[erlang-questions] How to Name Concurrency Patterns

Joe Armstrong <>
Wed Feb 19 22:14:11 CET 2014

Hello, I'm giving a course in distributed and parallel programming in
Erlang ...

Next week I'll be talking about common concurrency patterns, I was
talking with the course adviser, and I rattled off the names of a few
concurrency patterns that were well-known and easy to explain. I said
I'll do PUB-SUB, pipeline, map-reduce, parallel map, and so on.

At this stage the course adviser said that a) things like PUB-SUB
would not be familiar to the students and that b) It would take more
than 5-10 minutes to explain PUB_SUB.

At this stage I thought "pity these patterns don't have well-known

What I'd like is to make a catalog of "well-known" concurrency
patterns.  I'd like to name them, and describe them informally, and
give the example code in Erlang.

For example, here's how I might describe PUB-SUB.


   - There are a number of named channels
   - You can post messages to a channel ie Publish the message (the PUB)
   - You can subscribe to a channel (The SUB)
   - If you are currently subscribed to a channel you will be sent all
     sent to the channel.

A rudimentary version of this is about 25 lines of Erlang. A full
version with load balancing, removing bottlenecks etc. would be a lot
longer, but that's not the point. The basic concurrent structure can
be explained in a few lines and named.

Pipeline is another example: The output of the first process is the
input to the next process and so on...

Now I start having problems.

Suppose I want to generalize a regular map.

To be precise. Suppose map(F, L) means [F(I) || I <- L]

pmap(F, L) is parallel map (easy) all the F(I)'s are computed concurrently.

pmap(F, L, Max) behaves like map(F,L) with at most Max F(I)'s computed

What should this be called? "Pool of workers"

There seem to be things with well-known names "Load-balancer" "map-reduce"

Then there are things that we know of but that are not named. For
example my DNS resolver has two DNS names DNS1 and DNS2.  If DNS1 is
broken the resolver tries DNS2 - what is concurrency pattern called
(Pool of responders) or what?

The other day I suggested that for fault tolerance it was much easier
to let the client go to multiple machines rather than use an expensive
load balancer and fail-over system on the server - but there was no
convenient name to capture this idea.

There sees to be no accepted terminology here - so I'd appreciate any
suggestions you have as to the names of common currency patterns that
you use together with definitions of what the names mean.


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