Debugging Actor Systems

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Software development is a defect injection process. With every line of code we write, we have a chance of introducing unintended behavior into the system. This chance increases with conceptual complexity. The more difficult a system is to understand, the greater our chance of introducing defects. In his 1980 Turing Award lecture, Tony Hoare said […]

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Producer/Consumer Rate-Matching

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Flow control is a critical feature in a network of asynchronous communicating processes. Our fanciful exploration of a yak-shaving barber’s shop provided us with patterns we can apply to more general problems. The bounded-buffer mechanism is a generalization of our barber’s waiting room. It mediates between producers and consumers, matching the rate of production with […]

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“Sleeping Barber” in Humus

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The “Sleeping Barber” problem is another classic concurrency example. As with our previous discussion of “Dining Philosophers”, actors allow a novel approaching to solving this problem. We will adjust a few of the details to enhance the metaphor and have a bit of fun with it. Our metaphorical barber provides yak shaving services. Yaks arrive […]

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High Availability for Mutable Shared State

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Mutable shared state is the root of all evil in concurrent systems. The history of concurrent computation is a basically the story of approaches to managing mutable shared state. The thread model, which has long held the dominant position, leads to intractable complexity [1]. The actor model captures state in the behavior of an actor. […]

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Composing Actors

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A significant challenge in developing concurrent systems is the problem of composability. We create a solution that works properly in isolation, but when composed with other solutions leads to interference. The actor model ensures that individual actors may be composed without changing their behavior. Interference is prevented by definition, keeping the system consistent. In order […]

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Deconstructing the Actor Model

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The Actor Model of Computation, as defined by Carl Hewitt [1] and elaborated by Gul Agha [2], defines three primitive operations. These operations are “Send”, “Create” and “Become”. The “Send” operation transmits an asynchronous message to a known receiver. The “Create” operation constructs a new actor with a specified initial behavior. The “Become” operation defines […]

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