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Event-driven servers

An event-driven server typically has a single thread which manages all connections to the server. The thread uses the select() system call to simultaneously wait for events on these connections.

When a call to select() returns, the server's main loop invokes event handlers for each of the ready descriptors. These handlers perform a variety of tasks depending on the nature of the particular event. For example, when a socket being used to listen for new connections becomes ready, the corresponding handler calls accept() to return a file descriptor for the new connection. Handlers invoked when a connection becomes ready for reading or writing perform the actual read or write to the appropriate descriptor. The execution of handlers may cause the addition or removal of descriptors from the set being managed by the server.

Event-driven servers are fast because they have no locking or context switching overhead. The same thread manages all connections, and all handlers are executed synchronously. A single-threaded server, however, cannot exploit any true concurrency in the stream of tasks. Thus, on multiprocessor systems, event-driven servers have as many threads as processors. Examples of event-driven servers include Squid[5, 22] and its commercial version NetCache[16], Zeus[25], thttpd[24] and several research servers[2, 8, 18].

Gaurav Banga
Mon Apr 27 13:10:55 CDT 1998