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From: Christopher Kohlhoff (chris_at_[hidden])
Date: 2005-12-16 02:12:14

Hi Cliff,

--- Cliff Green <cliffg_at_[hidden]> wrote:
> Exactly - in my own (soon upcoming, hopefully) Asio review
> I mention that I see the Asio demuxer as a general asynch
> I/O demuxer (which is also what I understand Chris
> intends). E.g. the demuxer could be used for file I/O, and
> in that case there should be interfaces (eventually) to
> use Boost.Filesystem with the demuxer. Of course the
> (current) synchronous Filesystem interfaces will not go
> away. The same could be said for many other (currently
> synchronous only) libraries. I don't think Sockets should
> be an exception - i.e. Sockets can only be used with a
> demuxer, but Filesystem can be used without.
> We can argue about the most efficient and scalable way to
> design high-performance network applications, but there
> will always be use cases for small, simple, synchronous
> socket libraries. As long as there is well-documented and
> easy paths to the higher-performance asynchronous
> interfaces, I see real advantages to layering it this way.

Since you mention files, it's worth remembering that the
synchronous abstraction for files in the standard library is

I think it is reasonable to include a socket iostream class that
is layered on top of asio and hides all of the asynchronous
stuff away, simply because iostreams are a part of the standard
library that most people are already familiar and comfortable
with. I now intend to add one (i.e. turn the current iostreams
example into part of the library), although I'm not yet quite
sure what the programming interface should be (and whether it
would require another review?).

However, we must be careful here. Sockets are not files.

With files you can get away with synchronous operations in all
sorts of places because they are usually fast. For example, you
can perform file I/O in a user interface thread and the user is
unlikely to be aware of any delay.

Socket operations, on the other hand, can involve delays many
orders of magnitude larger. Networks introduce latency. Socket
read operations can continue indefinitely with no data arriving
on the socket.

These issues are inherent in network programming. No synchronous
interface can hide them away. In all but the simplest
applications, it is a matter of when, not if, they will need to
be addressed.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I believe that it is when
programmers reach this point that exposure only to synchronous
interfaces, and no awareness of asynchronous, can limit their
consideration of appropriate designs. Therefore I also believe
it will be counterproductive to offer a lower-level
synchronous-only API, a "false economy" if you like.

Asynchronous I/O is not only applicable for high performance and
scalability. The big advantage for applications of any size is
that it offers concurrency without threading. In my experience,
multithreading is more error prone than asynchronous I/O.

So to reiterate, I think the appropriate way to provide a
synchronous sockets API is an iostreams-based interface, and as
suggested I intend to include one in asio. When developers start
to find the iostreams interface too limiting, I feel that is
when they are probably ready to be introduced to asynchronous


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