Asynchronous Server Design

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Mon Jul 20 18:03:37 CEST 2015

David Bovill wrote:

 >    - Is it worth designing a Livecode server to use asynchronous
 > calls to handlers rather than normal synchronous processing?
 > First off - the way this is going to be done will not use any io
 > (file, shell or internet / socket calls) - all the data is going
 > to be in memory / custom properties. This restricts the use case
 > to simple sites for now - but it suits the current purpose.
 > The question is is there any point?

Good question, because if there's no file I/O there would be no saving, 
and no saving implies the data is either static or unimportant.

If static there are many good solutions for that.

If unimportant it would seem difficult to justify the R&D time.

 > Firstly, because messages come into the server and are then
 > immediately dispatched by the engine to event handlers
 > we craft. So is this all the asynchronicity needed?
 > Or are there some other tricks akin to the things node does if
 > there are long running processes. Say there is a handler:
 > command longRunningFibonacci someInput, someSocket
 >>   -- do something that takes a very long time
 >>   return a result
 >> end longRunningFibonacci
 > A browser fires off around 20 calls to the server to load a complex
 > page, and they all hit at once

This is one of the nice conveniences of CGI:  it lets Apache handle most 
of the requests with no extra coding, since any CSS, JS, or image files 
probably aren't changing for each visitor, and Apache is pretty good at 
delivering static content.

And for the subset of requests that require special processing that 
would need LiveCode or some other custom programming, each request 
prompts Apache to create a new instance of the CGI app, providing 
concurrency with no additional programming required and only a 
relatively small additional cost in RAM and init time compared to system 

Long processes are different, though, since they can not only result in 
timeouts but also confuse the user accustomed to quick responses from 

 > - so is there a design consideration for any long running processes
 > here - not just in terms of figure out a bette way to do it on the
 > client, not with regard to the scripting of the server handler
 > above?

I have a couple of workgroup apps running as CGIs, and they support a 
few features which could take as long as 30 seconds if run as a single 
request.  I found this problematic for the user experience because we're 
not giving them any feedback while it's happening (in addition to 
timeouts), so I changed it to support paging.

Now the CGI includes an argument for the range of records the command 
will operate on.  The client first obtains the number of records from 
the server, divides them by a number that means only a hundred or so 
will be processed per batch, and then sends a series of requests to the 
server in which each request includes the range of records to operate 
on.  Now the client UI has regular periodic feedback letting the user 
know what's happening, and the socket never times out.

 > Does the fact that the engine is dispatching calls means we can forget
 > about this - or as I think is the case should I consider dispatching /
 > offloading to another process this long running task, and returning
 > something to the browser? If so do I keep the socket open, or ???

My understanding is that the dispatch command has no affect on blocking 
vs non-blocking; it's still blocking, akin to calling a handler inline.

The "send" command can give non-blocking behavior when the "in <time>" 
option is used, but for processor-intensive tasks it's of minimal value 
within a single LC instance because once the handler it calls is running 
all other processing stops until that handler completes.

In the absence of multithreading, this can be mitigated through 
multiprocessing. The engine appears to handle socket I/O in a 
non-blocking way when callbacks are used, so handing off CPU-intensive 
tasks to other LC instances would seem a reasonable way to let the main 
daemon focus on network I/O while leaving the heavy lifting to child 

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World Systems
  Software Design and Development for the Desktop, Mobile, and the Web
  Ambassador at      

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