Data Driven Framework for Distributed Computing in Torch 7
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Tunnel is a data driven framework for distributed computing in Torch 7.

Currently tunnel is still a prototype. See issues for any bugs that may make it unfit for your purposes.

Why data driven?

Machine learning systems are intrinsically data-driven. There is data everywhere -- including training and testing samples, the model parameters, and various state used in different algorithms. This means that by carefully designing and implementing various synchronized data structures, we can make it possible to program distributed machine learning systems without a single line of synchronization code. It is in contrast with program-driven methodology where the programmer has to take care of mutexes, condition variables, semaphores and message passing himself.


See the doc directory.


You can install tunnel using luarocks

$ git clone
$ cd tunnel
$ luarocks make rockspec/tunnel-scm-1.rockspec

Tunnel requires the following prerequisites.

Luarocks should be able to install them automatically.

Example: Consumer-Producer Problem

Here is an example that demonstrates how to write a producer-consumer problem solver without a single line of synchronization code using tunnel.

local tunnel = require('tunnel')

-- This function produces 6 items and put it in vector.
local function produce(vector, printer)
   for i = 1, 6 do
      local product = __threadid * 1000 + i
      printer('produce', __threadid, i, product)

-- This function takes 4 items from vector and takes 1 second to consume each.
local function consume(vector, printer)
   local ffi = require('ffi')
   ffi.cdef('unsigned int sleep(unsigned int seconds);')
   for i = 1, 4 do
      local product = vector:popFront()
      printer('consume', __threadid, i, product)
      -- Pretend it takes 1 second to consume a product

local function main()
   -- Create a syncronized vector with size hint 4
   local vector = tunnel.Vector(4)
   -- Create an atomically guarded printer
   local printer = tunnel.Printer()

   -- Create a 2 producer threads and 3 consumer threads
   -- In total they produce 12 products, and consume 12 products.
   local producer_block = tunnel.Block(2)
   local consumer_block = tunnel.Block(3)

   -- Link vector and printer with both producer and consumer blocks
   producer_block:add(vector, printer)
   consumer_block:add(vector, printer)

   -- Execute the producer and consumer threads

-- Call the main function
return main()

One possible output:

$ th producer_consumer.lua
produce 1       1       1001
produce 1       2       1002
produce 1       3       1003
produce 1       4       1004
consume 1       1       1001
produce 1       5       1005
consume 2       1       1002
produce 2       1       2001
consume 3       1       1003
produce 1       6       1006
consume 1       2       1004
produce 2       2       2002
consume 2       2       1005
produce 2       3       2003
consume 3       2       2001
produce 2       4       2004
consume 1       3       1006
produce 2       5       2005
produce 2       6       2006
consume 2       3       2002
consume 3       3       2003
consume 1       4       2004
consume 2       4       2005
consume 3       4       2006

How Does the Example Work?

First of all, the main function created two synchronized data structures -- one is vector of type tunnel.Vector and the other printer of type tunnel.Printer. It then created two thread blocks representing 2 producer threads and 3 consumer threads, and add the data structures vector and printer to the blocks. For these thread blocks, when we call block:run(callback), the callback function will obtain these data structures in order and be able to use them. The producer block runs the produce function, and the consumer block runs the consume function.

When a thread in the producer block runs the produce function, it obtained the vector and printer data structures. After it produced a product, it will attempt to put it in vector by calling pushBack. However, when the size of vector will be larger than 4 (a size hint we used to initialize vector in main function), it will wait until a consumer has removed a product. Then, it calls printer(..) to print information synchronously. It can do so because the type tunnel.Printer wraps the print function in an exclusive mutex, such that it can be sure that only one thread (even in different blocks) is accessing the print functionality at a time.

The consumer thread simply pop from vector by calling popFront() and print information in the same way using the same printer guard. It then pretends that it takes 1 second to consume the product before going to the next iteration. The call vector:popFront() is also synchronized, in the sense that when vector is empty it will wait untill a product is available then return.

The example simply demonstrates usefulness of synchronized data structures and data-driven programming.

Future Plans

  • Implement more synchronized data structures
  • Use Redis for across-machine (cluster) distributed computing