Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Writing Interactive Web Applications with Web Actors

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The actor model defined by Carl Hewitt and then evolved and popularized (well, relatively popularized) by the Erlang programming language, has become a very appropriate choice for designing certain kinds of software. Those groups of isolated processes communicating with one another by passing messages back and forth are an excellent way to program applications that exploit concurrency well for performance and scalability, respond quickly to barrages of realtime events, embrace distributed environments, and recover well from (quite expected) unexpected failures. They do all this while being relatively simple to understand and compose, and they model many problem domains quite naturally.

With many modern web applications becoming more interactive, responding to events as they happen and pushing updates at interactive speeds, the actor model is becoming more and more suitable for programming the web. Especially with new communication models like WebSockets, it seems like actors and the web are made for each other.

Comsat is a new open-source product that integrates Quasar, a lightweight-threads and actors library for the JVM, with web technologies. It can run Servlets and REST services in fibers rather than OS threads for scalability, but it also has an API called Web Actors that turns HTTP-based communications into actor-based interaction. This makes managing state, recovering from failure, and hot code upgrade simple for web applications, while giving them great performance and scalability.

Read more here

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