Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Making Elastic Applications More Friendly in Go

Many networked applications are elastic. They'll use as much or as little bandwidth as available. For example web browsing, email and ssh sessions will continue to function properly over lower bandwidth connections. However many applications such as audio or video streaming are inelastic and require a minimum bandwidth in order to work properly. If you download email over a dial-up connection it may take a long time but it will still work. If you stream video over a dial-up connection it will likely not play correctly. Unfortunately many elastic applications are written to use as much bandwidth as possible and so  they may interfere with inelastic applications. For example if you run iTunes while streaming video in a browser iTunes will use as much bandwidth as it can, even if ends up interrupting the streaming video. A simple solution to this problem is to add controls to elastic applications to limit how much bandwidth they'll use. Both the curl and wget command line utilities provide such controls, but applications with such controls seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

A few weeks ago I started rewriting an application in Go for managing podcasts. As I frequently get internet connection over a 3G connection I wanted to make sure that this application didn't monopolize my network connection. I needed a way to limit the amount of bandwidth that my podcast application would use. As I started working on a solution I recognized that it may be beneficial to others. A bit of work and a lot of fun later iothrottler was born.

Using iothrottler is quite easy. You create an 'IOThrottlerPool' with the maximum amount of bandwidth that should be used by clients of the pool, and then add clients by calling the 'AddReader', 'AddWriter', 'AddReadWriter', or 'AddConn' methods. These methods return types who's bandwidth are limited by the pool. Of course the pools bandwidth limitation can be dynamically adjusted by calling the 'SetBandwidth' method. More detailed documentation and examples are provided by the package.

Implementing this package in Go was really fun. Go's interfaces make it easy to add network bandwidth control to both new and existing applications. Go's interfaces also mean that you can use iothrottler to limit other types of IO such as file IO.

If you're writing an elastic application in Go please consider bandwidth throttling to your application. Bandwidth throttling makes your user's lives much better.

Bug reports, pull requests, feature requests and questions about iothrottler are always welcome.

Happy Hacking!


  1. Have you used trickle? http://www.tuxradar.com/content/control-your-bandwidth-trickle

  2. Trickle sounds great for managing bandwidth unfriendly elastic apps. I'll probably use that in the future. Too bad you can't change the bandwidth allocation dynamically.