New client profile: Eonic Gaming - Turf Battles

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We have a new client profile available here for a new client who is using The Server Framework to power their MMORPG game server.

Eonic Gaming - Turf Battles Triumphus - Server development

We're pleased to be working with Eonic Gaming in the development of the server for their Turf Battles Triumphus 3D MMORPG.

Eonic have selected us to replace their existing networking code with The Server Framework to improve the stability and performance of their server.

Activatable Object

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I've written an article for Overload, one of the the ACCU's journals. It's based on my Efficient Multi-Threading blog post from a few weeks ago. Chris Oldwood mentioned to me about how the object described in Efficient Multi-Threading was similar to an Active Object which steals a calling thread to do its work rather than using one of its own and I agreed, he then suggested that I write it up for the ACCU journal.

You can read the article here.

Latest release of The Server Framework: 6.6.2

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Version 6.6.2 of The Server Framework was released today.

This release is a bug fix and internal feature release which results in lots of change to the OpenSSL, SChannel, Compression and TCP flow control filters. See the release notes here, for full details of all changes.

All clients using earlier versions of both the OpenSSL Option Pack and the SChannel Option Pack are advised to upgrade to this release.

Bug fixes:

  • Bug fixes and potential fixes to all code that used function level non-trivial static objects. These have all been replaced with alternative designs as they were not thread safe and could, in very unlikely scenarios, cause problems. See here for more details.
  • Bug fix for JetByteTools::Win32::IQueueTimers::SetTimerWithRefCountedUserData(). We now wrap the SetTimer() call in a try/catch block and Release() the reference we created with AddRef() if there's an exception.
  • Bug fix to JetByteTools::IO::CBufferChain::AddDataToBufferChain() to allow for passing in an empty list of buffers to add.
  • Bug fix to JetByteTools::IO::CBufferChain::ConsoliateData() to ensure that buffers that we attempt to consolidate are writeable.
  • Bug fix in JetByteTools::Socket::TConnectionManagerBase::ReleaseSocket() to ensure exceptions are trapped appropriately.
  • Bug fix in JetByteTools::Service::CShutdownHandler::Run(). Changed the way we respond to shutdown and pause events (if enabled) so that we only respond to each event once rather than repeatedly routing shutdown events to the service whilst the event is set. This was causing non-paged pool exhaustion in some situations when the service failed to shutdown.

Additions:

  • Added JetByteTools::Win32::CRecursiveDirectorySearch.
  • Added JetByteTools::Win32::CRegistryKey::TryDeleteValue().
  • Added JetByteTools::Win32::TReusableIdManager::TryFree().
  • Added JetByteTools::Win32::TThreadSafeReusableIdManager::TryFree().
  • Added JetByteTools::Win32::CRingBuffer::GetSize().
  • Added JetByteTools::Win32::CActivatableObject. See here for details.
  • Added JetByteTools::Win32::CalculateRequiredPrecision() which takes a double value and returns the optimum precision required to format the value for display.
  • Added Intrusive containers. A set, map and multi-map which can be used to replace STL containers with ones which do not need to do memory operations during insertion and removal.
  • Added JetByteTools::IO::IBufferBase::GetSpace() which returns the available space in a buffer, size - used.
  • Added JetByteTools::IO::IBuffer::GetTotalSpace() which returns all available space in a buffer, this is GetSpace() plus any space that is currently unused at the front of the buffer due to calls to Consume().
  • Added JetByteTools::IO::IBuffer::RemoveSpaceAtFront() which compacts a buffer by removing any unused space at the front and copying any data back towards the front of the buffer.
  • Added JetByteTools::IO::CSequencedBufferCollection which is a collection based on JetByteTools::Win32::TIntrusiveRedBlackTree which stores the buffers in sequence number order.
  • Added JetByteTools::Socket::CFilterDataBase a base class for filter data that is based on JetByteTools::Win32::CActivatableObject.
  • Added JetByteTools::Socket::CWriteOnlyFilterData and JetByteTools::Socket::CReadOnlyFilterData as base classes for filters which only work on one side of the connection.
  • Added JetByteTools::Socket::CStreamSocketConnectionFilterBase a base class for filters which use JetByteTools::Socket::CFilterDataBase.
  • Added lots of functionality to JetByteTools::Socket::CFilteringStreamSocketConnectionManagerBase to allow for more complete filtering.
  • Added a Datagram flow control filter, JetByteTools::Socket::CFlowControlDatagramSocketConnectionFilter, see here for more details.

Changes:

  • Completely redesigned the OpenSSL and SChannel filters so that they use the new JetByteTools::Socket::CFilterDataBase filter data base classes.
  • Changed all versions of JetByteTools::Win32::ToString() which take a double or long double to also accept a precision value. This value defaults to 6, which is the default precision used if precision isn't specified.
  • Changed JetByteTools::Win32::CreateDirectoryIfRequired() to return a bool which indicates if the directory was created.
  • Changed JetByteTools::Win32::CreateDirectoriesIfRequired() to return a count of the number of directories created.
  • Changed JetByteTools::Win32::CThreadPool::OnThreadPoolThreadStopped() so that it calls JetByteTools::Win32::IMonitorThreadPool::OnThreadPoolThreadStopped() before deleting the thread and decrementing the counter. This makes it possible to clean up the monitor when the final thread is deleted (and the wait on the counter returns).
  • Changed JetByteTools::Win32::TLockableObject so that it only uses a SRWL if we're building for Windows 7 or later. This is so that the TryEnter() API is available for the SRWL.
  • We now use JetByteTools::Win32::CombinePath() where possible rather than combining paths by hand.
  • Changed JetbyteTools::Win32::CCallbackTimerQueue and JetbyteTools::Win32::CCallbackTimerWheel to use the new intrusive containers.
  • Changed JetByteTools::IO::IBuffer::MakeSpaceAtFront() so that it takes an optional value which indicates how much space must be available at the rear of the buffer. This allows us to be able to create space at the front only if there's enough space in the buffer for the space we need at the front and rear of the buffer.
  • Changed JetByteTools::IO::CBufferChainStoresNulls so that you can pass it an instance of JetByteTools::IO::IAllocateBuffer in its constructor and it can then use that to allocate a new buffer if the number of 'null buffers' stored becomes too great. This effectively removes the limit on the number of 'null buffers' that can be stored between non-null buffers.
  • Changed JetByteTools::IO::CSortedBufferChain so that it caches whether you can get the next buffer or not. This reduces the work that needs to be done to find out if you can get the next buffer.
  • Changed the implementation of JetByteTools::Socket::CCompressingStreamSocketConnectionFilter so that it uses the new filter base classes.
  • Changed the implementation of JetByteTools::Socket::CFlowControlStreamSocketConnectionFilter so that it uses the new filter base classes.

UDP flow control and asynchronous writes

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I don't believe that UDP should require any flow control in the sending application. After all, it's unreliable and it should be quite OK for any stage of the route from one peer to another to decide to drop a datagram for any reason. However, it seems that, on Window's at least, no datagrams will be dropped between the application and the network interface card (NIC) driver, no matter how heavily you load the system.

Unfortunately most NIC drivers also prefer not to drop datagrams, even if they're overloaded (see here for details of how UDP checksum offloading can cause a NIC to make non-paged pool usage considerably higher). This can lead to situations where a user mode application can bring a box down due to non-paged pool exhaustion simply by sending as many datagrams as it can as fast as it can. It's likely that it's actually poorly implemented device drivers that are at fault here; by failing to gracefully handle situations where non-paged pool allocations fail, but it's the application that is putting these drivers into a situation where they could fail in such a catastrophic manner.

Since the NIC driver and the operating system will not drop datagrams it's down to the application itself to do so if it senses that it's overloading the NIC. I've recently added code to The Server Framework to allow you to configure behaviour like this so that an application can prevent itself from exhausting non-paged pool due to pending datagram writes.

Efficient Multi-Threading

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Performance is always important for users of The Server Framework and I often spend time profiling the code and thinking about ways to improve performance. Hardware has changed considerably since I first designed The Server Framework back in 2001 and some things that worked well enough back then are now serious impediments to further performance gains. That's not to say that the performance of The Server Framework today is bad, it's not, it's just that in some situations and on some hardware it could be even better.

One of the things that I changed last year was how we dispatch operations on a connection. Before the changes multiple I/O threads could block each other whilst operations were dispatched for a single connection. This was unnecessary and could reduce the throughput on all connections when one connection had several operation completions pending. I fixed this by adding a per-connection operation queue and ensuring that only one I/O thread at a time was ever processing operations for a given connection; other I/O threads would simply add operations for that connection to its operation queue and only process them if no other thread was already processing for that connection.

Whilst those changes deal with serialising multiple concurrent I/O completion events on a connection there's still the potential for multiple threads accessing a given connection's state if non-I/O threads are issuing read and write operations on the connection. Not all connections need to worry about the interaction of a read request and a completion from a previous request, but things like SSL engines may care. We have several areas in The Server Framework, and more in complex server's built on top of the framework, where it's important that only a single operation is being processed at a time. Locks are currently used to ensure that only a single operation is processed at a time, but this blocks other threads. What's more most of the code that cares about this also cares about calling out to user callback interfaces without holding locks. Holding locks when calling back into user code is an easy way to create unexpected lock inversions which can deadlock a system.

Efficient-MultiThreading-1.png

In the diagram above, given the threads 1, 2, 3 & 4 with four work items A, B, C & D for a single object, the threads are serialised and block until each can process its own operation on the object. This is bad for performance, bad for contention and bad for locality of reference as the data object can be bounced back and forth between different CPU caches.

The code that I describe in the rest of this article forms the basis of a new "single threaded processor" object which enables efficient command queuing from multiple threads where commands are only ever processed on one thread at a time, minimal thread blocking occurs, no locks are held whilst processing and an object tends to stay on the same thread whilst there's work to be done.

There are a couple of undocumented Visual Studio compiler switches which can be useful occasionally:

  • /d1reportSingleClassLayout - which produces a dump of the in memory layout of a given class
  • /d1reportAllClassLayout - which does the same for ALL classes

See here and here for more details.

And if you liked that, you might find this collection of debugging tricks interesting.

Intrusive C++ containers

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Recently, whilst continuing to improve the performance of various aspects of The Server Framework, I reached a point where I found I needed to replace some STL containers with intrusive containers which didn't need to perform memory allocations during data insertion and removal. I had been toying with the idea of implementing custom containers for some time but have only recently had a pressing need for them.

The STL provides some marvellously usable code which has changed the way people view container classes in C++. The result is that you hardly ever need to write your own containers as the STL provides containers with known performance characteristics which, thanks to templates, work with any data. The downside of this is that you hardly ever need to write your own containers and so you get out of the habit of doing so...

Practical Testing: 33 - Intrusive multi-map.

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Previously on "Practical Testing"... I'm in the process of replacing STL containers with custom intrusive containers in the timer system that I have been developing in this series of articles. The idea is that the intrusive containers do not require memory operations for insertion or deletion as the book-keeping data required to store the data in the container has been added to the data explicitly. This reduces the potential contention between threads in the application and, hopefully, improves overall performance.

In the last instalment I showed how my usage of std::set in the timer wheel code could be replaced by an intrusive set. This time I'll also replace the std::set and std::map from the timer queue. These are quite major internal changes but since we have a large set of unit tests it's reasonably easy to make these changes without having to worry about breaking the external interface.

Practical Testing: 32 - Intrusive containers.

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Back in 2004, I wrote a series of articles called "Practical Testing" where I took a piece of complicated multi-threaded code and wrote tests for it. I then rebuild the code from scratch in a test driven development style to show how writing your tests before your code changes how you design your code. Since the original articles there have been several bug fixes and redesigns all of which have been supported by the original unit tests and many of which have led to the development of more tests.

In 2010 I needed to improve the performance of the code for a specific use case. The resulting changes saw the creation of a Timer Wheel version of the code which has the same interface and uses the same tests. I also ruminated on contention, invented a crazy notation to help me talk about contention and experimented with custom STL allocators and private heaps in an attempt to reduce it. In the end I decided that the best approach was probably to use custom containers rather than the STL. The custom containers would be intrusive (or invasive as I called it at the time) and would avoid the need for memory allocation on insertion and removal of items.

I didn't have a pressing need to improve the performance further and so the intrusive container idea slipped down my list of things to do. Recently I've had a need for an intrusive map for another part of The Server Framework and have implemented some custom containers, set, map, multi-map, based on an intrusive red-black tree that I've written. It then seemed appropriate to integrate them into the timer queue and see what difference they make. That's what I'm doing in this instalment. As usual the existing tests support these, quite major, internal changes to the code.

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I usually write about C++ development on Windows platforms, but I often ramble on about other less technical stuff...

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