ANN: Axon.STM 1.0.1 (release) Minimalistic Software TransactionalMemory (with examples)

Discussion in 'Python' started by Michael Sparks, Dec 24, 2007.

  1. Hi,

    I've received some great feedback since the initial beta release of
    the minimalistic STM code I discussed and released 2 weeks ago. I've
    incorporated the feedback, and created a couple of examples based on
    the canonical dining philosophers example. (One based on normal python
    threads, one based on Kamaelia)

    It turns out that there was a potential race hazard during "using"
    and "usevar" which I'd missed - many thanks to Richard Taylor for
    pointing out this issue.

    * Improved locking. (fixed race hazards during copying for reading - the
    last release was noted as probably OK for CPython, but maybe not for
    Jython or IronPython. This version is more robust)
    * Added Dining Philosophers examples (threading & Axon threading)

    Getting it
    You can download this release version here:

    Installing it
        tar zxf Axon.STM-1.0.1.tar.gz
        cd Axon.STM-1.0.1/
        sudo python install

    What IS it?
    Software Transactional Memory (STM) is a technique for allowing multiple
    threads to share data in such a way that they know when something has gone
    wrong. It's been used in databases (just called transactions there really)
    for some time and is also very similar to version control. Indeed, you can
    think of STM as being like variable level version control.

    Note: Because this is NOT intended to be persistent, this is not an ACID
    store because it doesn't support the D - durability across a crash. (after
    all, we don't save the state to disk) (The other aspects atomicity,
    consistency & isolation are supported though)

    I've written this to allow a part of Kamaelia to share & manage a dictionary
    of atomic values between threads simply, and as a result this code is also
    going into mainline Kamaelia. (Specifically into Axon Kamaelia's core)

    However STM is something that should hopefully be of use to others doing
    concurrent things whether or not they're using kamaelia, hence this stand
    alone release.

    This stand alone release should not be used alongside mainline Axon yet.
    (Well you can, as long as you reinstall your Axon over the top, but that's
    icky :)

    Why is it useful?
    [ please skip this (or correct me :) if you understand concurrency
      already :) ]

    Why do you need it? Well, in normal code, Global variables are generally
    shunned because it can make your code a pain to work with and a pain to be
    certain if it works properly. Even with linear code, you can have 2 bits of
    code manipulating a structure in surprising ways - but the results are
    repeatable. Not-properly-managed-shared-data is to threaded systems as
    not-properly-managed-globals are to normal code. (This code is one way of
    helping manage shared data)

    Well, with code where you have multiple threads active, having shared data
    is like an even nastier version of globals. Why? Well, when you have 2 (or
    more) running in parallel, the results of breakage can become hard to
    repeat as two pieces of code "race" to update values.

    With STM you make it explicit what the values are you want to update, and
    only once you're happy with the updates do you publish them back to the
    shared storage. The neat thing is, if someone else changed things since you
    last looked, you get told (your commit fails), and you have to redo the
    work. This may sound like extra work (you have to be prepared to redo the
    work), but it's nicer than your code breaking :)

    The way you get that message is the .commit raises a ConcurrentUpdate

    Also, it's designed to work happily in code that requires non-blocking
    usage - which means you may also get a "BusyRetry" exception under load. If
    you do, you should as the exception suggests retry the action that you just
    tried. (With or without restarting the transaction)

    Apologies if that sounds too noddy :)

    Docs for it

    Using It

    # Initialising a Store
    from Axon.STM import Store

    S = Store()

    # Single values
    greeting = S.usevar("hello")
    print repr(greeting.value)
    greeting.set("Hello World")

    # Groups of values
    D = S.using("account_one", "account_two", "myaccount")

    D = S.using("account_one", "account_two", "myaccount")

    Dining Philosophers

    Pure python version:

    Kamaelia version:

    import time
    import Axon
    from Axon.STM import Store
    import random

    def all(aList, value):
    for i in aList:
    if value != i:
    return False
    return True

    class Philosopher(Axon.ThreadedComponent.threadedcomponent):
    forks = ["fork.1", "fork.2"] # default for testing :)
    def main(self): # start here :)
    while 1:
    X = self.getforks()

    def getforks(self):
    gotforks = False
    while not gotforks:
    X =*self.forks)
    if all([ X[fork].value for fork in self.forks], None):
    for fork in self.forks:
    X[fork].value =
    gotforks = True
    except Axon.STM.ConcurrentUpdate:
    print "Got forks!",, self.forks
    return X

    def releaseforks(self,X):
    print "releasing forks",
    for fork in self.forks:
    X[fork].value = None

    S = Store()
    N = 5
    for i in range(1,N):
    Philosopher(store=S,forks=["fork.%d" % i ,"fork.%d" % (i+1)]).activate()

    Philosopher(store=S,forks=["fork.%d" % N ,"fork.%d" % 1]).run()

    Feedback is very welcome, preferably via email to the Kamaelia List

    Feedback especially regarding bugs and logical errors is particularly
    welcome. (hopefully there aren't any - but it's always hard to spot your

    Many thanks to Fuzzyman, Duncan Booth, John J Lee & Sylvain Hellegouarch for
    feedback whilst I was prototyping this.

    Further thanks go to Richard Taylor for detailed feedback and discussion
    regarding locking and for pointing me at MASCOT which made me think of
    doing the dining philosophers this way :)

    This will be merged onto the mainline of Kamaelia with some auxillary
    functions , as another feather aimed at making concurrency easy to
    work with :)

    Best Regards,

    Michael Sparks, Kamaelia Project
    Michael Sparks, Dec 24, 2007
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