Ruby creator floats new concurrency model

The new concurrency and parallelism model, called Guild, would feature thread safety, but isn't expected before 2020

Developers using the open source Ruby dynamic language are in for some big changes. The language is set to feature a new concurrency and parallelism model, called Guild, in the Ruby 3 upgrade tentatively slated to arrive before 2020.

Plans detailed at a technical conference in Kyoto, Japan this week cite intentions to equip Ruby for a programming landscape that increasingly has moved to multi-core processing. Currently, Ruby supports concurrency via threads, but making thread-safe programs is hard because of a need to manage object mutations. Guild overcomes this issue via a concurrency model enabling parallel execution.

"Since threads provide no data protection, it is very difficult to write correct programs," Ruby founder Yukihiro Matsumoto said. "Guilds are isolated [from] each other and do not share mutable states, basically like an actor model that many other languages have." Ruby needs a new concurrency model because it already has a thread model that cannot be removed, as it maintains compatibility in the language, Matsumoto said.

The conference presentation from Heroku's Koichi Sasada, a Ruby core committer, maps out intentions for Guild, described as a "new concurrency abstraction." Each Guild has at least one thread; threads in different Guilds can run in parallel, but threads in the same guild can't because of a Giant Guild Lock capability. Mutable objects should belong to one Guild, but there can be communication between Guilds.

Multi-threaded programming is difficult, with risks including race conditions among threads, Sasada noted. There can be trade-offs in performance versus safety, it's difficult to tune performance, mutable objects must be shared correctly, and debugging is difficult.

"Guild is part of our Ruby 3 experiment," Matsumoto said, but he also noted that the name, Guild, as well as its behavior could be changed by the time it arrives.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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