lchannels is a Scala library for type-safe session programming. It provides linear I/O channels, which allow to transfer data locally, or over a network. Its API allows to (1) define protocols, represented as a set of continuation-passing style classes, and (2) easily write programs that interact according to such protocols. The Scala type checker can examine the resulting code and spot many protocol violations at compile time.

An example

Consider a simple ATM, which is supposed to implement the following session protocol:

Such a protocol can be represented with the following continuation-passing style classes (where Out[A] is an output channel endpoint carrying an A-typed message, and the cont fields describe how the session continues):

case class Authenticate(card: String, pin: String)(val cont: Out[Response])

sealed abstract class Response  // Authentication response from the ATM
case class Failure()                       extends Response 
case class Success()(val cont: Out[Menu])  extends Response

sealed abstract class Menu      // Choices available to authenticated user
case class CheckBalance()(val cont: Out[Balance])  extends Menu
case class Quit()                                  extends Menu

case class Balance(amount: Int) // User account balance

Then, the ATM can be implemented with the following Scala code (where the method In[A].? allows to receive an A-typed message, while Out[A].! and Out[A].!! allow to send an A-typed message):

def atm(c: In[Authenticate]) = {
  c ? { auth =>
    if (!authenticated(auth.card, {
      auth.cont ! Failure()
    } else {
      ( auth.cont !! Success()_ ) ? {
        case m @ CheckBalance() => m.cont ! Balance(42)
        case Quit()             => ()
} } } }

The Scala compiler will ensure that the ATM program does not send the wrong type of message (e.g., trying to send Balance when Success/Failure are expected), and that it does not forget to handle some valid user requests (e.g., it will warn if the Quit case is missing). This way, many protocol violations are detected at compile time; other protocol safety errors (e.g., duplicate outputs) are detected at runtime --- and in this case, lchannels raises errors and prevents out-of-protocol messages to be sent.

Notably, In[A] and Out[A] abstract the underlying message transport: the atm() method above can interact with an user process e.g. via local data queues, or through a TCP/IP socket. As a result, the protocol logic and its low-level details are decoupled.

Documentation and publications

The theory and practice of session programming with lchannels is presented in the following papers: they explain how protocols (formalised as session types) can be represented in Scala using lchannels with continuation-passing style classes, and discusses the main features of the library.

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NOTE: newer versions of lchannels available on GitHub have some differences and improvements.

Downloading, compiling and testing

You can download lchannels from its GitHub repository.

To compile an test the code, you can follow these instructions.