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Subject: Re: [boost] ASIO in the Standard (was Re: C++ committee meeting report)
From: Niall Douglas (s_sourceforge_at_[hidden])
Date: 2014-07-05 15:54:45

On 4 Jul 2014 at 21:59, Dean Michael Berris wrote:

> > Some would call that the low-level interfacing necessary to achieve
> > bare metal performance.
> But, there's no reason you couldn't decompose this and not make it
> part of the invariants of the objects associated with them. For
> example, when you create a socket object, can you not do that by
> acquiring it from some function that internally would determine how
> it's wired?

I agree this is what should be done in a ground up refactor. But that
isn't what's on the table. What is proposed is to standardise a
subset of the common practice.

> >> - The fact that it seems the only implementation of the networking
> >> parts (and inter-operating bits implied by the interface) would be
> >> through a proactor -- how the API was only proactive, no support for
> >> just purely reactive applications.
> >
> > Kinda hard to do true async without.
> Can you expand this a little?

You may of course not meant reactor when you wrote "reactive".

For me personally, how QNX (and I assume Hurd) do async i/o is the
gold standard. The NT kernel does a very faithful emulation of true
async. BSD at least provides a usable aio_* POSIX API. The rest
really aren't great on async.

> >> - There's no means for doing "zero-copy" I/O which is a
> >> platform-specific but modern way of doing data transfer through
> >> existing interfaces.
> >
> > I don't know what you refer to here. ASIO doesn't copy data being
> > sent or received. It passes through literally what it receives from
> > the OS.
> Right.
> Does it support direct-memory I/O -- where I write to some memory
> location instead of scheduling a write? See RDMA, and on Linux
> vmsplice(...). Can I "donate" the memory I have from user-space to the
> kernel, which just remaps the memory onto a device's memory buffer?
> How do I achieve "raw" buffer performance if I have to provide a
> user-space allocated buffer for data to be written into from the
> kernel, and then write out data if the data was in a user-space buffer
> that gets passed to the kernel?
> We've moved on to better interfaces in the lower levels of the
> networking stack, and it would be a shame if we precluded this from
> being adopted by a standard library specification.

Yeah ... well, actually no, I wouldn't call vmsplice() or any of its
ilk as anything deserving the label "better". That whole way of
making DMA possible is a hack forced by Linux's networking stack
being incapable of using DMA automatically.

After all, BSD and Windows manage DMA with socket i/o automatically
and transparently. No magic syscalls needed. Linux should up its game
here instead of syscall hacks.

Even if splice() et all were a good idea to encourage, they aren't
standardised by POSIX and therefore are out of scope for
standardisation by C++. ISO standards are there to standardise
established common practice, not try to design through central

> >> A few that come to mind for potential approaches here are:
> >>
> >> - Transport-level abstractions. Considering whether looking at
> >> policy-driven transport protocol abstractions (say, an http
> >> connection, a raw TCP connection, an SCTP connection with multiple
> >> streams, etc.) would be more suitable higher-level abstractions than
> >> sockets and write/read buffers.
> >>
> >> - Agent-based models. More precisely explicitly having an agent of
> >> sorts, or an abstraction of a client/server where work could be
> >> delegated, composed with executors and schedulers.
> >
> > These are all outside the remit of a core C++ networking library.
> Why?

ISO standards are there to standardise established common practice,
not try to design through central committee.

Also, think in terms of baby steps. Start with a good solid low level
async networking library which is tightly integrated into threading,
executors and the rest of the STL async facilities. That already will
be hideously hard to do. For the next major C++ standard build on
that with better abstractions.
> >> I say this with all due respect -- while network programming sounds
> >> like it's all about sockets, buffers, event loops, and such there are
> >> the "boring" bits like addressing, network byte ordering,
> >> encoding/decoding algorithms (for strings and blobs of data), framing
> >> algorithms, queueing controls, and even back-off algorithms,
> >> congestion control, traffic shaping. There's more things to think
> >> about too like data structures for efficiently representing frames,
> >> headers, network buffers, routing tables, read-write buffer halves, ip
> >> address tries, network topologies, protocol encodings (ASN.1, MIME and
> >> friends), and a whole host of network-related concepts we're not even
> >> touching in the networking discussions.
> >
> > I'm personally not unsympathetic to this sentiment. However, it would
> > surely need POSIX to move on it first before C++ could.
> >
> Why?

Once again: ISO standards are there to standardise established common
practice, not try to design through central committee. If all the
platforms did something like managing routing interfaces identically,
we could argue in favour of it on the case of merit. But they don't,
so we can't.

One would also be extremely hesitant to standardise anything which
hasn't been given full and proper deliberation by the ISO working
group responsible for it. I feel little love for how the AWG see the
world personally (I find interacting with them deeply frustrating),
but they have their role in ISO and they haven't done too bad a job
of things in the wider picture.


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