author: Lesley Wevers
title: A Persistent Functional Language for Concurrent Transaction Processing
committee: Marieke Huisman ,
Jaco van de Pol
started: November 2011
end: August 2012


In this thesis we investigate the construction of transaction processing systems using functional programming languages. The traditional method for the construction of a transaction processing system is to use a database management system (DBMS) to- gether with a general purpose programming language (GPPL). However working with a DBMS from a GPPL is difficult due to the impedance mismatch, and this model limits the potential concurrency of the system as a whole. We have developed a prototype per- sistent functional language for transaction processing that solves these problems.
In our language, states are a set of bindings from values to expressions. Transactions may evaluate expressions in the context of the current state, and they may update the bindings in the state. In our approach, a DBMS is implemented in our language using bulk data structures. A transaction processing application can be implemented within the same system, thus resolving the impedance mismatch. A domain specific interface for the transaction processing application can be created using stored transactions. Ad- ditionally, our systems allows ad-hoc querying and manipulation of the data through an interactive interpreter.

Our language model can be implemented efficiently through graph reduction. Concur- rency can be introduced through lazy reduction of states, which allows higher levels of concurrency than existing concurrency control methods. We have implemented a graph reducer based on template instantiation, which has been adapted to allow bindings to be created dynamically by resolving references to supercombinators statically such that unused bindings can be garbage collected automatically. We have implemented a transaction manager for our language model that allows the concurrent execution of transactions. Additionally, we introduce a novel approach to parallel graph reduction, where we distribute work among reduction threads by randomising the reduction order of strict function arguments, and by ensuring that reduction results are correctly shared between reduction threads.

Further, we investigate methods for storing states in persistent memory. One method is based on snapshotting the state of the system, allowing checkpointing of ongoing computations. Another method is based on log-structured storage, and allows storage of large states with low recovery times. We combine both of these approaches to allow checkpointing of ongoing computations, storing states larger than main-memory, and supporting low recovery times. In all of these approaches we use journaling as a method to ensure durability of transactions. For our prototype we have implemented journaling together with a simplified version of snapshotting that does not support checkpointing of ongoing computations.

Finally, experiments with our graph reducer show nearly ideal relative speedup in two example programs, without the need to explicitly annotate the programs for parallelism. Additionally, our experiments show that lazy reduction of states may lead to long chains of suspensions and memory leaks in the state. We propose a solution where we force the evaluation of states, and limit the number of active transactions.


Additional Resources

  1. The paper