Delaying code execution in Fiery

R, and thus fiery, is single threaded, meaning that every request must be handled one at a time. Because of this it is of utmost importance to keep the computation time for each request handling as low as possible so that the server does not become unresponsive. Still, sometimes you may need to perform long running computations as part of the server functionality. fiery comes with three different facilities for this, each with its own use case. All of them are build on top of the future package.

General format

All three methods have the same general API. They can recieve an expression to evaluate, as well as a then function to call once the evaluation eventually completes. The then function will recieve the result of the provided expression as well as the server itself. In general, any code that works on the server should be handled by the then function as the expression will not necessarily have access to the current environment. Thus, the expression should be as minimal as possible while still containing the heavy part of the calculations, while the then function should be used to act upon the result of the expression.

The general format is thus (using delay() as an example):

  # Heavy calculation
}, then = function(res, server) {
  # Do something with 'res' (the result of the expression) and 'server' the 
  # server object itself

Pushing execution to the end of a cycle

If it is important to achieve a fast response time, but server congestion is of lesser concern (the server might be used for a local app with only one user at a time), the delay() method can be used to push the evaluation of long running computation to the end of the current cycle. It will of course not be possible to return the result of the computation as part of the response, but e.g. a 202 response can be returned instead indicating that the request is being processed. In that way the client can act accordingly without appearing frozen. An alternative if a lengthy POST request is recieved is to return 303 with a reference to the URL where the result can be recieved.

Executing in another process

If long running computations are needed and congestion is an issue it does not help to simply push back execution to the end of the cycle as this will block requests while the code is evaluating. Instead it is possible to use the async() method to evaluate the expression in another thread. This method uses future::multiprocess() to evaluate the expression and may thus fork the current R process if supported (Unix systems) or start another R session (Windows). At the end of each cycle all async evaluations are checked for completion, and if completed the then function will be called with the result. If the async evaluation is not completed it will continue to churn.

Executing after a time interval

If code is meant to be evaluated after a certain amount of time has passed, use the time() method. In addition to expr and then, time() takes two additional arguments: after (the time in seconds to wait before evaluation) and loop (whether to repeat the timed evaluation after completion). Using loop = TRUE it is e.g. possible to continually check for state changes on the server and e.g. run some specific code if new files appear in a directory. In the end of each cycle all timed expressions will be checked for whether they should be evaluated and run if their specific time interval has passed.

Error handling

As both the expression and then function might throw errors they are evaluated in a safe context and any errors that might occur will be send to the server log without affecting other waiting evaluations.