Arbiter

Arbiters provide an asynchronous execution context for Actors, functions and futures. Where an actor contains a Context that defines its Actor specific execution state, Arbiters host the environment where an actor runs.

As a result Arbiters perform a number of functions. Most notably, they are able to spawn a new OS thread, run an event loop, spawn tasks asynchronously on that event loop, and act as helpers for asynchronous tasks.

System and Arbiter

In all our previous code examples the function System::new creates an Arbiter for your actors to run inside. When you call start() on your actor it is then running inside of the System Arbiter's thread. In many cases, this is all you will need for a program using Actix.

While it only uses one thread, it uses the very efficient event loop pattern which works well for asynchronous events. To handle synchronous, CPU-bound tasks, it's better to avoid blocking the event loop and instead offload the computation to other threads. For this usecase, read the next section and consider using SyncArbiter.

The event loop

One Arbiter is in control of one thread with one event pool. When an Arbiter spawns a task (via Arbiter::spawn, Context<Actor>::run_later, or similar constructs), the Arbiter queues the task for execution on that task queue. When you think Arbiter, you can think "single-threaded event loop".

Actix in general does support concurrency, but normal Arbiters (not SyncArbiters) do not. To use Actix in a concurrent way, you can spin up multiple Arbiters using Arbiter::new, ArbiterBuilder, or Arbiter::start.

When you create a new Arbiter, this creates a new execution context for Actors. The new thread is available to add new Actors to it, but Actors cannot freely move between Arbiters: they are tied to the Arbiter they were spawned in. However, Actors on different Arbiters can still communicate with each other using the normal Addr/Recipient methods. The method of passing messages is agnostic to whether the Actors are running on the same or different Arbiters.

Using Arbiter for resolving async events

If you aren't an expert in Rust Futures, Arbiter can be a helpful and simple wrapper to resolving async events in order. Consider we have two actors, A and B, and we want to run an event on B only once a result from A is completed. We can use Arbiter::spawn to assist with this task.

extern crate actix;
use actix::prelude::*;

struct SumActor {}

impl Actor for SumActor {
    type Context = Context<Self>;
}

#[derive(Message)]
#[rtype(result = "usize")]
struct Value(usize, usize);

impl Handler<Value> for SumActor {
    type Result = usize;

    fn handle(&mut self, msg: Value, _ctx: &mut Context<Self>) -> Self::Result {
        msg.0 + msg.1
    }
}

struct DisplayActor {}

impl Actor for DisplayActor {
    type Context = Context<Self>;
}

#[derive(Message)]
#[rtype(result = "()")]
struct Display(usize);

impl Handler<Display> for DisplayActor {
    type Result = ();

    fn handle(&mut self, msg: Display, _ctx: &mut Context<Self>) -> Self::Result {
        println!("Got {:?}", msg.0);
    }
}

fn main() {
    let system = System::new("single-arbiter-example");

    // Define an execution flow using futures
    let execution = async {
        // `Actor::start` spawns the `Actor` on the *current* `Arbiter`, which
        // in this case is the System arbiter
        let sum_addr = SumActor {}.start();
        let dis_addr = DisplayActor {}.start();

        // Start by sending a `Value(6, 7)` to our `SumActor`.
        // `Addr::send` responds with a `Request`, which implements `Future`.
        // When awaited, it will resolve to a `Result<usize, MailboxError>`.
        let sum_result = sum_addr.send(Value(6, 7)).await;

        match sum_result {
            Ok(res) => {
                // `res` is now the `usize` returned from `SumActor` as a response to `Value(6, 7)`
                // Once the future is complete, send the successful response (`usize`)
                // to the `DisplayActor` wrapped in a `Display
                dis_addr.send(Display(res)).await;
            }
            Err(e) => {
                eprintln!("Encountered mailbox error: {:?}", e);
            }
        };
    };

    // Spawn the future onto the current Arbiter/event loop
    Arbiter::spawn(execution);

    // We only want to do one computation in this example, so we
    // shut down the `System` which will stop any Arbiters within
    // it (including the System Arbiter), which will in turn stop
    // any Actor Contexts running within those Arbiters, finally
    // shutting down all Actors.
    System::current().stop();

    system.run();
}