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Tag - WebSockets

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2015, Tuesday November 17

Benefits of interface callbacks instead of class messages

If you compare with existing client/server SOA solutions (in Delphi, Java, C# or even in Go or other frameworks), mORMot's interface-based callback mechanism sounds pretty unique and easy to work with.

Most Events Oriented solutions do use a set of dedicated messages to propagate the events, with a centralized Message Bus (like MSMQ or JMS), or a P2P/decentralized approach (see e.g. ZeroMQ or NanoMsg). In practice, you are expected to define one class per message, the class fields being the message values. You would define e.g. one class to notify a successful process, and another class to notify an error. SOA services would eventually tend to be defined by a huge number of individual classes, with the temptation of re-using existing classes in several contexts.

Our interface-based approach allows to gather all events:

  • In a single interface type per notification, i.e. probably per service operation;
  • With one method per event;
  • Using method parameters defining the event values.

Since asynchronous notifications are needed most of the time, method parameters would be one-way, i.e. defined only as const - in such case, an evolved algorithm would transparently gather those outgoing messages, to enhance scalability when processing such asynchronous events. Blocking request may also be defined as var/out, as we will see below, inWorkflow adaptation.

Behind the scene, the framework would still transmit raw messages over IP sockets (currently over a WebSockets connection), like other systems, but events notification would benefit from using interfaces, on both server and client sides.
We will now see how...

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2015, Saturday August 15

Breaking Change in mORMot WebSockets binary protocol

Among all its means of transmission, our mORMot framework features WebSockets, allowing bidirectional communications, and interface-based callbacks for real time notification of SOA events.
After several months of use in production, we identified some needed changes for this just emerged feature.

We committed today a breaking change of the data layout used for our proprietary WebSockets binary protocol.
From our tests, it would increase the performance and decrease the resource consumption, especially in case of high number of messages.

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2015, Monday April 6

Asynchronous Service - WebSockets, Callbacks and Publish-Subscribe

When publishing SOA services, most of them are defined as stateless, in a typical query/answer pattern - see Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).
This fits exactly with the RESTful approach of Client-Server services via interfaces, as proposed by the framework.

But it may happen that a client application (or service) needs to know the state of a given service. In a pure stateless implementation, it will have to query the server for any state change, i.e. for any pending notification - this is called polling.

Polling may take place for instance:

  • When a time consuming work is to be processed on the server side. In this case, the client could not wait for it to be finished, without raising a timeout on the HTTP connection: as a workaround, the client may start the work, then ask for its progress status regularly using a timer and a dedicated method call;
  • When an unpredictable event is to be notified from the server side. In this case, the client should ask regularly (using a timer, e.g. every second), for any pending event, then react on purpose.

It may therefore sounds preferred, and in some case necessary, to have the ability to let the server notify one or several clients without any prior query, nor having the requirement of a client-side timer:

  • Polling may be pretty resource consuming on both client and server sides, and add some unwanted latency;
  • If immediate notification is needed, some kind of "long polling" algorithm may take place, i.e. the server will wait for a long time before returning the notification state if no event did happen: in this case, a dedicated connection is required, in addition to the REST one;
  • In an event-driven systems, a lot of messages are sent to the clients: a proper publish/subscribe mechanism is preferred, otherwise the complexity of polling methods may increase and become inefficient and unmaintainable;
  • Explicit push notifications may be necessary, e.g. when a lot of potential events, associated with a complex set of parameters, are likely to be sent by the client.

Our mORMot framework is therefore able to easily implement asynchronous callbacks over WebSockets, defining the callbacks as interface parameters in service method definitions - see Available types for methods parameters.

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Real-Time ORM Master/Slave Replication via WebSockets

In a previous article, we presented how Master/Slave replication may be easily implemented in mORMot's RESTful ORM.
Do not forget to visit the corresponding paragraphs of our online documentation, which has been updated, and is more accurate!

Sometimes, the on-demand synchronization is not enough.
So we have just introduced real-time replication via WebSockets.
For instance, you may need to:

  • Synchronize a short list of always evolving items which should be reflected as soon as possible;
  • Involve some kind of ACID-like behavior (e.g. handle money!) in your replicated data;
  • Replicate not from a GUI application, but from a service, so use of a TTimer is not an option;
  • Combine REST requests (for ORM or services) and master/slave ORM replication on the same wire, e.g. in a multi-threaded application.

In this case, the framework is able to use WebSockets and asynchronous callbacks to let the master/slave replication - see Asynchronous callbacks - take place without the need to ask explicitly for pending data.
You would need to use TSQLRestServer.RecordVersionSynchronizeMasterStart, TSQLRestServer.RecordVersionSynchronizeSlaveStart and TSQLRestServer.RecordVersionSynchronizeSlaveStop methods over the proper kind of bidirectional connection.

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2014, Saturday August 16

Will WebSocket replace HTTP? Does it scale?

You certainly noticed that WebSocket is the current trendy flavor for any modern web framework.
But does it scale? Would it replace HTTP/REST?
There is a feature request ticket about them for mORMot, so here are some thoughts - matter of debate, of course!
I started all this by answering a StackOverflow question, in which the actual answers were not accurate enough, to my opinion.

From my point of view, Websocket - as a protocol - is some kind of monster.

You start a HTTP stateless connection, then switch to WebSocket mode which releases the TCP/IP dual-direction layer, then you may switch later on back to HTTP...
It reminds me some kind of monstrosity, just like encapsulating everything over HTTP, using XML messages... Just to bypass the security barriers... Just breaking the OSI layered model...
It reminds me the fact that our mobile phone data providers do not use broadcasting for streaming audio and video, but regular Internet HTTP servers, so the mobile phone data bandwidth is just wasted when a sport event occurs: every single smart phone has its own connection to the server, and the same video is transmitted in parallel, saturating the single communication channel... Smart phones are not so smart, aren't they?

WebSocket sounds like a clever way to circumvent a limitation...
But why not use a dedicated layer?
I hope HTTP 2.0 would allow pushing information from the server, as part of the standard... and in one decade, we probably will see WebSocket as a deprecated technology.
You have been warned. Do not invest too much in WebSockets..

OK. Back to our existential questions...
First of all, does the WebSocket protocol scale?
Today, any modern single server is able to server millions of clients at once.
Its HTTP server software has just to be is Event-Driven (IOCP) oriented (we are not in the old Apache's one connection = one thread/process equation any more).
Even the HTTP server built in Windows (http.sys - which is used in mORMot) is IOCP oriented and very efficient (running in kernel mode).
From this point of view, there won't be a lot of difference at scaling between WebSocket and a regular HTTP connection. One TCP/IP connection uses a little resource (much less than a thread), and modern OS are optimized for handling a lot of concurrent connections: WebSocket and HTTP are just OSI 7 application layer protocols, inheriting from this TCP/IP specifications.

But, from experiment, I've seen two main problems with WebSocket:

  1. It does not support CDN;
  2. It has potential security issues.

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