[erlang-questions] On selective receive (Re: eep: multiple patterns)

Sean Hinde <>
Tue Jun 3 12:11:55 CEST 2008

On 2 Jun 2008, at 14:31, Chandru wrote:

> 2008/6/2 Mats Cronqvist <>:
> Ulf Wiger wrote:
> > I would really like to discourage people from avoiding
> > selective receive because it's "expensive". It can be
> > expensive on very large message queues, but this is
> > a pretty rare error condition, and fairly easily observable.
> >
>  i think the "issue" of how the emu deals with huge in-queues is  
> pretty
> uninteresting.
>  in my personal experience, every single time this has come up the  
> real
> problem has turned out to be lack of proper flow control (typically
> using {active,true} sockets). having 100k messages in an in-queue is  
> not
> a realistic use case.
>  the fact that this is not, afaik, particularly well documented is of
> course a problem.
> This is true - but if one has no prior experience of this situation,  
> it is hard to understand why a system is behaving sluggishly. What  
> will be nice is having an option, as Ulf suggested earlier, to have  
> bounded message queues (kill the process if the message queue length  
> exceeds a certain value). That way, flow control problems will be  
> more readily visible to users. In real life situations, when a  
> process gets into this state, the only way to fix it is to kill that  
> process as it will probably never catch up. This has been discussed  
> before: http://www.erlang.org/pipermail/erlang-questions/2006-January/018364.html
> It also fits in well with the "Let it crash" philosophy.

I respectfully disagree. It is nigh on impossible to predict where  
there might be some error that leads to a large queue, and this would  
lead to "defensive programming" where every process has a short max  
length. This would result in random crashes and loss of data for those  
uncommon situations in an generally well designed system where there  
might be a legitimate short term peak in queue lengths.

We already have a mechanism to restart if a queue grows too large  
(actually 2 - process_info monitoring, and out of memory !)


More information about the erlang-questions mailing list