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Re: Design question: handling hundreds of state machines in a Web context

by sundialsvc4 (Abbot)
on Jan 02, 2013 at 21:07 UTC ( #1011346=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Design question: handling hundreds of state machines in a Web context

It appears to me, technically speaking, that you actually have a pretty well-defined situation:   each Web session can be identified (through login-information maintained by cookies) to belong to a particular “customer,” hence to a particular (by some means selected...) “state machine” (“workflow”), and hence, per-session, to a particular flow point (“present state”) within that workflow ... by which the current set of POST or GET inputs can be responded-to.

There are already numerous workflow-driven architectures in CPAN, e.g. POE, which, even if they are not entirely applicable, certainly can be used as architectural examples.   Yes, you probably will need to “hard-code the actions,” and there are many examples such as these of potential infrastructure. (Edit: AnyEvent?   Others?   Definitely ... check ’em out.   CPAN’s your oyster and your cornucopia ...)

Thinking off-the-shelf about this, I think that the individual request processing sequence (as implemented e.g. by Catalyst and supported by PostGres or whatever-other state backing store), would be:

  1. Identify the user session in the customary way.   (Catalyst handles this...)
  2. From the session information, determine what state-machine definition is being used and the present state.   Instantiate that state-machine and set it to the present state.
  3. Submit the inputs to the state machine and gather its response.
  4. Update the new-state information into the session data store.
  5. Return the information provided by the state-machine to the user.
  6. Clean-up in anticipation of the forthcoming next request.

In this model, it doesn’t matter how many users there are, nor how many finite state-machines (FSMs) there are, as long as the state machines follow some predictable taxonomy constructed from a reasonably flexible set of underlying, Perl-implemented primitive actions.   You instantiate the FSM, feed it inputs, save its new-state, return its outputs to the client, and you’re done.   That is certainly a well-trod footpath... and infinitely scalable.

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