Akka Dynamo 1

First experiments with implementing Dynamo in Akka.

Posted by Iain Hull on November 14, 2012



  1. Install sbt

     brew install sbt
  2. Create an akka project

     mkdir akka-dynamo
     cd akka-dynamo
     mkdir -p src/main/scala
     mkdir -p src/test/scala
  3. Create build.sbt

     name := "Akka Dynamo"
     scalaVersion := "2.9.2"
     resolvers += "Typesafe Repository" at "http://repo.typesafe.com/typesafe/releases/"
     retrieveManaged := true
     libraryDependencies ++= Seq("com.typesafe.akka" % "akka-actor" % "2.0.3",
                                 "com.typesafe.akka" % "akka-remote" % "2.0.3",
                                 "com.typesafe.akka" % "akka-testkit" % "2.0.3" % "test",
                                 "org.specs2" %% "specs2" % "1.9" % "test",
                                 "junit" % "junit" % "4.5" % "test")

The messages

Scala is a strongly typed language so the message types have to be defined. [Case classes] (http://www.scala-lang.org/node/107) are ideal for defining value types like akka messages and enable pattern matching in the actors. Note Ok, Fail and Stop do not require any parameters so are defined as singltons with case object instead.

Erlang is weakly typed and most data structures are a combination of list, tuples and litterals. In scala tuples are replaced cases classes, these are like named tuple types. Litterals are either case objects or java primatives.


package org.iainhull.akka.dynamo

trait Response
case object Ok extends Response
case object Fail extends Response

trait ServerMessage
case class Start(n: Int) extends ServerMessage
case object Stop extends ServerMessage
case class GetRequest(id: String) extends ServerMessage
case class SetRequest(id: String, value: String) extends ServerMessage
case class GetResponse(response: Response, id: String, value: Option[String]) extends ServerMessage
case class SetResponse(response: Response, id: String) extends ServerMessage


Akka actors are classes that extend Actor the method recieve is called for each message. Unlike Erlang the this method does not have to recursivelly call itself.

The import statements are standard scala imports and are required to use the Akka api. However the akka.pattern imports enable the ask and pipe patterns. These enable actors to recieve responses to messages they send with the ? operator and pipe the responses back as their own reply.

The Start message starts the server and spawns the database NodeActors and replies with Ok.

The Stop message stops the nodes and itself by sending a PoisonPill to terminate the actor after processing the remaining messages.

The GetRequest simply passes the message to the first NodeActor and pipes the reply back to the sender. This makes the GetRequest a simple proxy for the first node.

The SetRequest forwards the message to all NodeActors and reduces the replies to a single success if they all succeed or a single failure if any of them fail


package org.iainhull.akka.dynamo

import akka.actor.{ Actor, ActorRef, PoisonPill, Props }
import akka.dispatch.Future._
import akka.pattern.{ ask, pipe }
import akka.util.{ Duration, Timeout }

class ServerActor extends Actor {
  import context.dispatcher

  implicit val timeout: Timeout = Duration(2, "seconds")

  var nodes: Seq[ActorRef] = Seq()

  def receive = {
    case Start(n) => 
      nodes = 1 to n map { _ => 
      sender ! Ok
    case Stop => 
      nodes foreach { _ ! PoisonPill }
      self ! PoisonPill
      sender ! Ok
    case GetRequest(id) =>
      (nodes(0) ? GetRequest(id)) pipeTo sender
    case SetRequest(id, value) =>
      val results = nodes map { 
        _ ? SetRequest(id, value) 
      reduce(results) {
        case (SetResponse(Ok, _), SetResponse(Ok, _)) => SetResponse(Ok, id)
        case (SetResponse(Fail, _), _) => SetResponse(Fail, id)
        case (_, SetResponse(Fail, _)) => SetResponse(Fail, id)
      } pipeTo sender
  1. Create specs2 unit test
  2. Create server actor


  • have to define message classes (scala is strongly typed)
  • initial version only uses server actor (no nodes)