Scala exercises: (ab)using Resource

So, cats-effect has Resource. It’s nice. Some cats-effect users are considering making a Resource fanclub. Why? Well, probably because of some neat things you can do with it, and two exercises here are to help you see what can be done outside of just flat-mapping some library ones and using them in the end.

These exercises are harder than previous ones. To make matters worse, I also now require using cats-effect typeclasses instead of choosing a concrete F. You can test it with the effect of your choice, of course, but it must work for everything.

On a positive note, I’ve provided scastie links with test cases that I used myself - it is not enough to find all possible bugs, but should get you started quickly and check more edge cases than my previous ones.

Tearing resources apart

There’s one unsafe method on Resource, and it’s called allocated. It gives you access to allocator and finalizer directly. In fact, originally Resource didn’t have it - that’s how dangerous it is. However, it is required for some advanced usages, like embedding a Resource into some other datastructure.

For example, one can imagine a scope that manages lifetime of several resources:

sealed trait Scope[F[_]] {
  def open[A](ra: Resource[F, A]): F[A]

object Scope {
  // Implement this. Add context bounds as necessary.
  def apply[F[_]]: Resource[F, Scope[F]] = ???

With such construct, it’s easier to write code that both creates and uses Resources, as you can use regular for-comprehension without needing to wrap it in giant braces and call .use(IO.pure) at the end:

object Runner extends IOApp {
  def run(args: List[String]): IO[ExitCode] = Scope[IO].use { s =>
    for {
      httpClient <-
      proxy <- Proxy(httpClient)
      _  <-, "localhost").withHttpApp(proxy).resource)
      _  <- IO.sleep(10.minutes) // use IO.never to run forever
    } yield ExitCode.Success

The requirements are as follows:

  • All opened resources should be properly finalized when use is finished, in order of acquisition. Even if one finalizer crashes, the rest should be attempted.
  • open should be atomic WRT cancellation: resource is either opened or not, and cannot be cancelled in the middle of acquisition.

Both guarantees are provided to you with standard usage of Resource, but allocated removes them.

Here’s a scastie to get you started

Supervising fibers

Fiber is a great tool, but very leaky: if you don’t .join it, you can lose errors (not even get them logged), and if you get canceled before you do something with Fiber after .start, it can be undesirably kept running - possibly forever! - without any way to stop it.

It’s a common knowledge that you should use something like Parallel typeclass operations where possible. It has some very nice properties (I’ll use “par-fiber” to denote a logical fiber that is spawned by Parallel ops without giving you actual Fiber handle):

  • All par-fibers execute concurrently
  • if a whole operation is cancelled, every its par-fiber is cancelled
  • if at least one par-fiber errors, every other par-fiber is cancelled and error is propagated
  • a whole operation completes sucessfully if, and only if, all par-fibers are completed successfully.

But it’s not enough for many other applications, e.g. when you want to maybe start an unknown number of fibers that fetch some data periodically, based on HTTP requests that you don’t know ahead of time.

What can be good enough for most usages, though? Well, Nathaniel J. Smith suggests a limited version of .start in his blog post and even has made a Python library implementing his vision.

I highly recommend to read it before getting started, but the core idea is simple - you only allow fibers to be started in some scope, and they are guaranteed to be completed or cancelled when the scope ends.

You’ll be implementing this approach yourself with the following API:

trait Nursery[F[_]] {
  def startSoon[A](fa: F[A]): F[Fiber[F, A]] 

object Nursery {
  // Implement this. You need `Concurrent` since you'd be using `.start` internally,
  // and you should NOT need anything else
  def apply[F[_]: Concurrent]: Resource[F, Nursery[F]] = ???

And since it should be more powerful than Parallel, you should be able to do all same things with the same safety guarantees that you have from Parallel:

def concSequence[F[_]: Concurrent, G[_]: Traverse, A](gfa: G[F[A]]): F[G[A]] =
  Nursery[F].use { n =>

Here’s how the Resource[F, Nursery[F]] should behave:

  • The resource is finalized only when all fibers produced by startSoon are finished or explicitly cancelled.
  • If the use is cancelled or results in error, all fibers produced by startSoon should be cancelled.
  • startSoon should be atomic - there should be no potential for fiber to leak outside the control of the Nursery. It’s either started and will not leak, or not started, if use is cancelled.
  • If any fiber has errored, the error should be propagated. Existing fibers should be cancelled and no new ones should be accepted. (optional - hard, but needed for parity with Parallel)

To help us provide the 1st guarantee, we will be relying on the fact that in the following construct:

for {
  _ <- someResource.use(whatever)
  _ <- doSomethingElse
} yield ()

The finalizer of someResource will always be finished before doSomethingElse begins - even if it’s doing some async action, like waiting on a Semaphore/Deferred/MVar (this is not yet a law of Bracket - possibly will be added as one in cats-effect 3).

For the 2nd guarantee, we will need to use a Resource constructor that lets us distinguish between different exit cases - Resource.makeCase.

Here’s a scastie for this one, too.

Written on October 4, 2019