ConcurrentSim basics

This guide describes the basic concepts of ConcurrentSim: How does it work? What are processes, events and the environment? What can I do with them?

How ConcurrentSim works

If you break ConcurrentSim down, it is just an asynchronous event dispatcher. You generate events and schedule them at a given simulation time. Events are sorted by priority, simulation time, and an increasing event id. An event also has a list of callbacks, which are executed when the event is triggered and processed by the event loop. Events may also have a return value.

The components involved in this are the Environment, events and the process functions that you write.

Process functions implement your simulation model, that is, they define the behavior of your simulation. They are @resumable functions that @yield instances of AbstractEvent.

The environment stores these events in its event list and keeps track of the current simulation time.

If a process function yields an event, ConcurrentSim adds the process to the event’s callbacks and suspends the process until the event is triggered and processed. When a process waiting for an event is resumed, it will also receive the event’s value.

Here is a very simple example that illustrates all this:

using ResumableFunctions
using ConcurrentSim

@resumable function example(env::Environment)
  event = timeout(env, 1, value=42)
  value = @yield event
  println("now=", now(env), ", value=", value)

sim = Simulation()
@process example(sim)

# output

now=1.0, value=42

The example process function above first creates a timeout event. It passes the environment, a delay, and a value to it. The timeout schedules itself at now + delay (that’s why the environment is required); other event types usually schedule themselves at the current simulation time.

The process function then yields the event and thus gets suspended. It is resumed, when ConcurrentSim processes the timeout event. The process function also receives the event’s value (42) – this is, however, optional, so @yield event would have been okay if the you were not interested in the value or if the event had no value at all.

Finally, the process function prints the current simulation time (that is accessible via the now function) and the timeout’s value.

If all required process functions are defined, you can instantiate all objects for your simulation. In most cases, you start by creating an instance of Environment, e.g. a Simulation, because you’ll need to pass it around a lot when creating everything else.

Starting a process function involves two things:

  • You have to call the macro @process with as argument a call to the process function. (This will not execute any code of that function yet.) This will schedule an initialisation event at the current simulation time which starts the execution of the process function. The process instance is also an event that is triggered when the process function returns.
  • Finally, you can start ConcurrentSim’s event loop. By default, it will run as long as there are events in the event list, but you can also let it stop earlier by providing an until argument.