[erlang-questions] Question about message passing paradigm

Edwin Fine <>
Sun Jun 29 12:42:04 CEST 2008

I'm a bit of an Erlang newbie so the gurus may come up with something much
better than this, but I can think of these possible approaches:

   1. Create a gen_fsm that controls all the collections. The collections
   could be ETS tables or gen_servers wrapping ETS tables. Under normal use,
   messages are sent to the fsm to update the collections individually. When
   the time comes to require consistency across the collections, send a message
   to the fsm to get the collective state data. The fsm goes into a different
   state while it gathers the data. This state would reject requests to update
   the collections (or wait until the state changes), although reads would
   still be allowed. On getting the result, the state changes back to allow
   updates again.
   2. Create a memory-only Mnesia table for each collection, and use Mnesia
   transactions to get the multiple values atomically.
   3. Change the architecture of the current lock-oriented program to make
   better use of Erlang's features.

Hope this helps.

2008/6/29 Mike T <>:

> Hello,
> I was not sure where best to post this and hope someone is able to
> help with this question.
> After being bitten by the pitfalls of lock-oriented multi threading I
> am interested in switching to message passing oriented concurrency.
> I have read that erlang has a per-process ordering guarantee (that is
> if A sends messages 1 and 2 to B 1 will arrive before 2 at B. However,
> there is no guarantee that messages from C and D will not be placed in
> between 1 and 2.
> So my question is this:
> In my current lock oriented program design I have threads dedicated to
> managing different collections and actions on those collections
> (hashmaps), lets call them A, B, C, and D. At several points in the
> program one thread needs to get data from the other collections and
> make a decision based on the collective state of the values it gathers
> form those other collections.
> An example situation would be A needing data from B, C, and D. In that
> case A would attempt to lock A, B, C, and D then gather the items it
> needs and release the lock.
> How would I accomplish this same task in a message passing manner?
> I had though of doing: A sends a message to B, C, and D asking for the
> data. However, B, C, and D may have each changed independently of each
> other by the time they receive the request for data and/or by the time
> they are able to send the message to A. So, how do you deal with
> situations like this in a message passing paradigm?
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