[erlang-questions] Memory-effective queue handling

Attila Rajmund Nohl <>
Wed Jul 25 11:57:14 CEST 2012

2012/7/24 Erik Søe Sørensen <>:
> Den 24/07/2012 17.11 skrev "Attila Rajmund Nohl" <>:
>> Hello!
>> I have a data structure where I manage "historical data": a list of
>> timestamps when events happened. I only need to know how many events
>> happened in the last 24 hours. When an event happens, I put the
>> timestamp into the queue (I use the queue module in OTP). When I check
>> how many values are in the queue, I also remove the entries that are
>> older than 24 hours. My problem is: when I remove the old elements, I
>> can do it one by one and at each step the (possibly big) queue gets
>> copied and I run out of memory.
> I am curious: how do you manage to do this? Can we see the code?
> (Certainly it shouldn't be the case that much copying should be done at each
> step.)

I can show an excerpt from the code:

increase_counter(#ch{queue=Q, counter_value=CV}=CH, Value) ->
    Date = ?MODULE:get_date(),
    NewQueue=queue:in({Date, Value}, Q),
    CH#ch{queue=NewQueue, counter_value=CV+Value}.

get_value(#ch{hist_len=HL}=CH) ->
    % get the values from the queue until we reach a first element in the queue
    % which is not older then the hist_len (e.g. not older than 15 mins)
    Date = ?MODULE:get_date(),
    get_younger_than(CH, Date-HL).

get_younger_than(#ch{queue=Q, counter_value=CV}=CH, TargetDate) ->
    case queue:out(Q) of
	{empty, _} ->
	    0 = CV, % this is an assert, the value shall be 0
	    {CH, 0};
	{{value, {Date, Value}}, NewQ} when Date < TargetDate ->
	    get_younger_than(CH#ch{queue=NewQ, counter_value=CV-Value}, TargetDate);
	{{value, _}, _} ->
	    % the currently removed entry is too young, so leave that in the
	    % queue (i.e. use the parameter queue).
	    {CH, CV}

The copying is done in the queue:out call, because it returns not just
the first value, but the rest of the queu (newQ) too.

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