This is a tutorial introduction to Network.Transport. To follow along, you should probably already be familiar with Control.Concurrent; in particular, the use of fork and MVars. The code for the tutorial can be downloaded as tutorial-server.hs and tutorial-client.hs.

The Network Transport API

Network.Transport is a network abstraction layer which offers the following concepts:

  • Nodes in the network are represented by EndPoints. These are heavyweight stateful objects.
  • Each EndPoint has an EndPointAddress.
  • Connections can be established from one EndPoint to another using the EndPointAddress of the remote end.
  • The EndPointAddress can be serialised and sent over the network, where as EndPoints and connections cannot.
  • Connections between EndPoints are unidirectional and lightweight.
  • Outgoing messages are sent via a Connection object that represents the sending end of the connection.
  • Incoming messages for all of the incoming connections on an EndPoint are collected via a shared receive queue.
  • In addition to incoming messages, EndPoints are notified of other Events such as new connections or broken connections.

In this tutorial we will create a simple “echo” server. Whenever a client opens a new connection to the server, the server in turns opens a connection back to the client. All messages that the client sends to the server will echoed by the server back to the client.

Here is what it will look like. We can start the server on one host:

# ./tutorial-server 8080
Echo server started at ""

then start the client on another. The client opens a connection to the server, sends “Hello world”, and prints all the Events it receives:

# ./tutorial-client 8080
ConnectionOpened 1024 ReliableOrdered ""
Received 1024 ["Hello world"]
ConnectionClosed 1024

The client receives three Events:

  1. The server (with address “”) opened a connection back to the client. The ID of this connection is 1024, and the connection is reliable and ordered (see below).
  2. Received a message on connection 1024: that is, on the connection the server just opened. This is the server echoing the message we sent.
  3. Connection 1024 was closed.

Note that the server prints its address (“”) to the console when started and this must be passed explicitly as an argument to the client. Peer discovery and related issues are outside the scope of Network.Transport.

Writing the client

We will start with the client (tutorial-client.hs), because it is simpler. We first need a bunch of imports:

import Network.Transport
import Network.Transport.TCP (createTransport)
import System.Environment
import Data.ByteString.Char8
import Control.Monad

The client will consist of a single main function.

main :: IO ()
main = do

When we start the client we expect three command line arguments. Since the client will itself be a network endpoint, we need to know the IP address and port number to use for the client. Moreover, we need to know the endpoint address of the server (the server will print this address to the console when it is started):

[host, port, serverAddr] <- getArgs

Next we need to initialize the Network.Transport layer using createTransport from Network.Transport.TCP (in this tutorial we will use the TCP instance of Network.Transport). The type of createTransport is:

createTransport :: N.HostName -> N.ServiceName -> IO (Either IOException Transport)

(where N is an alias for Network.Socket). For the sake of this tutorial we are going to ignore all error handling, so we are going to assume it will return a Right transport:

Right transport <- createTransport host port 

Next we need to create an EndPoint for the client. Again, we are going to ignore errors:

Right endpoint  <- newEndPoint transport

Now that we have an endpoint we can connect to the server, after we convert the String we got from getArgs to an EndPointAddress:

let addr = EndPointAddress (pack serverAddr)
Right conn <- connect endpoint addr ReliableOrdered defaultConnectHints

ReliableOrdered means that the connection will be reliable (no messages will be lost) and ordered (messages will arrive in order). For the case of the TCP transport this makes no difference (all connections are reliable and ordered), but this may not be true for other transports.

Sending on our new connection is very easy:

send conn [pack "Hello world"]

(send takes as argument an array of ByteStrings). Finally, we can close the connection:

close conn

Function receive can be used to get the next event from an endpoint. To print the first three events, we can do

replicateM_ 3 $ receive endpoint >>= print

Since we’re not expecting more than 3 events, we can now close the transport.

closeTransport transport

That’s it! Here is the entire client again:

main :: IO ()
main = do
  [host, port, serverAddr] <- getArgs
  Right transport <- createTransport host port 
  Right endpoint  <- newEndPoint transport

  let addr = EndPointAddress (fromString serverAddr)
  Right conn <- connect endpoint addr ReliableOrdered defaultConnectHints
  send conn [fromString "Hello world"]
  close conn

  replicateM_ 3 $ receive endpoint >>= print 

  closeTransport transport

Writing the server

The server (tutorial-server.hs) is slightly more complicated, but only slightly. As with the client, we start with a bunch of imports:

import Network.Transport
import Network.Transport.TCP (createTransport)
import Control.Concurrent
import Data.Map
import Control.Exception
import System.Environment

We will write the main function first:

main :: IO ()
main = do
  [host, port]    <- getArgs
  serverDone      <- newEmptyMVar
  Right transport <- createTransport host port 
  Right endpoint  <- newEndPoint transport
  forkIO $ echoServer endpoint serverDone 
  putStrLn $ "Echo server started at " ++ show (address endpoint)
  readMVar serverDone `onCtrlC` closeTransport transport

This is very similar to the main function for the client. We get the hostname and port number that the server should use and create a transport and an endpoint. Then we fork a thread to do the real work. We will write echoServer next; for now, suffices to note that echoServer will signal on the MVar serverDone when it completes, so that the main thread knows when to exit. Don’t worry about onCtrlC for now; it does what the name suggests.

The goal of echoServer is simple: whenever somebody opens a connection to us, open a connection to them; whenever somebody sends us a message, echo that message; and whenever somebody closes their connection to us, we are going to close our connection to them.

Event is defined in Network.Transport as

data Event = 
    Received ConnectionId [ByteString]
  | ConnectionClosed ConnectionId
  | ConnectionOpened ConnectionId Reliability EndPointAddress 
  | EndPointClosed

(there are few other events, which we are going to ignore). ConnectionIds help us distinguish messages sent on one connection from messages sent on another. In echoServer we are going to maintain a mapping from those ConnectionIds to the connections that we will use to reply:

  • Whenever somebody opens a connection, we open a connection in the other direction and add it to the map.
  • Whenever we receive a message, we lookup the corresponding return connection and echo the message back.
  • Whenever somebody closes the connection, we lookup and close the corresponding return connection.

Finally, when we receive the EndPointClosed message we signal to the main thread that we are doing and terminate. We will receive this message when the main thread calls closeTransport (that is, when the user presses Control-C).

echoServer :: EndPoint -> MVar () -> IO ()
echoServer endpoint serverDone = go empty
    go :: Map ConnectionId (MVar Connection) -> IO () 
    go cs = do
      event <- receive endpoint
      case event of
        ConnectionOpened cid rel addr -> do
          connMVar <- newEmptyMVar
          forkIO $ do
            Right conn <- connect endpoint addr rel defaultConnectHints
            putMVar connMVar conn 
          go (insert cid connMVar cs) 
        Received cid payload -> do
          forkIO $ do
            conn <- readMVar (cs ! cid)
            send conn payload 
            return ()
          go cs
        ConnectionClosed cid -> do 
          forkIO $ do
            conn <- readMVar (cs ! cid)
            close conn 
          go (delete cid cs) 
        EndPointClosed -> do
          putStrLn "Echo server exiting"
          putMVar serverDone ()

This implements almost exactly what we described above. The only complication is that we want to avoid blocking the receive queue; so for every message that comes in we spawn a new thread to deal with it. Since is therefore possible that we receive the Received event before an outgoing connection has been established, we map connection IDs to MVars containing connections.

Finally, we need to define onCtrlC; p onCtrlC q will run p; if this is interrupted by Control-C we run q and then try again:

onCtrlC :: IO a -> IO () -> IO a
p `onCtrlC` q = catchJust isUserInterrupt p (const $ q >> p `onCtrlC` q)
    isUserInterrupt :: AsyncException -> Maybe () 
    isUserInterrupt UserInterrupt = Just ()
    isUserInterrupt _             = Nothing


In this tutorial, we have implemented a small echo client and server to illustrate how the Network.Transport abstraction layer can be used.

See the Network.Transport wiki page for more details.