A look at tokio 1.0 API Changes

I’ve been working in the Rust space for about a year now using tokio & async/await with DNS. The result of this work is a sizeable from-scratch tokio server using 0.2 (that’s now in production– yay! hopefully I can share more about this later). As a result, I’ve gotten to know the UDP API of tokio quite well, and have even got to submit a few PRs (double yay). I’d like to highlight some interesting changes that have happened in tokio’s API between 0.2 and 0.3/1.0. These are all externally facing changes, and will tend to focus on UDP since that’s what I know. I won’t discuss internals since I’m not a tokio team member and I don’t know, but I’ll do my best to point to relevant issues or PRs so you can read more. And if this prompts some discussion which further elucidates some of the details; all the better.

With that out of the way, let’s tuck in…

Types are no longer &mut self

As a result of #2779 net types in tokio (UdpSocket, TcpStream, etc) no longer require &mut self to recv/send (or read/write in TcpStream’s case). This is a great thing for writing code that needs to concurrently read and write on the same socket. If you want to read/write from the same task, you can just use a regular &UdpSocket reference, and if you want to read in one task and write in another, a simple Arc<UdpSocket> will do. TcpStream keeps the split method, but under the hood it’s doing just what I mentioned.

Before

Now, for concurrent send/recv, I’m not sure how others used to handle this case, but I always would set up a channel and create a dedicated “sender” task, then I’d recv, do some work, and send the response back over the channel. Putting that all together with split looked more or less like this:

async fn run() -> Result<()> {
    let udp = UdpSocket::bind("0.0.0.0:8080").await?;
    // call split so we can give ownership of 'half' to one task
    let (mut r, mut s) = udp.split();

    let (mut tx, mut rx) = mpsc::channel::<(Vec<u8>, SocketAddr)>(1_000);

    tokio::spawn(async move {
        while let Some((msg, addr)) = rx.recv().await {
            let len = s.send_to(&msg, &addr).await.unwrap();
            println!("{:?} bytes sent", len);
        }
    });

    let mut buf = [0; 1024];
    loop {
        let (len, addr) = r.recv_from(&mut buf).await?;
        println!("{:?} bytes received from {:?}", len, addr);
        tx.send((buf[..len].to_vec(), addr)).await.unwrap();
    }
}

You can see here split gets around the &mut self property of recv and send. The split api let’s us get each “half” that can be moved into it’s own fully owned task, we can then concurrently send and recv afterwards.

After

Now, with the above changes in 1.0, split is gone for UdpSocket and we can just use regular types from the std lib to accomplish the same task. If you’re using TcpStream or UnixStream, you can choose to use split/into_split or &/Arc. For these types, I’d recommend split if you only need two “halves” and use the std types if you want to use more than two.

async fn main() -> io::Result<()> {
    let sock = UdpSocket::bind("0.0.0.0:8080").await?;
    // Arc instead of split, make two refs
    let r = Arc::new(sock);
    let s = r.clone();
    let (tx, mut rx) = mpsc::channel::<(Vec<u8>, SocketAddr)>(1_000);

    tokio::spawn(async move {
        while let Some((bytes, addr)) = rx.recv().await {
            let len = s.send_to(&bytes, addr).await.unwrap();
            println!("{:?} bytes sent", len);
        }
    });

    let mut buf = [0; 1024];
    loop {
        let (len, addr) = r.recv_from(&mut buf).await?;
        println!("{:?} bytes received from {:?}", len, addr);
        tx.send((buf[..len].to_vec(), addr)).await.unwrap();
    }
}

Another thing about &self methods is that we can send/recv from BOTH tasks, whereas before there was a dedicated “sending” and “receiving” half. You could also imagine a more complicated setup where we give a reference to more than two tasks.

Note that in both before/after cases here, we could easily tokio::spawn in the loop and pass in a cloned Sender in order to run each message in it’s own task (if we were doing something actually useful). That way we’re not doing anything in our read loop but pulling data off the socket.

Poll API

If you want to use a Stream implementation for UdpSocket, your previous option was pretty much just UdpFramed in tokio-util. If you haven’t used any of the util crates, you write a “decoder” which understands how to transform a buffer into a “frame” of your chosen type.

pub trait Decoder {
    type Item;
    type Error: From<Error>;
    fn decode(
        &mut self,
        src: &mut BytesMut
    ) -> Result<Option<Self::Item>, Self::Error>;
    ...
}

This API has remained much the same in the new tokio-util, although the internals of how it pulls down a frame has changed. Under the hood, Decoder used a set of methods prefixed with poll_, these are methods that are a mirror of their async counterparts, but that return Poll. These methods have now been committed to the public API. In other words, UdpSocket now supports a Poll returning methods for recv/recv_from/send/send_to.

So now we have an alternative to UdpFramed to write manual Stream impls and a committed API for Future impls. This is a welcome addition if you don’t want to be tied to other parts of the tokio ecosystem or you just need the extra flexibility.

If you’re unfamiliar with this poll_ / async dichotomy, count yourself as lucky. It’s nice that most users will only ever write async methods and never manually implement a Future or Stream. But sometimes in library code you need to do these things, and so tokio provides the building blocks, as a low level library, for both an async and Context receiving– Poll returning methods now for each read/write action.

To make things more concrete, UdpSocket has the async method recv:

pub async fn recv(&self, buf: &mut [u8]) -> Result<usize>

If you’re in async/await land this is great, use these methods. It’s just when you’re stuck writing Stream or Future impls that these methods don’t do you any good. Look at the type signature of a Future:

pub trait Future {
    type Output;
    fn poll(self: Pin<&mut Self>, cx: &mut Context<'_>) -> Poll<Self::Output>;
}

Stream has a similar style to this. If you’ve got async methods, calling them from poll can be difficult and often produce bugs because you can easily end up creating a new future on every invocation of poll rather than holding on to a single future and driving it to completion.

In short, we need a Poll returning method that takes Context. This is where the poll_* variants come in:

pub fn poll_recv(&self, cx: &mut Context<'_>, buf: &mut ReadBuf<'_>) -> Poll<Result<()>>

This is a bit off-topic, but you can quickly turn a poll_* method into an async fn with poll_fn; and indeed, the async methods used to be written this way.

poll_fn(|cx| self.poll_recv_from(cx, buf)).await

However, there is an edge-case to be aware of here, and it’s outlined in the docs on the poll_* methods:

/// Note that on multiple calls to a `poll_*` method in the send direction, only the
/// `Waker` from the `Context` passed to the most recent call will be scheduled to
/// receive a wakeup.

and on recv:

/// Note that on multiple calls to a `poll_*` method in the recv direction, only the
/// `Waker` from the `Context` passed to the most recent call will be scheduled to
/// receive a wakeup.

You should not try to concurrently use either the poll_recv or poll_send methods in the same direction, and if you do not observe this advice– expect weirdness.

ReadBuf

You may have noticed the poll_recv method takes a ReadBuf type and not a &mut [u8], this is a new type that AsyncRead and AsyncWrite also use in order to read/write into possibly uninitialized memory #2716. ReadBuf is a low level type that uses MaybeUninit<u8> under the hood and tracks what parts of the buffer have been filled/initialized. Why would we want to do this? The main issue with stack buffers like [u8; 1024], as I understand it, is that the buffer must always be zero-initialized. This is a potentially costly operation, you have to allocate and zero out all of that memory. Because this is a divergence from the std types, there is a corresponding RFC to merge ReadBuf into std.

tokio-stream

tokio-stream is a new crate that moves tokio::stream::Stream & related traits are out and into it’s own crate. There’s also a bunch of helpful tokio_stream::wrappers which can turn a TcpListener or UnixListener into a Stream. Other wrappers include Interval for working with a stream of timers. These wrapper types often use the poll_* API’s I mentioned earlier.

Sundries

  • UdpSocket and it’s Tcp counterparts have gotten async readiness checking methods #3138.
  • Everything that uses SocketAddr now takes it by value, since the type is Copy we don’t need the extra layer of indirection. Old tokio API’s would often take &SocketAddr. async methods are still generic <T: ToSocketAddrs>.
  • broadcast::Sender<_> uses send instead of broadcast now
  • watch::Receiver<_> uses changed now instead of recv, and changed only shows you readiness. You need to explicitly borrow() and clone() yourself now if you want a fresh T
  • acquire() for Semaphore returns a Result<SemaphorePermit, _> now instead of just SemaphorePermit
  • time::delay_until and time::delay have been renamed to time::sleep to be more std-like in naming
  • Is there more missing here? Send me a message and let me know!

Something I’d like to see in the future

I’d like to see some way to bound on a type that can send/recv in the same way we can <T: AsyncRead + AsyncWrite>. I think this probably won’t be added until there is a zero-cost way to make async methods in traits, and even then, I’m not sure if the tokio team even desires that behaviour. Personally, I think it would make writing Framed impls much more generic and allow a function to take both a UdpSocket or Arc<UdpSocket> generically. This would help when you want to make a Decoder for a socket that is shared among tasks concurrently.

A helpful reddit comment suggested that UdpFramed could take a Borrow<UdpSocket> and thus be generic over UdpSocket and Arc<UdpSocket>. I think this is a great idea and added it to my PR of tokio-util here.

Wrapping up

As an early user of tokio and the futures ecosystem, I remember the slog of futures 0.1 and tokio 0.1, seeing that evolve into the more mature std::future and tokio 0.2 and now 1.0 has been fascinating. It’s hard to believe it’s been something like 4 years since this all started. I’m happy that most will not have to experience a manual Future impl or working with nested combinators. I’m even happier, as a user of tokio, that they’ve decided to commit to this API for a good length of time. That keeps some of the burden off of application developers having to “keep up” with everything that’s going on in the ecosystem. Not everyone has the desire to follow all of the PRs or subreddits & message boards. I’m not speaking for myself, personally I can’t get enough, but I understand that’s not how others want to spend their free time.

Anyway, congrats tokio team, you’ve done a wonderful job!