[erlang-questions] Multiple ETS lookups

Colm Dougan <>
Wed Oct 1 03:31:22 CEST 2008

Hi list,

What do people think of the idea of adding a multiple ETS lookup
function, analogous to the SQL 'IN' operator, where you can pass a
list of keys and you get a list of matches?

Something like :

1> T0 = ets:new(testtable, [set]).
2> ets:insert(T0, [{foo, 10}, {bar, 20}, {baz, 30}]).
3> ets:multi_lookup(T0, [foo, bar, baz]).
[{foo, 10},{bar,20},{baz,30}]
4> ets:multi_lookup(T0, [dog, foo, cat]).

My motivation for this suggestion is mainly performance but I think it
is also a common enough idiom that the interface would be generally

I realize that this problem has been solved in a more general way with
match specs but unless I'm missing something using a match spec (even
a compiled one) to do (say) 3 lookups is slower than doing 3
individual ets:lookup calls which defeats the point (in that case).
Am I missing something here?  I also find the match spec interface a
bit unwieldy for such a simple operation (although I realize it is
designed for flexibility).

In my case the multiple ets lookup would help work around the
performance dip I got in critical sections doing intensive lookups
when I moved from non-SMP mode to SMP mode.  I realize that relatively
speaking the SMP locking is not that expensive unless there are lock
conflicts but there is still a cost and when doing intensive lookups
you definitely notice it.   Being able to "unroll" my lookups to do
(say) 4 or 8 at once and only incur the locking overheads a quarter of
the time would be a big win.

Yeah I know people will then potentially be able to do nasty things
like try to do too many lookups at once, but then again they could
just not do that.

Anyway, just throwing the idea out there to be shot at.


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