Virtual Threads: A Short Note about Naming
volkan.yazici at gmail.com
Sat Nov 23 21:43:05 UTC 2019
Ron, really appreciated your elaborate answer. I will go further and kindly
ask you to shed some light into certain terms you used in your explanation.
Regarding the following paragraph:
> ... one-shot (non-reentrant) delimited continuations, and,
> at least in the past, they were sometimes used to refer to
> *symmetric* one-shot delimited continuations, although they
> have been used to refer to assymetric delimited continuations
> as well. The continuations used under the cover to implement
> Loom's virtual threads are multi-prompt, one-shot -– although
> possibly cloneable -- stackful, assymetric, ...
Would you mind explaining what do you exactly mean by
- symmetric & asymmetric,
please? (Additional references are more than welcome.) I definitely have
some guesses and Google'd them, but aligning to your perspective, I
believe, would help many others in the list, including me.
On Fri, Nov 22, 2019 at 12:24 PM Ron Pressler <ron.pressler at oracle.com>
> Loom’s virtual threads are not coroutines under any common definition of
> name. Coroutines are one-shot (non-reentrant) delimited continuations,
> and, at
> least in the past, they were sometimes used to refer to *symmetric*
> delimited continuations, although they have been used to refer to
> delimited continuations as well. The continuations used under the cover to
> implement Loom's virtual threads are multi-prompt, one-shot -– although
> cloneable -- stackful, assymetric, delimited continuations (yeah,
> come in many flavors). It is possible we'll decide to call those
> coroutines, although in recent years the name coroutines gained a
> that identifies it with a particular implementation of continuations as
> syntactic constructs in the language (such as async in C# or suspend in
> But in any event, coroutines always refer to continuations (Go's
> goroutines, a
> pun on coroutine, does refer to threads).
> Threads are a continuation plus a scheduler, or scheduled continuations,
> therefore Loom's user-mode threads are threads, and whether or not we
> decide to
> call Loom's continuations coroutines, the name is inappropriate for
> The name is not only technically inappropriate, but suffers from all the
> problems "fiber" does, and then some. It sounds like a whole new concept
> have to learn, it is heavily overridden elsewhere to refer to somewhat
> yet substantially different, concepts, and it doesn't even evoke a
> similarity to threads.
> As to your two questions, I'll address them more specifically inline,
> On 22 November 2019 at 08:47:13, Volkan Yazıcı (volkan.yazici at gmail.com
> (mailto:volkan.yazici at gmail.com)) wrote:
> > As someone who is far from comprehending the implications of concluding
> on a certain nomenclature for Project Loom deliverables, I am having
> difficulty in understanding why don't we just call "this" as "coroutines".
> In a discussion between you and Jonathan Brachthäuser(
> you had shared some more insight into the reasoning behind the back then
> naming conventions. There you had also hinted that you may decide to change
> the name to "coroutine". Regarding this and the aforementioned discussion,
> I have two questions:
> > In statement "more recently [coroutine] has gained the connotation (not
> in academic literature but in language implementations) of being a
> syntactic construct, rather than a purely dynamic one" of yours, would you
> mind elaborating on what do you exactly mean by a "purely dynamic one"? I
> see that C++20 and other coroutine-providing PLs require explicit syntactic
> sugar to denote suspendable-and-resumeable subroutines. But apart from this
> explicit denotation requirement, isn't Loom delivering almost the same
> thing? Further, Loom also enforces its own explicit requirements (i.e.,
> subroutine needs to be wrapped in a "virtual thread"), which "feels"
> similar to me from a developer perspective.
> That explicit syntactic denotation is no small matter. It is the reason
> with that kind of continuations cannot unify the concept of suspension and
> even though the only difference between the two is whether suspension is
> needs two
> separate IO APIs, one blocking and one suspending, or asynchronous, even
> though the
> two may have the exact same denotation in the language. Languages like C#,
> Rust and
> Kotlin even separate the two in the type system. That in Java suspending a
> does not require any different type, or any other syntactic notation
> whether the
> operation is performed by the kernel or the language is an essential
> feature. So the
> languages I mentioned syntactically separate a concept based on its
> implementation, but Java (like Erlang, Scheme and Go) doesn’t. Loom's
> virtual threads
> *are* threads; why focus on the implementation rather than the abstraction
> when we don’t make any syntactic distinction between them?
> > To the best of my knowledge, Melvin Conway's 1958 definition of
> "coroutines" basically boils down to good old subroutines with suspend and
> resume support. From this angle, I feel inclined to call Loom "virtual
> threads" as "coroutines". The latter term might indeed be tainted by modern
> times, but I believe Java has enough leverage and resources to rinse it
> off. This will also imply a PR for Java in the sense of "better coroutines"
> addressing all the catches and limitations imposed by, say, Kotlin, Quasar,
> Kilim "coroutines”.
> As I said above, Loom’s threads are not coroutines, but coroutines +
> scheduler. The
> common name for coroutines + scheduler, for many years, has been "thread."
> > Best regards.
> > P.S. Thanks for updating the community on these internal changes and
> letting us get engaged in discussions.
> - Ron
> > On Thu, Nov 21, 2019 at 1:07 PM Ron Pressler wrote:
> > > We started with fibers. Then we found out that people think it's a new
> > > they have to learn (which is further complicated because "fiber" is
> used to
> > > refer to superficially-similar-yet-essentially-different concepts
> > > rather than just a user-mode implementation of threads. The different
> name then
> > > became even less justified when we started representing our user-mode
> threads as
> > > java.lang.Thread. We then considered "lightweight threads." The
> problem with
> > > giving an absolute name to a relative concept is that one day we may
> > > threads that are even lighter-weight than lightweight threads, and
> what would we
> > > call those? "User-mode threads" is correct but perhaps too technical.
> So we're
> > > going with "virtual threads." The name is intended to evoke the
> similarity of
> > > the relationship our usermode threads have with kernel threads to that
> > > virtual and physical memory. The name has the advantage of familiarity
> on one
> > > the one hand as well as not clashing with potentially confusing
> > > similar-but-not-quite usages on the other. A test run of "virtual
> threads" at
> > > Devoxx looked promising.
> > >
> > > - Ron
> > >
> > >
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