Erlang in Python

Ok, not even almost.

But I’ve been thinking. What would it take to implement Erlang’s actors concurrency model using Linux facilities directly?

So I messed around with the idea today and came up with a working message queue and rough pattern matcher in python.

Basically the Erlang “process” is mapped to an OS process or thread.

Each thread has a public Unix domain datagram socket (kinda like a file, but works like a reliable UDP socket) somewhere in the filesystem.

To send a message to a particular message or thread, just send a datagram to the appropriate domain socket.

Since we aren’t picking any particular messaging format, the message queues just treat every message as a blob, and assume the queue reader knows how to parse all the messages.

Erlang is more than an actor model. To message queue it adds pattern matching, marshaling messages between nodes (OS processes or hosts), and process and node monitoring. I think to get that stuff you’d need a pretty smart supervisor process which would somehow notice when linked or monitored OS processes exit.

But anyway, here is my queue code.

import socket
import struct

class NoMatch(Exception):

class MessageQueue(object):
    def __init__(self, socketname, queuename, recvsize):
        self.socketname = socketname
        self.queuename = queuename
        self.recvsize = recvsize
        self.socket = socket.socket(socket.AF_UNIX, socket.SOCK_DGRAM)
        self.queue = open(self.queuename, 'w+')

    def receive(self, pattern):
        for place, payload in self.iter_queue():
                interpreted = pattern(payload)
                return interpreted
            except NoMatch:

        for payload in self.iter_socket(True):
                return pattern(payload)
            except NoMatch:

        for payload in self.iter_socket(False):

    def iter_queue(self):
        while True:
            place = self.queue.tell()
            sizebuffer =
            if len(sizebuffer) != 8:
            used, size = struct.unpack('ii', sizebuffer)
            if used:
      , 1)
            payloadbuffer =
            if len(payloadbuffer) != size:
            yield place, payloadbuffer

    def iter_socket(self, blocking):
        while True:
                payloadbuffer = self.socket.recv(self.recvsize)
            except socket.error, e:
                if e.args[0] == 1:
            yield payloadbuffer

    def markused(self, place):
        previous = self.queue.tell()
        self.queue.write(struct.pack('i', 1))

    def enqueue(self, payload):, 2)
        self.queue.write(struct.pack('ii', 0, len(payload)))

def main():
    q = MessageQueue('tests', 'testq', 4096)

    def patterna(buf):
        if buf[0] == 'a':
            return buf
            raise NoMatch, buf

    def patternb(buf):
        if buf[0] == 'b':
            return buf
            raise NoMatch, buf

    while 1:
        print 'match!', q.receive(patterna)
        print 'match!', q.receive(patternb)

if __name__ == '__main__':

And a script to drive it. (The messages are sent out of the expected order.)

import socket

s = socket.socket(socket.AF_UNIX, socket.SOCK_DGRAM)
for p in ('a', 'b'):
    for i in xrange(0, 3):
        s.sendto('%s%d' % (p, i), 'tests')

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3 Comments on “Erlang in Python”

  1. Chris R. Says:

    It’s already been done. Google for “python candygram” for Candygram, an implementation of Erlang’s concurrency model in Python.

  2. Dru Nelson Says:

    hey, you should put your contact info on your page or an about section..


  3. I. S. G. Says:

    Try “Stackless Python”. I take it the alternative of Erlang.

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