[Twisted-Python] Need some pointers for writing asynchronous code for Twisted app

Brian Costlow brian.costlow at gmail.com
Fri Mar 9 18:34:17 EST 2007

I'm trying to rewrite an existing 'back end' server application. The old app
worked something like this. Client boxes, using multiple methods (ftp, copy
over nfs mount, even rsh sessions) create a file on disk on the server,
which was either XML or a simple proprietary data format. The server was
done in python. It loops over a direcory, looking for new files, and
processes them into a MySQL database.

I patched the client (not python, but proprietary vendor apps, which are
glued together via TCL,) to just write the data to a TCP socket. Using
Twisted, I now have a test TCP server running, which uses LineReceiver, with
each line recieved added to a list, and a connection close callback that
writes the data to a file. This last part isn't part of the final app, and
it does block, i know. It's just for me to see the data we're gettiing. So
we have a working system now that transmits the files via a unified method,
to a server that can handle simultaneous connections. Cool. Now I have to do
real work with the data.

I have some architectural questions on how to proceed. Take the case of the
XML data. In the old version, it reads the XML into an ElementTree, uses
business logic to iterate through all or part of the tree, building a key,
value dict, that dict is passed to another object whose methods construct
sql inserts from the dict data and makes db calls. (That's simplified, the
current db layer is a huge rube goldberg).

So the easy way out, it seems to me, would be to make the LineRecever
callback build the ElementTree as I get it. Then wrap minimally modfied
versions of the code that processes the ElementTree to the dict, and the
dict to the database, in a callInThread or deferToThread call. Which is a
lot of use of the thread pool, which seems to violate the idea of a
low-overhead asynchronous event loop.

So is there a better way? For example, if I have a callback chain, when the
first one fires, do they all fire in sequence as the prior callback returns,
or does the chain yield to other events. If it does, I could potentially
break the code into smaller chunks, say so each one processed enough tree
data to generate 1 dict entry, and add the chunks as a callback chain on the

Note: None of this code is tested, I'm just trying to get the basic logic
worked out.

Something like this?

def connectionLost(self):
    d = defer.Deferrred()

If I have a bunch of connections that close as simultaneously as the
implementation allows, does that sequence all fire first for one closing
connection, then the next, and so on? Or do they intermix?

Or do I need to set up a chain of deferreds with explicit scheduling?

Something like:

def connectionLost(self):
   self.myDict = {}

def finish(self)
   d = defer.Deferred
   def realFinish(d):
         do stuff to clean up
   reactor.callLater(0, d.callback, None)

def chunkThree()
    d = defer.Deferred
    def realChunkThree(self.MyElementTree, self.myDict):
         do stuff to process one dict key
    reactor.callLater(0, d.callback, None)
    return d


The above doesn't really seem much different than the first, it's just that
we schedule the calls explicitly, and pass data around in multiple

The  last thing I though about doing was something like this:

def connectionLost(self):
    myDict = {}
    myIterObj = self.myElementTree.getIterator()
    def processChunk():
            foo = myIterObj.next()
            do stuff with foo to process element to dict entry
        except StopIteration:
            error handling stuff
            reactor.callLater(0, processChunk)
    return d

Except I found some really similar code in an old thread, where Bob Ippolito
says, 'just use flow instead'

But the current flow doc says: Don't use flow, write asynchronous code.
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