About Concurrent Podcast #3: Coroutines

Posted a new episode of the Concurrent Podcast over on the MindTouch developer blog. This time Steve and I delve into Coroutines, a programming pattern we use extensively in MindTouch 2009 and one that i'm also trying out as an alternative to my actor based Xmpp code in Notify.me.

Since there isn't a native coroutine framework in C#, we're using the one provided by MindTouch Dream. It's built on top of the .NET iterator pattern (i.e. IEnumerable and yield) and makes the assumption that all Coroutines are asynchronous methods using Dream's Result<T> object for coordinating the producer and consumer of a return values. Steve's previously blogged about Result. Since those posts there's also been a lot of performance improvements and capability improvements to Result committed to trunk, primarily providing robust cancellation with resource cleanup callbacks. For background on coroutines, you can also check out previous posts I'vee written.

The cool thing about asynchronous coroutines compared to an actor model is that call/response based actions can be written as a single linear block of code, rather than separate message handlers whose contiguous flow can only be determined by examining the message dispatcher. With a message dispatcher that can correlate message responses with suspended coroutines, sending and waiting for a message in a coroutine can be made to look like a method call without blocking the thread, which, especially with message passing concurrency, is vital, since a response isnn't in any way guaranteed to happen.

I'm due to write another post on how to use Dream's coroutine framework, but in the meantime i highly recommend checking out Dream from mindtouch's svn. Lot's of cool concurrency stuff in there. _trunk_is under heavy development, as we work towards Dream profile 2.0, but 1.7.0 is stable and production proven.