Recipe 5.6. Sharing Variables Between Processes


5.6.1. Problem

You want a way to share information between processes that provides fast access to the shared data.

5.6.2. Solution

Use one of the two bundled shared memory extensions, shmop or System V shared memory.

With shmop, you create a block and read and write to and from it, as shown in Example 5-4.

Using the shmop shared memory functions

<?php // create key $shmop_key = ftok(__FILE__, 'p'); // create 16384 byte shared memory block $shmop_id = shmop_open($shmop_key, "c", 0600, 16384); // retrieve the entire shared memory segment $population = shmop_read($shmop_id, 0, 0); // manipulate the data $population += ($births + $immigrants - $deaths - $emigrants); // store the value back in the shared memory segment $shmop_bytes_written = shmop_write($shmop_id, $population, 0); // check that it fit if ($shmop_bytes_written != strlen($population)) {    echo "Can't write the all of: $population\n"; } // close the handle shmop_close($shmop_id); ?>

With System V shared memory, you store the data in a shared memory segment, and guarantee exclusive access to the shared memory with a semaphore, as shown in Example 5-5.

Using the System V shared memory functions

<?php $semaphore_id = 100; $segment_id   = 200; // get a handle to the semaphore associated with the shared memory // segment we want $sem = sem_get($semaphore_id,1,0600); // ensure exclusive access to the semaphore sem_acquire($sem) or die("Can't acquire semaphore"); // get a handle to our shared memory segment $shm = shm_attach($segment_id,16384,0600); // retrieve a value from the shared memory segment $population = shm_get_var($shm,'population'); // manipulate the value $population += ($births + $immigrants - $deaths - $emigrants); // store the value back in the shared memory segment shm_put_var($shm,'population',$population); // release the handle to the shared memory segment shm_detach($shm); // release the semaphore so other processes can acquire it sem_release($sem); ?>

5.6.3. Discussion

A shared memory segment is a slice of your machine's RAM that different processes (such as the multiple web server processes that handle requests) can access. These two extensions solve the similar problem of allowing you to save information between requests in a fast and efficient manner, but they take slightly different approaches and have slightly different interfaces as a result.

The shmop functions have an interface similar to the familiar file manipulation. You can open a segment, read in data, write to it, and close it. Like a file, there's no built-in segmentation of the data, it's all just a series of consecutive characters.

In Example 5-4, you first create the shared memory block. Unlike a file, you must pre-declare the maximum size. In this example, it's 16,384 bytes:

// create key $shmop_key = ftok(__FILE__, 'p'); // create 16384 byte shared memory block $shmop_id = shmop_open($shmop_key, "c", 0600, 16384); 

Just as you distinguish files by using filenames, shmop segments are differentiated by keys. Unlike filenames, these keys aren't strings but integers, so they're not easy to remember. Therefore, it's best to use the ftok( ) function to convert a human-friendly name, in this case the filename in the form of __FILE__ , to a format suitable for shmop_open( ). The ftok( ) function also takes a one-fscharacter "project identifier." This helps you avoid collisions in case you accidently reuse the same string. Here it's p, for PHP.

Once you have a key, pass it to shmop_create( ), along with the "flag" you want, the file permissions (in octal), and the block size. See Table 5-1 for a list of suitable flags.

These permissions work just like file permissions, so 0600 means that the user that created the block can read it and write to it. In this context, user doesn't just mean the process that created the semaphore but any process with the same user ID. Permissions of 0600 should be appropriate for most uses, in which web server processes run as the same user.

Table 5-1. shmop_open( ) flags

Flag

Description

a

Opens for read-only access.

c

Creates a new segment. If it already exists, opens it for read and write access.

w

Opens for read and write access.

n

Creates a new segment, but fails if one already exists. Useful to avoid race conditions.


Once you have a handle, you can read from the segment using shmop_read( ) and manipulate the data:

// retrieve the entire shared memory segment $population = shmop_read($shmop_id, 0, 0); // manipulate the data $population += ($births + $immigrants - $deaths - $emigrants);

This code reads in the entire segment. To read in a shorter amount, adjust the second and third parameters. The second parameter is the start, and the third is the length. As a shortcut, you can set the length to 0 to read to the end of the segment.

Once you have the adjusted data, store it back with shmop_write( ) and release the handle with shmop_close( ):

// store the value back in the shared memory segment $shmop_bytes_written = shmop_write($shmop_id, $population, 0); // check that it fit if ($shmop_bytes_written != strlen($population)) {    echo "Can't write the all of: $population\n"; } // close the handle shmop_close($shmop_id);

Since shared memory segments are of a fixed length, if you're not careful, you can try to write more data than you have room. Check to see if this happened by comparing the value returned from shmop_write( ) with the string length of your data. They should be the same. If shmop_write( ) returned a smaller value, then it was only able to fit that many bytes in the segment before running out of space.

In constrast to shmop, the System V shared memory functions behave similar to an array. You access slices of the segment by specifying a key, such as population, and manipulate them directly. Depending on what you're storing, this direct access can be more convenient.

However, the interface is more complex as a result, and System V shared memory also requires you to do manage locking in the form of semaphore.

A semaphore makes sure that the different processes don't step on each other's toes when they access the shared memory segment. Before a process can use the segment, it needs to get control of the semaphore. When it's done with the segment, it releases the semaphore for another process to grab.

To get control of a semaphore, use sem_get( ) to find the semaphore's ID. The first argument to sem_get( ) is an integer semaphore key. You can make the key any integer you want, as long as all programs that need to access this particular semaphore use the same key. If a semaphore with the specified key doesn't already exist, it's created; the maximum number of processes that can access the semaphore is set to the second argument of sem_get( ) (in this case, 1); and the semaphore's permissions are set to sem_get( )'s third argument (0600). Permissions here behave like they do with files and shmop. For example:

$semaphore_id = 100; $segment_id   = 200; // get a handle to the semaphore associated with the shared memory // segment we want $sem = sem_get($semaphore_id,1,0600); // ensure exclusive access to the semaphore sem_acquire($sem) or die("Can't acquire semaphore");

sem_get( ) returns an identifier that points to the underlying system semaphore. Use this ID to gain control of the semaphore with sem_acquire( ). This function waits until the semaphore can be acquired (perhaps waiting until other processes release the semaphore) and then returns true. It returns false on error. Errors include invalid permissions or not enough memory to create the semaphore. Once the semaphore is acquired, you can read from the shared memory segment:

// get a handle to our shared memory segment $shm = shm_attach($segment_id,16384,0600); // retrieve a value from the shared memory segment $population = shm_get_var($shm,'population'); // manipulate the value $population += ($births + $immigrants - $deaths - $emigrants);

First, establish a link to the particular shared memory segment with shm_attach( ). As with sem_get( ), the first argument to shm_attach( ) is an integer key. This time, however, it identifies the desired segment, not the semaphore. If the segment with the specified key doesn't exist, the other arguments create it. The second argument (16384) is the size in bytes of the segment, and the last argument (0600) is the permissions on the segment. shm_attach(200,16384,0600) creates a 16K shared memory segment that can be read from and written to only by the user who created it. The function returns the identifier you need to read from and write to the shared memory segment.

After attaching to the segment, pull variables out of it with shm_get_var($shm, 'population'). This looks in the shared memory segment identified by $shm and retrieves the value of the variable called population. You can store any type of variable in shared memory. Once the variable is retrieved, it can be operated on like other variables. shm_put_var($shm,'population',$population) puts the value of $population back into the shared memory segment as a variable called population.

You're now done with the shared memory statement. Detach from it with shm_detach( ) and release the semaphore with sem_release( ) so another process can use it:

// release the handle to the shared memory segment shm_detach($shm); // release the semaphore so other processes can acquire it sem_release($sem);

Shared memory's chief advantage is that it's fast. But since it's stored in RAM, it can't hold too much data, and it doesn't persist when a machine is rebooted (unless you take special steps to write the information in shared memory to disk before shutdown and then load it into memory again at startup).

You cannot use System V shared memory under Windows, but the shmop functions work fine. Besides these two bundled extensions, another option is to use the APC extension, which beyond its main purpose of caching and optimization support for PHP, also provides a way to store data.

5.6.4. See Also

APC at http://pecl.php.net/apc; documentation on shmop at http://www.php.net/shmop and System V shared memory and semaphore functions at http://www.php.net/sem .




PHP Cookbook, 2nd Edition
PHP Cookbook: Solutions and Examples for PHP Programmers
ISBN: 0596101015
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 445

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