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Programming language: Erlang
License: Apache License 2.0
Tags: Actors    
Latest version: v1.0.0

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sbroker is a library that provides the building blocks for creating a pool and/or a load regulator. The main goals of the library are to minimise upper percentile latency by smart queuing, easily change the feature set live with minimal changes, easily inspect a live system and provide confidence with property based testing.


Add a broker to the sbroker application env brokers and it will be started when the application starts. Below we use a CoDel queue for the ask side, a timeout queue for the ask_r side and no meters. Processes then call sbroker:ask/1 and sbroker:ask_r to find a match. A process calling sbroker:ask/1 will only match with a process that calls sbroker:ask_r and vice versa.

ok = application:load(sbroker),
Broker = broker,
Brokers = [{{local, Broker},
            {{sbroker_codel_queue, #{}}, {sbroker_timeout_queue, #{}}, []}}],
ok = application:set_env(sbroker, brokers, Brokers),
{ok, _} = application:ensure_all_started(sbroker).

Pid = spawn_link(fun() -> {go, Ref, _, _, _} = sbroker:ask_r(Broker) end),
{go, Ref, Pid, _, _} = sbroker:ask(Broker).

Matches can also be requested without queuing, asynchronously or using a dynamic approach that is synchronous but becomes asynchronous if a match isn't immediately available.


The minimum OTP version supported is 18.0.

The sasl application is required to start the sbroker application. The sasl error_logger handler can be disabled by setting the sasl application env sasl_error_logger to false.


For rebar3 add sbroker as a depencency in rebar.config:

{deps, [sbroker]}.

Other build tools may work if they support rebar3 dependencies but are not directly supported.


$ rebar3 ct


Documentation is hosted on hex: http://hexdocs.pm/sbroker/


The main roles of a pool are: dispatching, back pressure, load shedding, worker supervision and resizing.

Existing pooling solutions assume if a worker is alive it is ready to handle work. If a worker isn't ready a client must wait for it be ready, or error immediately, when another worker might be ready to successfully handle the request. If workers explicitly control when they can are available then the pool can always dispatch to workers that are ready.

Therefore in an ideal situation clients are requesting workers and workers are requesting clients. This is the broker pattern, where both parties are requesting a match with the counter party. For simplicity the same API can be used for both and so to the broker both parties are clients.

Existing pooling solutions that support back pressure use a timeout mechanism where clients are queued for a length of time and then give up. Once clients start timing out, the next client in the queue is likely to have waited close to the time out. This leads to the situation where clients are all queued for approximately the time out, either giving up or getting a worker. If clients that give up could give up sooner then all clients would spend less time waiting but the same number would be served.

Therefore in an ideal situation a target queue time would be chosen that keeps the system feeling responsive and clients would give up at a rate such that in the long term clients spend up to the target time in the queue. This is sojourn (queue waiting) time active queue management. CoDel and PIE are two state of the art active queue management algorithms with a target sojourn time, so should use those with defaults that keep systems feeling responsive to a user.

Existing pooling solutions that support load shedding do not support back pressure. These use ETS as a lock system and choose a worker to try. However other workers might be available but are not tried or busy wait is used to retry multiple times to gain a lock. If clients could use ETS to determine whether a worker is likely to be available we could use existing dispatch and back pressure mechanisms.

Therefore we want to limit access to the dispatching process by implementing a sojourn time active queue management algorithm using ETS in front of the dispatching process. Fortunately this is possible with the basic version of PIE.

Existing pooling solutions either don't support resize or grow the pool when no workers are immediately available. However that worker may need to setup an expensive resource and is unlikely to be ready immediately. If workers are started early then the pool will be less likely to have no workers available.

However the same pools that start workers "too late" also start new workers for every client that tries to checkout when no workers are available. However old workers will become available again, perhaps before new workers are ready. This often leads to too many workers getting started and wastes resources until they are reaped for being idle. If workers are started at intervals then temporary bursts would not start too many workers but persistent increases would still cause adequate growth.

Therefore we want workers to be started when worker availability is running low but with intervals between starting workers. This can be achieved by sampling the worker queue at intervals and starting a worker based on the reading. This is the load regulator pattern, where the concurrency limit of tasks changes based on sampling. For simplicity the same API as the broker could be used, where the regulator is also the counterparty to the workers.

Existing pooling solutions that also support resizing use a temporary a supervisor and keep restarting workers if they crash, equivalent to using max restarts infinity. Unfortunately these pools can't recover from faults due to bad state because the error does not bubble up the supervision tree and trigger restarts. They are "too fault tolerant" because the error does not spread far enough to trigger recovery. A pool where workers crash every time is not useful.

Therefore we want workers to be supervised using supervisors with any configuration so the user can decide exactly how to handle failures. Fortunately using both the broker and regulator patterns allows workers to be started under user defined supervisors.


Copyright 2014 James Fish

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at


Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.


  • 1.1 - Add circuit breaker sregulator valves
  • 1.2+ - Add improved queue management algorithms when possible, if at all

*Note that all licence references and agreements mentioned in the sbroker README section above are relevant to that project's source code only.