Day14 - Elixir Processes

04/24/20191 Min Read — In Softwaredesign

Today's topic of Dave's video course was 'Elixir Processes'. This post will summarize the really most important information on this.

What an Elixir Process is - and what it is not!

An Elixir process (as in Erlang and the ErlangVM) represents the basic element for concurrency as well as for state management. The ErlangVM is designed to run hundreds of thousands of such small processes at a time. So in contrast to an operating system process, a process in the ErlangVM has much less memory and CPU footprint. It's the BEAM's job to manage scheduling of these processes (e.g. when and for how long will a process be executed).

Hands-on: Let's build a Stack

The following snippets describe the most important functions to operate with processes in Elixir:

  • my_stack = spawn(Stack, :loop, [])

    spawn creates a new process which executes the given function with the given arguments of the given module. In this case we create a new process which runs the function loop (2nd parameter) from a module called Stack (1st parameter) with no arguments (3rd parameter).

  • send(my_stack, {:push, 5})

    send is used to send a message to a process. In this case we would send a tuple to our my_stack process.

  • receive

    A process can wait for incoming message using the receive message. The incoming message will then be pattern matched as you can see in the following code snippet:

defmodule Stack do
# We use a recursive loop function for state managing.
# Within this loop we wait for messages from other processes.
def loop(elements \\ []) do
# print current stack elements
receive do
# pattern 1: push a new element on the stack
{:push, elem} ->
loop([elem | elements])
# pattern 1: pop the top element from the stack
:pop ->
# pattern 3: remove all items in the stack
:clear ->
# pattern 4: wildcard - handle unknown messages
unknown_message ->
IO.puts("ignoring unknown message '#{unknown_message}'")
# example usage
stack = spawn(Stack, :loop, [])
send(stack, {:push, 1})
send(stack, {:push, 2})
send(stack, :pop)
send(stack, {:push, 3})
send(stack, :pop)

Guys it's late, tomorrow I'll tell you more on that stuff :-)

See you then, bye!