A few words about this and that...
Ocamlnet has grown a lot, and it may look a bit confusing to beginners. Fortunately, Ocamlnet follows a few organizational principles:
String routines are often factored out
String routines like URL parsing, buffer handling, message decoding etc. are often not directly included in the protocol interpreter, but defined in separate modules. Actually, there is a whole library, Netstring, only consisting of string functions.
The advantage is obvious: String functions can be reused, for example from within clients and servers, but also from user code wishing to do certain string manipulations directly.
Common types ease plugging parts together
It is encouraged that one can plug together various parts of Ocamlnet to create new functionality. Ocamlnet tries to use the same types for the same kind of values throughout the whole library to make this easier. Examples:
Netmimedefines mail messages, but as this data format is also used in HTTP,
Nethttp_clientrepresents requests and responses with the same classes
Netchannelsdefines object-oriented I/O channels. These are used almost everywhere in Ocamlnet.
Common infrastructure for logging, exception printing, and signal handling
All Ocamlnet modules use this infrastructure:
Netlogis a simple logging module and redirector
Netexnprovides extended support for exception printing
Netsys_signalis a little framework for coordinating signal handlers
These modules are as simple as possible to do their task. It is up to the user to extend them, e.g. by plugging in fancier logging modules.
Pluggable name resolver
All Ocamlnet modules use a single module for network name resolution:
Uq_resolverdefines a type for resolvers, and the current default resolver
Preference of asynchronous protocol interpreters
A number of protocol interpreters are written in asynchronous style.
This is generally preferred because of better timeout and error
handling, but also because it makes it possible to run several
instances of these protocol interpreters in the same thread
concurrently (i.e. it is a kind of micro-threading). Ocamlnet
includes the Equeue library as support library for asynchronous
network programming (see
Equeue_intro for more information).
Nevertheless, nobody is forced to use these protocol interpreters asynchronously. There is always also a simple way for synchronous calls (i.e. where the execution of the caller blocks until the network function is completely done).
Parallelization is done at a single place
In other network environments, often every protocol interpreter defines functions for parallelizing its use, e.g. by using thread pools. In Ocamlnet we avoid that. For parallelization there is only the Netplex library which supports both multi-threading and multi-processing.
It is easy to use Netplex with the available server implementations:
Nethttpd_plexallows it to run a webserver inside Netplex
Rpc_netplexcan run SunRPC servers inside Netplex
Netcgi_plexcan run FCGI, SCGI, and AJP connectors inside Netplex
There are a number of advantages. First, one can easily create
compound servers running a number of protocol interpreters at the
same time. All interpreters are configured from a single place.
All interpreters use the same logging mechanism. All interpreters
share the same workload mechanism. All interpreters can be
administered with the same command,
Second, one does not need to develop the parallelization code anew for each protocol implementation. It is difficult enough.
Third, this approach makes it first possible to provide a serious implementation of multi-processing. For this kind of parallelism, more coordination between the interacting components is required than for multi-threading. For example, when child processes are forked off, it must be clear which protocol interpreter are run within them.
At Mylife, we have developed a server program that integrates dozens of different protocols under the same roof. The Netplex approach is scalable!
Pick what you like, and omit things you don't understand
Ocamlnet is modular enough that one can cherry-pick the parts one needs. After all, it is only a library, i.e. a collection of Ocaml modules, and by using one module there is no strict requirement to use another module.
Of course, there is also a "use hierarchy" in Ocamlnet - the HTTP code uses Equeue, for instance. However, the user of HTTP needs not to know this or care about it. Equeue is then simply an internally used helper library.
Ocamlnet is already focused on Internet protocols. Current activities especially try to
There a number of libraries using and extending Ocamlnet: