The Erlang way - dynamic upgrade of a server and UBF extensions

Joe Armstrong joe@REDACTED
Tue Apr 29 10:44:22 CEST 2003

  I  want to  add some  things to  UBF so  we can  make fault-tolerent
systems. This can  be done with only a little change  to UBF. I havn't
thought out all the details so I thought I'd try the idea out first.

  All comments are welcome.

  The UBF  extensions provide an alternative solution  to the problem
of  dynamically upgrading  or migrating  a server  or  of dynamically
upgrading software.

  Firstly a bit of philosophy

  The Erlang way

  1) everything is a process
  2) processes communicate by message passing
  3) processes obey protocols
  4) errors are handled non locally

  Should I add more points?


  UBF describes (specifies) 3) above
  Extensions to UBF

  A) ? (a undefined type) - to denote absence of an argument

  B) The protocol versioning tag

  C) The next IP word.

  A) Undefined Type

  Just use ? in UBF(A) to denote a missing value (easy)

  B) + C)

  Client UBF packets to a server should begin

  | VersionNumber | ... rest of packet  |

  And server replies should begin

  | VersionNumber | NextIP  | ... rest of packet  |

  B) Protocol versioning

  The version number is an integer 1 2 3 ... etc.

  This is to allow dynamic upgrade of services
  I have not thought out all the details but the idea is this:

  Assume that a client has versions 1,2,3,6,8,10,11 of some software
  The server speaks versions 1,2,3,4,5,9,10,14

  At the start of the session we enter "protocol negotiation mode"

  Both sides agree that version 10 is the highest common version of the
protocol that they both understand.

  A session starts at level 10.

  The client S/W crashes - this is detected by the client SW
  The next message it sends to the server is a version 8 message

  The server realizes that something has gone wrong - it cannot handle
version 8 messages - so they go back into protocol negotiation mode.
They agree on version 3 and continue.

  This should allow "dynamic introduction of new services" with fallback to
previous versions if things go wrong.

 C) Next IP

 This is to allow dynamic migration of services.

  There are two basic approaches  to making things reliable. I'd like
to suggest a third.

 The two common methods are:

 1) Fixed server IP

 The server has a fixed IP. To make things fault-tolerant the fixed IP is the
IP of a switch - the switch dispatches the request to a back-end.

  (This  is  the common  cluster  solution -  the  switch  is big  and
expensive and can act as a front-end to many back-end servers)
 2) Two fixed IP's

 This is the DNS solution. My machine has two addresses for DNS - I try the
first, if it is broken I try the second.

 I propose a third method: Each packet contains a NextIP field. This is 
the address where the Next message should be sent.

 Example. I have a server at

 a) The client connects to

 b) Client and server exchange messages 

 The server becomes heavily loaded, or, the operator wants to take the
server out of operation.

 At some point the client receives a rpc reply with a NEW IP address
(not but something different.

 The client closes the connection to connects to the new
address and carries on.

 I think that B) + C) above would solve a lot of problems.



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