@hackage supply-chain-core0.0.0.1

Composable request-response pipelines


The initial idea for this library stemmed from the pipes library. The interfaces of a pipes Proxy are given by four types: What the proxy sends upstream, receives from upstream, sends downstream, and receives from downstream. A value of type Proxy a' a b' b m r is depicted in the pipes documentation as follows:

Upstream | Downstream
    |         |
a' <==       <== b'
    |         |
a  ==>       ==> b
    |    |    |

A pipes server (focusing on downstream side) can accept exactly one of request (b') and issue exactly one type of response (b). The response type cannot vary based on what type of request it is responding to.

When interfaces are described by a type constructor rather than a pair of types, then we can pair types of requests with appropriate responses. I first saw this approach in the haxl library. The Facebook example in haxl's documentation gives this example of what it calls a "data source API":

data FacebookReq response =
     (response ~ Object)   => GetObject Id
   | (response ~ User)     => GetUser UserId
   | (response ~ [Friend]) => GetUserFriends UserId

The kind of FacebookReq is Type -> Type. The phantom type variable response here indicates what type of response a data source must give in response to a FacebookReq response. For example, the GetUser constructor produces a request of type FacebookReq User, and so the data source returns a value of type User.

This pattern can also be found in the effectful library, where a similar sort of type constructor is called a "dynamic effect". To take just one example of a dynamic effect that the library offers, its dynamic State effect (analogous to StateT of the transformers library) is defined as follows:

data State s m response =
      (response ~ s)  => Get
    | (response ~ ()) => Put s
    | (response ~ a)  => State (s -> (a, s))
    | (response ~ a)  => StateM (s -> m (a, s))

The kind of State s m is, again, Type -> Type, and a constraint on each constructor specifies what type of corresponding response is expected.

Let us return our attention to the pipes Proxy type. When we attempt to alter Proxy to employ the type constructor interface style as discussed in the previous two examples, it becomes apparent that much of the generality and symmetry that the pipes library enjoys must be sacrificed. Our library has only "pull" streams, in which a vendor's action is always a response to a downstream request. Pipes discusses "push" streams, in which upstream actors may take initiative, and we offer nothing of the sort.

Also unlike pipes, we have separate Vendor and Job types, whereas pipes unifies upstream and downstream ideas into a single type called Proxy, of which Producer and Consumer are merely aliases with a few of the type parameters fixed. Although we have opted not to to so, it would be possible for supply-chain to mimic the pipes design, observing that loop and once demonstrate an isomorphism between Vendor up (Unit product) action and Job up action product and that would permit unifying Vendor and Job in the pipes style.

loop :: Job up action product -> Vendor up (Unit product) action
once :: Vendor up (Unit product) action -> Job up action product

This approach is tempting chiefly because it permits a single connection operator (which pipes calls >->) where supply-chain has two (>-> and >-). But in our library, this unification appears to cause more problems than it solves, and type aliases in general tend to result in poor developer experiences.

I also explored the possibility of defining a pipes-like unified >-> operator as a multi-parameter typeclass method, with one instance for vendor-to-vendor connection and another for vendor-to-job connection. This can be made to work, and with the help of functional dependencies can even lend itself to sufficient type inference despite a large number of type parameters involved. In practice, however, the complication that the polymorphism introduces to type errors and typed hole feedback outweighs the benefit of an overloaded connection operator.

Another difference between supply-chain and pipes is that Vendor cannot return. The ability of a Producer or Pipe to return is a point of difficulty for me as a pipes user, because in a pipes chain a >-> b >-> c very rarely is there any reason why a or b would ever return and "shut the pipeline down early". The advantage of this approach in pipes is that it allows Producer (being simply an alias for Proxy) to be monad, whereas to define a Vendor one must take the additional step of applying the Vendor constructor to a function whose actual monadic context is Job. The advantage of the supply-chain approach is that the type signatures for vendors are not burdened with an irrelevant type parameter representing the return type of something that will never actually return.

The influence of the effectful library, in spirit if not manifest in any concrete technique, deserves remark. A job's upstream interface and action context correspond to what the effectful library calls "dynamic effects" and "static effects" respectively. Our (>-) function corresponds roughly to what effectful describes as "reinterpeting" the job's upstream interface.

What effectful has that supply-chain lacks is its mechanism for combining multiple interfaces (which they call "effects") via the type-level list which parameterizes the Eff type.

data Eff (es :: [Effect]) a

type Effect = (Type -> Type) -> Type -> Type

I have left this feature out because I do not currently have any pressing need for it, I find it too difficult to use, and I am not convinced that it needs to be built into this library. It is possible to express the combination of two supply-chain interfaces as:

data Either interface1 interface2 response =
    Left (interface1 response) | Right (interface2 response)

Either may be nested to produce interface combinations larger than two. Although this approach is cumbersome, it does suggest that more clever conveniences could be designed.