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ZeroMQ by Pieter Hintjens

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Dealing with Blocked Peers

In any performance-sensitive ØMQ architecture you need to solve the problem of flow control. You cannot simply send unlimited messages to a socket and hope for the best. At the one extreme, you can exhaust memory. This is a classic failure pattern for a message broker: one slow client stops receiving messages; the broker starts to queue them, and eventually exhausts memory and the whole process dies. At the other extreme, the socket drops messages, or blocks, as you hit the high-water mark.

With Zyre we want to distribute messages to a set of peers, and we want to do this fairly. Using a single ROUTER socket for output would be problematic, since any one blocked peer would block outgoing traffic to all peers. TCP does have good algorithms for spreading the network capacity across a set of connections. And we’re using a separate DEALER socket to talk to each peer, so in theory each DEALER socket will send its queued messages in the background reasonably fairly.

The normal behavior of a DEALER socket that hits its high-water mark is to block. This is usually ideal, but it’s a problem for us here. Our current interface design uses one thread that distributes messages to all peers. If one of those send calls were to block, all output would block.

There are a few options to avoid blocking. One is to use zmq_poll() on the whole set of DEALER sockets, and only write to sockets that are ready. I don’t like this, for a couple of reasons. First, the DEALER socket is ...

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