async signal by checking context cancelation, but the usual defer patterns for synchronous cleanup won't work. The code will get tricky if several cleanup steps need to be done in a particular order.

Could Twirp provide helper code that would allow server method authors to write synchronous implementations while still conforming to the united API?

// Part of the generated interface
func (s *streamerImpl) Download(ctx context.Context, req *Req) (RespStream, error) {
  convertSyncDownload(s.DownloadSync)
}

// A convenient way to write the code, since defer works
func (s *streamerImpl) DownloadSync(ctx context.Context, req *Req, send func(*Resp)) error {
  f, err := os.Open("big.log")
  if err != nil {
    return err
  }
  defer f.Close()
  sc := bufio.NewScanner(f)
  for sc.Next() {
    send(&Resp{Line: sc.Text()})
  }
  return sc.Err()
}

// could this be generated?
func convertSyncDownload(fn func(context.Context, *Req, func(*Resp))) func(context.Context, *Req) (RespStream, error) {

	return func(ctx context.Context, req *Req) (RespStream, error) {
		ctx, cancel := context.WithCancel(ctx)
		defer cancel()

		var (
			mu     sync.Mutex
			fnErr  error
			values = make(chan *Resp)
		)

		// called by method implementation
		fnStream := func(v *Resp) {
			mu.Lock()
			defer mu.Unlock()
			select {
			case <-ctx.Done():
			case values <- v:
			}
		}
		// called by Twirp framework
		twirpStream := RespStreamFn(func(ctx context.Context) (*Resp, error) {
			select {
			case <-ctx.Done():
				return ctx.Err()
			case v, ok := <-values:
				if ok {
					return v, nil
				}
				mu.Lock()
				defer mu.Unlock()
				if fnErr != nil {
					return nil, fnErr
				}
				return twirp.ErrStreamComplete
			}
		})

		go func() {
			defer cancel()

			err := fn(ctx, req, fnStream)
			mu.Lock()
			defer mu.Unlock()

			fnErr = err
			close(values)
		}()

		return twirpStream, nil
	}
}
@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jan 30, 2018

Can users provide closures rather than implementing a type with a Next method (like http.ServerHandler)?

I think you mean http.HandlerFunc? Yes, we could do something like that through a RespStreamFunc, as you describe. There's room to maneuver in the helper function we provide to make a <msg>Stream.

A nit: Can twirp.ErrStreamComplete instead be io.EOF?

Certainly.

Consider a server-sender that reads a file from disk

I'm having a lot of trouble understanding the code you posted as a suggestion. I hope we don't need to generate anything that complex.

I think the advantage of this interface-based approach is that users can write whatever they need to handle their complex stream source. In your example, I think a custom type is right:

type FileRespStream struct {
	f  *os.File
	sc *bufio.Scanner
}

func newFileRespStream(f *os.File) *FileRespStream {
	sc := bufio.NewScanner(f)
	return &FileRespStream{
		f:  f,
		sc: sc,
	}
}

func (s *FileRespStream) Next(ctx context.Context) (resp *Resp, err error) {
	// Block until the scanner has data available, or the context is closed.
	scanCh := make(chan bool)
	go func() {
		scanCh <- s.sc.Scan()
	}()
	defer close(scanCh)

	select {
	case <-ctx.Done():
		err = io.EOF
	case more := <-scanCh:
		if more {
			resp = &Resp{Line: s.sc.Text()}
		} else {
			err = s.sc.Err()
		}
	}

	// If we didn't populate resp, then this was the last line. Clean up after
	// ourselves.
	if resp == nil {
		s.f.Close()
	}
	return resp, err
}

I think this is simple and clear for that use case, and is an advantage of the interface for streams.

@rhysh
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@rhysh rhysh commented Jan 30, 2018

Oops, yes I meant http.HandlerFunc.

In that example the file descriptor is closed (conditionally) at the end of the Next method. If the connection to the client is lost, will the Twirp-generated server code call Next with a canceled Context?

When plugging a server implementation directly into code that needs a client, the caller should be able to clean up the call by canceling the Context they provided to the RPC call. For streaming requests, they'll have to additionally call Next with a canceled Context to be sure all resources have been cleaned up .. unless the server method has been written very carefully.

The defer keyword is really good, I'd really like to be able to use it in streaming servers.

@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jan 30, 2018

Right, the rule (in my proposal above) is that a Stream must be either drained or called with a canceled context to avoid leaks.

We might be able to improve things by expanding the interface:

type ReqStream interface {
  Next(context.Context) (*Req, error)
  End(error)
}

For a sender, End will be called by generated code when we're going to stop sending messages for any reason: either we have received nil, io.EOF from a call to Next, or we have to shut down for some other reason (like the receiver went away).

For a recipient, End is called by the user, and means "Don't send me any more data, because I ain't listenin'". Definitely nicer than using a canceled context for this!

This provides one place to put cleanup logic, like you might do through defers. It also provides a nicer way for recipients to abort.

The defer keyword is really good, I'd really like to be able to use it in streaming servers.

Oh, I agree. I'm just not sure how to work it in here. As you demonstrated, a big functor could work, as you demonstrated, but it's very complex. Functors aren't the first tool most people reach for! I don't think defer's simplicity outweighs its complexity of a function whose signature is func( func(context.Context, *Req, func(*Resp))) func(context.Context, *Req) (RespStream, error). That's a lot of func.

I think defer is hard to work in here for deep reasons. To really get the most out of it, you need to call defer in a function that starts before any calls to Next, and exits there will be no more calls to Next.

But we want the generated code to be calling Next, so doing defer "right" requires some inversion of control. The user code would need to set up, call defer, hand off execution, and then reclaim control at the very end. I can't see how this could ever work elegantly, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

@mocax
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@mocax mocax commented Jan 30, 2018

I suggest to have StreamReader and StreamWriter interfaces and use them on both client side and server side. The ReqStream on client side is for write, on server side is for read, which would be confusing when it is used in the middle of a function. While Reader/Writer are much well know design pattern, e.g. java.io.Reader.

@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jan 30, 2018

@mocax, I think you mean different types for senders and recipients, not clients and servers?

I wouldn't want different types because it would mean that clients and servers have different interfaces, and I really like the fact that there is one generated Go interface right now. It means that clients can be converted to servers:

c := NewStreamerProtobufClient("http://remote", http.DefaultClient)
s := NewStreamerServer(c)

And it means that servers can be used wherever you have clients:

var s Streamer
if (delegateUpstream) {
  s = NewStreamerProtobufClient("http://upstream", http.DefaultClient)
} else {
  s = NewStreamerServer(svc)
}

It makes it easier to write mocks, and (most importantly!) makes the generated code simple and intuitive.

Changing the client and server to have different interfaces would lose a lot of Twirp's simplicity and idiomaticity in its Go API, so I think we should only do it if it has huge, clear benefits. Could you flesh out your suggestion with a code example?

@mocax
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@mocax mocax commented Jan 30, 2018

A RPC stream is much like a file stream. We can model it as reader/writer, which is very popular design pattern. Or we can combine them into a single stream interface, which has both read and write method. Latter would look just like stdio stream.

Of course, there are many other consideration. For Go, we could just map stream to Go channel, which is probably the most intuitive choice.

@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jan 30, 2018

Go channels tend to make for bad types when shared across API boundaries.

Could you flesh out your suggestion with code? It's difficult to judge in just text descriptions. The details matter a lot here.

@mikeylemmon
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@mikeylemmon mikeylemmon commented May 31, 2018

A few weeks ago I took spenczar's experimental work on the v6_streams_alpha branch and have gotten a protobuf proof-of-concept up and running with a streaming download endpoint. Based on my experience, I have a few suggestions to discuss and points to bring out, but first the codes:

https://github.com/twitchtv/twirp/pull/110/files

Main takeaways from my foray:

  • Twirp streams are/will be awesome — with proper tuning, a twirp stream client is able to receive more than a million Hats per second on my 2013 MacBook Pro (caveat: see the flushing notes at the end of this comment)

  • How protobuf errors could work (and are implemented in my PR):

    • If the server's RPC implementation returns an error directly (instead of a RespStream) a standard JSON-encoded twirp error is returned and the HTTP status code gets set accordingly (internally, uses the same writeError function as unary RPCs). This makes things easy from a client implementation point-of-view: any non-200 status code is a JSON-encoded twirp error.
    • If the server's RPC implementation returns a RespStream…
      • The HTTP status code is always 200 and Content-Type is application/protobuf
      • Errors from the RespStream's Next function are encoded as the "trailer" field of the stream: trailer-field-tag + length-delimited-protobuf-string
        • If Next returns an io.EOF error, the trailer string is just "EOF"
        • For any other error, the trailer's protobuf string is a JSON-encoded twirp error
  • Channel-based stream interface helper

    • The initial proposal of using a chan *Resp doesn't provide any way to handle mid-stream errors. In rigging up my own RespStream, I wrote myself into an annoying anti-pattern using a chan *Resp and a separate chan error — code comments like "// resps channel closes before error channel, so calling Next here to let errs signal the stream's completion" were indicatave of some deep problems with a two-stream approach. Thus I've got another proposed implementation:
      • Use a chan *RespOrError where RespOrError looks like type RespOrError struct{resp *Resp, err error} to encapsulate Next's two return values in a single channel.
      • Without a good implementation in the generated code, devs implementing their own twirp stream endpoints are likely end up in territory similar to my two-channel antipattern, particularly when trying to push data to the RespStream, as the Next interface is a pulling pattern. To me, chan *RespOrError heads in the direction of providing a clean push interface to RespStreams.
      • Relevant sections in the PR:

And now the trickiest point for last: flushing the response writer. To reliably get messages over the wire as they come in, http.Flusher's Flush function has to be used to force the sending of a packet. My naive implementation is flushing after every message (provided the response writer implements the Flusher interface), but in high-load scenarios this dramatically reduces throughput — flushing every message gives <10% throughput in my initial tests. The sweet-spot really depends on the use-case, and coming up with a good solution for when to flush the response writer is going to be tricky!

There have been some grpc discussions (here and here) about flushing, it sounds like both grpc and go's http2 server will flush "only when a packet is full or there's nothing else to send", but I haven't yet tracked down where this flushing functionality is implemented — it would be great to see both to compare/contrast. You can see that some users want to opt out of the batching or take direct control of the flushing, but grpc doesn't provide the hooks and adding them would be difficult architecturally — food for thought!

And those are my thoughts 🖖

[Update: forgot to mention that I've been writing a javascript client as part of my experiments, you can see how it all plays out in JS here, here, and here]

@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented May 31, 2018

@fritzherald, thank you so much for this dive! Your hands-on experience here is hugely valuable.

First, I think chan *RespOrError seems like a solid advance. I have nitpicks - maybe it should be chan RespOrError? - but the core idea of a single channel which returns a union-type-ish value seems solid. I'm especially convinced by the trickiness of maintaining two channels. Let's do what you suggest.

Your proposals on errors and the trailer format seem equally good, to me.

Flushing is hard, for sure. I think that grpc-go#1242 presents the hard part most clearly, as there's a tradeoff between latency and throughput here: if you don't flush on every message, then you're necessarily letting messages sit in a buffer for a bit. But if you do flush on every message, then you're using your TCP connection very inefficiently, especially for small messages.

Adding a smart TCP scheduler to Twirp to handle this seems very difficult and complex. I am pretty sure we shouldn't do that. Instead, we should try to find a way to let picky users choose their flushing behavior, while taking a middle route as the default.

Hypothetically, users can control things by providing their own http.ResponseWriters to Twirp servers which flush after every call to Write. For example:

func MinimizeLatency(h http.Handler) http.Handler {
  return http.HandlerFunc(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
    if flusher, ok := w.(responseFlusher); ok {
      w = lowLatencyResponseWriter{base: flusher}
    }
    h(w, r)
  }
}

type responseFlusher interface {
  http.ResponseWriter
  http.Flusher
}

type lowLatencyResponseWriter struct {
  base responseFlusher
}

func (w lowLatencyResponseWriter) Write(p []byte) (int, error) {
  n, err := w.base.Write(p)
  if err != nil {
    return n, err
  }
  w.base.Flush()
  return n, nil
}

func (w lowLatencyResponseWriter) Flush() { w.base.Flush() }

This could be used as middleware like so:

server := MinimizeLatency(NewHaberdasherServer(app, hook))
http.ListenAndServe(":8080", server)

Obviously, it's easy to think of more complex variations. A ResponseWriter could count some number of bytes and then flush, or guarantee that it never holds a message for longer than a millisecond, etc. We can promise that we won't call the ResponseWriter's Write method from multiple goroutines to make this more straightforward.


This control-flushing-via-response-writer strategy would work, I think, but it's definitely a little complex. I think that's okay, if we can get enough simplicity for the common case for people that most people don't have to bother with making their own ResponseWriter. Ideally, only people with very special needs will mess with this.

Would a default strategy of "never call Flush(), just expect net/http to handle this for us" be good enough for most users? Does net/http ever decide to flush small messages just because they have been sitting around for a while, or does it always only flush in big chunks? We should investigate that.

@mikeylemmon
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@mikeylemmon mikeylemmon commented Jun 1, 2018

@spenczar the control-flushing-via-response-writer strategy seems like a great approach for enabling customized flushing strategies. As for "never call Flush()", I just ran a quick test and the results indicate there would probably need to be some flushing strategy provided by twirp:

Test with no flushing

Configuration: Using the Repeat rpc defined here, the client requests a stream of responses with a 100ms delay between each response:

// error handling omitted for clarity
startedAt = time.Now()
repeatRespStream, err := client.Repeat(req)
log.Printf("Received response stream after %v\n", startedAt)
for {
	repeatResp, err := repeatRespStream.Next(context.Background())
	log.Printf("Received resp after %v\n", startedAt)
}

Results:

  1. First ~12 seconds: client waits for Repeat to return
  2. @ 13 seconds: Repeat returns the RepeatRespStream
  3. @ 26 seconds: Next returns for the first time, followed immediately by another 126 messages
  4. @ 39 seconds: messages 128 through 252 arrive
  5. @ 51 seconds: messages 253 through 376 arrive
  6. ...

Increasing the delay 10x to one second results in a ~10x multiplier to all of the times above: i.e. ~130 seconds before the rpc call returns the RespStream.


I'm having trouble imagining how Twirp could provide a default flushing strategy that knows to get out of the way of a custom writer without some sort of option flag to disable the built-in flusher. An alternative could be for the twirp package to define one or multiple handlers like your MinimizeLatency above, but it would mean that users who aren't aware of the need for a flushing handler could easily be confused by clients that are hanging on the initial rpc call while the server's Next implementation is happily chugging away.

I guess another possibility could be to add a FlushHandler field to the ServerHooks struct and for twirp to rig up the handler internally, using a default implementation if no handler is provided by the user.

@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jun 3, 2018

Okay, that experiment makes it clear that we need to have a default flushing strategy, and we need to let users override the default. I think adding this to ServerHooks would be a mistake, as it really messes with the purpose of ServerHooks.

The natural thing here, if we had nothing in place already, would be to accept the flushing strategy as a parameter when you construct the server handler (in NewHaberdasherServer, in other words). I think it would probably be done through a config struct, like this:

// defined in the twirp library
type ServerConfig struct {
  Hooks *ServerHooks
  Flush *FlushStrategy
}

type FlushStrategy struct {
  // If at least MaxLatency time has elapsed since the last flush, and unflushed bytes 
  // are available, flush.
  MaxLatency       time.Duration
  // If at least ByteThreshold bytes have been written since the last flush, flush.
  ByteThreshold    int
  // If at least MessageThreshold messages have been written since the last flush, flush.
  MessageThreshold int
}
// generated code:
func NewHaberdasherServer(svc Haberdasher, conf twirp.ServerConfig) TwirpService

This, I think, feels extremely clear... but it's a compatibility-breaker, once code is regenerated by users. On the other hand, a major version bump is a reasonable time to break compatibility, and we'd be doing a major version bump for streaming anyway, so this might be the right time.

The other downside of switching to a config struct is that it makes it much more appealing to add tons of config junk in. I think one of Twirp's strengths is the how little configuration it takes currently, and if we could keep that, I'd be happier.

Anyway, I'd like to find an alternative, but I think it'll be hard to find something much better than this config struct style.

@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jun 3, 2018

Oh! I have an important alternative that strikes me right after posting that last comment (of course) which is a Set method on the generated code.

Generated servers could have an additional method, func (h *haberdasherServer) SetFlushStrategy(maxLatency time.Duration, byteThreshold, msgThreshold int). This would maintain compatibility. It's a little odd, but it would work.

@mikeylemmon
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@mikeylemmon mikeylemmon commented Jun 4, 2018

SetFlushStrategy seems like a good approach. What would be the process for disabling built-in flushing when using a custom flushing response writer? Related: what do zero values imply? I'm inclined to think they should indicate that the parameter has no effect on flushing, so SetFlushStrategy(time.Millisecond, 0, 0) would imply that byte and msg thresholds are ignored.

I could also see a FlushStrategy config struct as the arg to SetFlushStrategy working well, something like...

type FlushStrategy struct {
	maxLatency time.Duration
	byteThreshold, msgThreshold int
}

// Not strictly necessary, but could be handy to have pre-defined vars for common values:
var (
	FlushStrategyDisabled = FlushStrategy{} // zero val means no flushing
	FlushStrategyDefault = FlushStrategy{/* whatever defaults are settled on */}
	FlushStrategyEveryWrite = FlushStrategy{byteThreshold: 1}
)

Then twirp.FlushStrategyDefault could be used in the generated .twirp.go file as the default if SetFlushStrategy is never called, and calling SetFlushStrategy would look like...

// zeros for byteThreshold and msgThreshold imply no flushing based on bytes/msgs
server.SetFlushStrategy(twirp.FlushStrategy{maxLatency: time.Millisecond})

// or...
server.SetFlushStrategy(twirp.FlushStrategyDisabled) // for use with custom `responseFlusher`-style response writer

// revert to default flushing...
server.SetFlushStrategy(twirp.FlushStrategyDefault)
@sdboyer-stripe
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@sdboyer-stripe sdboyer-stripe commented Jun 5, 2018

@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jun 5, 2018

@fritzherald Nice, I like this a lot!

What would be the process for disabling built-in flushing when using a custom flushing response writer?

I think this would be server.SetFlushStrategy(FlushStrategyDisabled), so that the custom ResponseWriter can have control.

what do zero values imply? I'm inclined to think they should indicate that the parameter has no effect on flushing, so SetFlushStrategy(time.Millisecond, 0, 0) would imply that byte and msg thresholds are ignored.

That's my thinking too.

something like... [use a struct]

Yes, I like this proposal too. An additional advantage is that we could reuse those shapes for describing flushing in clients when they are uploading streams.

Good! I think we're ready to roll on an implementation of this!


One last thing I've been thinking about. I wonder if your chan RespOrError can be used in place of my <Msg>Stream type everywhere.

The generated interface would look like:

type Streamer interface {
  Transaction(context.Context, *Req) returns (*Resp, error)
  Upload(context.Context, <-chan ReqOrError) returns (*Resp, error)
  Download(context.Context, *Req) returns (<-chan RespOrError, error)
  Bidirectional(context.Context, <-chan ReqOrError) returns (<-chan RespOrError, error)
}

This seems like it might be easier for users to wrap their heads around.

I will write up a thorough walk-through of this design, following the pattern in #70 (comment), in the next hour or so.


@sdboyer-stripe hey there 🤓

@spenczar
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@spenczar spenczar commented Jun 5, 2018

Okay, I like the channel of pairs. I think it's better.


The generated interface would use <-chan ReqOrError and <-chan RespOrError types:

type Streamer interface {
  Transaction(context.Context, *Req) returns (*Resp, error)
  Upload(context.Context, <-chan ReqOrError) returns (*Resp, error)
  Download(context.Context, *Req) returns (<-chan RespOrError, error)
  Bidirectional(context.Context, <-chan ReqOrError) returns (<-chan RespOrError, error)
}

Since the parameters are specified as <-chans, they are all read-only. This saves us from worrying about users closing the channels or inserting values from the wrong side.

These channeled types are struct pairs, generated for each type:

type <Type>OrError struct {
  Msg *<Type>
  Err error
}

Exactly one of Msg or Err will be non-nil in a valid value of this struct.

As the recipient:

You iterate over the channel. You check whether the error is non-nil; if so, the stream has a problem and won't continue. Otherwise, you can use the Msg field.

When the stream is terminated, the channel will be closed.

To shut down the stream early as the recipient, cancel the context. Otherwise, you must read from the channel until it is closed. Failure to do one of these two things will leave the HTTP connection hanging open.

The channel is unbuffered. If you need to buffer, you can do it yourself by copying into a buffered channel.

As the sender:

It's your responsibility to provide an instance of the channel. The generated Twirp code will be reading from the channel until it is closed, or until the context is canceled, or until a non-nil error value is emitted. If you put in a non-nil error value, you should close the channel right afterwards.

We don't need to provide a constructor for this - it's obvious how you can set up buffering.


For the 4 unidrectional cases:

As a unidirectional client-sender:

You construct a message channel stream, and then you call Upload(ctx, stream) on the generated client.

The generated client code immediately opens an HTTP request to the server. It then iterates over the stream, checking in each loop iteration for context cancelation too. It writes messages to the wire, and for a non-nil error, it writes the error as a trailer and ends the stream.

for {
  var (
    m   *Req
    err error
  )
  select {
  case <-ctx.Done():
    err = twirp.NewError("context canceled", twirp.Canceled)
  case v, ok := <-stream:
    if !ok {
      err = twirp.NewError("stream complete", twirp.NoError)
    }
    if v.Err != nil {
      err = v.Err
    } else {
      m = v.Msg
    }
  }

  if m != nil {
    writeMsgToWire(m)
  }
  if err != nil {
    writeErrToWireAsTrailer(err)
    terminateWireStream()
    break
  }
}

Then, it reads the server's response, parses it, and returns it.

If the server recipient cancels the stream early, then the generated client will immediately return a nil value for *Resp, and an error explaining that the recipient aborted the stream.

For example:

client := NewStreamerClient("http://127.0.0.1", http.DefaultClient)
ch := make(chan ReqOrError, 5)
go func() {
  for i := 0; i < 100; i++ {
    ch <- ReqOrError{
      *Req: &Req{},
    }
  }
  close(ch)
}()
resp, err := client.Upload(context.Background(), stream)

As a unidirectional server-recipient:

An incoming HTTP request comes in for the Upload API, and we construct a chan ReqOrError to describe the stream. You should read from the channel until it is closed. If the context is canceled, the generated code will close the channel, so you don't need to check for a context cancelation too.

To abort, return a nil *Response and a twirp.Error with a code of twirp.Canceled.

Once you return, the generated HTTP handler will call req.Body.Close() and send your response.

For example:

type *streamerImpl struct {...}

func (s *streamerImpl) Upload(ctx context.Context, s <-chan ReqOrError) (*Resp, error) {
  for v := range s {
    if v.Err != nil {
      // Oh no!
      logCanceledStream(v.Err)
      return nil, twirp.NewError("i give up", twirp.Canceled) // ???
    }

    err = handle(ctx, v.Msg)
    if err != nil {
      return nil, err
    }
  }
  return &Resp{}, nil
}

As a unidirectional server-sender:

An incoming HTTP request triggers a call to Download(ctx, req). Your code should construct a message channel and return it. If you don't like the request you received for some reason, you can return an error and a nil RespStream.

The generated code will read from the stream repeatedly until it is closed, or the context is canceled.

If the client cancels the stream early, then we'll trigger the Error hook on *ServerHooks.

For example:

func (s *streamerImpl) Download(ctx context.Context, req *Req) (RespStream, error) {
  if !valid(req) {
    return nil, errInvalid
  }
  ch := make(chan RespOrError, 10)
  go func () {
    for i := 0; i < 100; i++ {
      ch <- RespOrError{Msg: &Resp{}}
    }
    close(ch)
  }()
  return NewRespStream(ch), nil
}

As a unidirectional client-recipient:

You call Download(ctx, req), receiving a <-chan RespOrError. You should read from it repeatedly until you receive nil, <error>. You can abort by canceling the context.

For example:

func doDownload(handle func(*Resp) error) {
  client := NewStreamerClient("http://127.0.0.1", http.DefaultClient)
  ctx, cancel := context.WithCancel(context.Background())
  respCh, err := client.Download(ctx, &Req{})
  if err != nil {
    return err
  }

  for v := range respCh {
    if v.Err != nil {
      // Oh no!
      return v.Err
    }
    err = handle(v.Msg)
    if err != nil {
      cancel()
      return err
    }
  }
  return nil
}

Advantages of this design

No special constructors are necessary.

Channels don't require as much documentation as the interface types. Concepts map more cleanly: You close(ch) a channel to close the stream, for example.

User code is a bit simpler, to my eyes.

Generated code will be easier to write (especially in its interactions with context cancelations).

If messages are being transmitted too slowly, senders always have access to a context they can cancel to abort, which is very flexible.

It's obvious how recipients can add buffering on the read side: they copy from the unbuffered channel that comes from generated code into a buffered channel of their own.

Disadvantages of this design

Canceling as the recipient of a stream can be a little clumsy, and is not symmetric: servers return a special error, while clients cancel a context.

We have to demand users set one of Err and Msg in the struct union type-ish thing, but can't enforce this.

@spenczar spenczar mentioned this issue Jun 6, 2018
@mikeylemmon
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@mikeylemmon mikeylemmon commented Jun 7, 2018

Rad!! Love it. I'll try to update my PR next week with an implementation of the <-chan RespOrError API for the Download rpc

@mikeylemmon mikeylemmon mentioned this issue Jul 11, 2018
@jessfraz
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@jessfraz jessfraz commented Oct 31, 2018

I just wanted to say I am using the branch v6_streams_alpha_downloads and it works amazingly thanks! Hope to see this feature soon :)

@bufdev
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@bufdev bufdev commented Feb 15, 2019

Just my two cents, which I'm sure is a minority view but alas: I actually really like that Twirp doesn't have streaming. When you deploy streaming capability across a large org, it can result in issues - as streaming is implemented now, it inherently pushes RPC framework concerns to the application level, which results in inconsistent implementations and behavior, which results in lower reliability. It would be great if the Twirp protoc plugins required you to opt-in to streaming with an option, or at the least had an option to explicitly opt-out (i.e. --twirp_out=streaming=false:.) so that the plugin errored if it found a streaming endpoint. But as I said, just my two cents, it's cool to see Twirp continuing to grow.

@achille-roussel
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@achille-roussel achille-roussel commented Feb 15, 2019

@peter-edge my understanding is streaming uses a separate API, Twirp doesn't convert all RPC calls into a streaming model underneath, you have to explicitly craft your code to support it, and you can mix endpoints that use stream semantics and others that are regular RPC calls.

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@bufdev bufdev commented Feb 15, 2019

That's what I'd expect, I'm saying that one of the really nice things about Twirp (in my opinion) is that it doesn't support streaming - if developers have the option to use streaming, they will use it, and my experience with that at an org-wide level hasn't been the greatest is all. By crafting your code, I think you just mean having stream methods in your Protobuf definition, and I'd prefer if there was an option at protoc invocation time where this would result in an error. It would be pretty easy to add, let me know if I can help.

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@spenczar spenczar commented Mar 7, 2019

I'm sorry for the long silence on this topic. Part of the reason I've gone quiet is just that I've been focused on other work, but part of it is that I have always had my doubts about the suitability of streaming in Twirp, and have been grappling with that uncertainty, trying to find a design that maintains simplicity.

Streams are a dangerous feature for users

@peter-edge has expressed my deepest concern extremely well. One of Twirp's best features today is that it is very hard to use it badly. You kind of can't screw things up too much if you hand it to an inexperienced developer as a tool kit. And while you can make mistakes in API design and message design, those mistakes stay local: they largely aren't architectural or infrastructural.

Streams are different. They imply expectations about how connection state is managed. Load balancing them is really hard, which means that a decision to use streams for an API has ramifications that ripple out to the infrastructure of a system. So, streams introduce some architectural risk when recommending Twirp.

How plausible is it that users trip on that pothole? Unfortunately, I think it is quite likely. Streaming is the sort of feature whose downsides can be hard to see at first, but it sounds at a glance. "Lower latency and the ability to push data to the client? Sign me up!" But people could easily reach for it too early in order to future-proof their APIs, "just in case we need streams later," and walk themselves into an architectural hole which is very difficult to get out of.

Streams are complex and hard to implement well

In addition, streams add significant complexity to the Twirp project. The alpha branch that implements them has to parse protobuf message binary encoding directly - it can't really lean on the proto library for fiddly details of the encoding, but relies on a few low-level utility functions. This kind of terrifies me. I'm worried about maintaining something like that, for the health of the project.

It also imposes a much, much heavier burden on implementers in other languages. One of the best things about Twirp has been how quick and simple it is to write a generator in new languages. We saw Ruby, JavaScript, Java, and Rust implementations appear in a matter of days of the project being first released! I doubt we would have seen any third party implementations if they needed to do low-level manipulation of byte streams to pull out binary-encoded protobuf tag numbers.

The complexity also translates into a clumsy API. It's difficult to do this in a general way that feels really ergonomic while covering the many ways a streaming connection can break. I am still not thrilled with the Go API we designed, and expect that other language implementations would be just as difficult to get really right.

Streams are required only rarely

This is all risk associated with implementing streams. What is the reward, on the other side?

Frankly, at Twitch we have hundreds of Twirp services, and have not once found a compelling need for streams. I can think of a small number of backend systems that do use streaming communication between a client and server, but all of them have extra requirements which make Twirp unusable: some talk to hardware appliances or stream video data, which cannot be represented in Protobuf in any reasonable way. Some have extreme performance requirements which Twirp doesn't aim to meet. None of our designs would work for those niche applications.

Meanwhile, most simple streaming RPCs can be implemented in terms of request-response RPCs, so long as they don't have extreme demands on latency or number of open connections (although HTTP/2 request multiplexing mostly resolves those issues anyway!). Pagination and polling are the obvious tools here, but even algorithms like rsync are surprisingly straightforward to implement in a request-response fashion, and probably more efficient than you think if you're using http/2, since the transport is streaming anyway.

Sometimes you really do need streams for your system, like if you are replicating a data stream. Nothing else is really going to work, there. But Twirp does not need to be all things for all use-cases. There is room for specialized solutions, but streams are a special thing, perhaps too specialized for Twirp, and they have resounding architectural impact.

Maybe we shouldn't do streams

Given the above, I worry about adding streams to Twirp. I think it would be a step in the wrong direction.

I know others have been relying upon streams already, though, with some adventurous souls even using them in production. I'd like to better understand these use cases. What am I missing in the above analysis?

(if you'd like to reach me in private on this topic, you can also reach me by email at s@spenczar.com, I'm happy to discuss)

@gudmundur
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@gudmundur gudmundur commented Mar 14, 2019

@spenczar I've got some experience in doing streaming over HTTP/1.1 and there are two ideas I'd like to share. Before I get into it, I do think that for most RPC needs, streaming isn't needed or can be solved in another way.

If streaming is needed, then in most cases it is in the form of server side streaming, such as:

syntax = "proto3";

service Streamer {
  rpc Download(Req) returns (stream Resp);
}

If that is the one use case Twirp should support, then something like the server side of SSE can be used. I'm not certain about the semantics of retries upon reconnects in gRPC. If that's supported, I've seen SSE and HTTP Range headers used together to obtain those kinds of semantics.

The other idea is that websockets could be used to provide semantics for client side or bidirectional streaming. Depending on whether connection retries should be supported or not, some protocol semantics might need to get implemented on top of it, and some form of SSE and range headers might help there.

I personally think I'd rather go down this path than implementing something like an iterator on top of HTTP requests.

@qskousen
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@qskousen qskousen commented Apr 25, 2019

@gudmundur makes a really good point in regards to websockets. Websockets are more widely available than http/2, but are just as much of a standard. @spenczar you make some good points against making a streaming protocol at all, but use cases do exist for them. One hypothetical use case would be an email client program, connected to a server program. With streaming, the server can notify the client once a new email is available, rather than the client polling for changes, which would cut down on bandwidth considerably.

(It may be argued that for email this is a solved problem with things like IMAP IDLE, but that comes with it's own set of issues, such as needing an IDLE connection per folder.)

How clunky would it be to make an external library to handle streaming with websockets, layered on top of Twirp? Off the top of my head, it would be able to pass off incoming streaming requests on to Twirp to handle and send any response back through, but outgoing streaming requests would have to be sent directly to the external library, because Twirp has nothing in place for this.

@mikeylemmon
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@mikeylemmon mikeylemmon commented Apr 30, 2019

While I think @spenczar and @peter-edge are right about a lot of the reasons to be cautious about introducing streaming into an architecture, I also would gently push back on the idea that streams are a special case that is rarely required. While that may be the case for cloud-based backend deployments, microservice architectures are being adopted across a wide variety of environments with constraints and concerns that can be very different from those of large-scale cloud service architectures. Streaming data and events are ubiquitous in many use-cases, and relying on developers to deconstruct/reconstruct their streams on both ends of the wire strikes me as a recipe for just a different flavor of instability and headache.

My team has been using this thread's implementation of streaming twirp endpoints for almost a year now along with our own Java, Swift, and JavaScript/React-Native client implementations, and I recently sent out a survey internally to get the perspectives of the developers who have been using it. Our experience strongly supports the decision to not adopt this thread's approach for streaming twirps, but it also points to some of the value/necessity of streaming APIs for us. A summary of the big takeaways:

  • Concerns about the difficulty of implementing streaming clients are well-founded
    • Bugs around streaming HTTP implementations stuck around and were difficult to corner (e.g. streams going dead without closing the connection after long idle periods). Streaming HTTP requests/responses aren't that widely adopted and support/documentation varies greatly across different languages
      • Some environments (e.g. JS, Swift) require special handling when protobuf messages get split between response packets, can result in difficult-to-debug edge cases
    • Protobuf library implementations have varied support for decoding raw protobufs (e.g. not supported in Swift)
    • Responses to the survey question "What's the worst thing about streaming twirps? What would we miss the least if we had to get rid of them?":
      • "Quite a few unknowns in terms of malfunctions, memory overhead/leaks, and system resources in general. It's dark in here and I'm scared."
      • "Rare but challenging stability issues."
      • "Unexplainable behaviors, unexpected crashes, random disconnections."
  • Despite those harrowing accounts, half of our developers still think we made the right choice going with twirp streams, and nobody thinks we should abandon them at this point.
    • Everyone really likes the APIs.
      • "They've made it easier for us to break up monolithic Go services — what used to be an internal chan-based API became a twirp stream API with minimal impact to the surrounding code."
      • For non-Go clients, ReactiveX Observables have mapped really well to this thread's Go API and have provided a powerful common interface across multiple languages
        • "The auto-generated Rx observable clients for streaming endpoints are awesome… paired with redux-observables on the frontend made for some rad hacking"
    • For the half of developers that think twirp streams were a bad idea, their preference for what we should have used instead is split between "grpc", "websockets", and "unsure"
      • "Building a protobuf-based api feels right, but part of me wonders if we could have avoided some of the stability issues with a more widely supported and tested approach."
  • Nobody sees completely abondoning streaming as a viable option
    • There is, however, a growing approach to avoiding streaming in favor of non-streaming solutions when feasible, largely due to the stability issues noted above
    • Given that we can't avoid streaming altogether, protofile definitions for our streaming APIs are seen as critical for maintaining sanity

All of this has me now leaning toward a websocket-based approach as @gudmundur and @qskousen have pointed to. There are a whole bunch of specific implementation questions that follow (e.g. Should a service mux multiple RPCs over the same websocket connection? [Probably yes?]), but if a streaming solution is unlikely to be mainlined into this repo then I think the question for this discussion becomes if/how twirp can work nicely with external implementations of streaming RPCs. It's not too hard to imagine an external implementation that wraps/falls-back-to twirp for non-streaming endpoints, similarly conceivable to imagine twirp supporting some sort of plugin interface where it hands off streaming requests to a registered handler. Either way, consistent errors and support for ServerHooks would seem important for a good experience.

That's about as far as I've thought it through, I'm curious to hear what others would hope for in a twirp-compatible streaming implementation. Feel free to message me on Gophers Slack if you'd like to collaborate or want to discuss more nuances off-thread: @mikey 🖖

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@marioizquierdo marioizquierdo commented Jul 22, 2020

Closing for inactivity. The more general streaming discussion can continue in #3
New implementations or alternatives can be handled on their own issues or pull-requests.

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