[Haskell-cafe] Doubting Haskell

Cale Gibbard cgibbard at gmail.com
Sat Feb 16 18:50:03 EST 2008

On 16/02/2008, Alan Carter <alangcarter at gmail.com> wrote:
> Then when all this was going on, question number five appeared: What
> the hell are these "lightweight Haskell threads"? Are they some kind
> of green threads running non-preemptively inside a single OS thread?
> Are they OS threads that could run concurrently on multi-core
> hardware? If they are green threads (and it sounds like they are) then
> this is all an academic exercise which has no production application
> yet.
> Best wishes - and still hoping I'm wrong after all
> Alan Carter

Sorry for missing this question in my first response. The answer of
course depends on the Haskell implementation in question, but of
course, we're talking about GHC here.

Haskell threads, in the sense of Control.Concurrent.forkIO, are
essentially a sort of green thread which is scheduled by the Haskell
runtime system. Threads can either be bound to a particular OS thread,
or (as is default), not be bound to a particular OS thread, allowing
the scheduler to manage n Haskell threads with m OS threads, where
usually you want to set m to something like the number of processors
in your machine.

I'm a little hazy on the details, and perhaps someone more familiar
with the GHC runtime can fill in some more details for you if you'd

Aside from Concurrent Haskell (which was originally designed for
single-processor concurrency and later extended to allow for
scheduling threads to execute in multiple OS threads), there is
Parallel Haskell, which is used to annotate pure computations for
parallelism (but since they're pure, there is no concurrency). At its
core, Parallel Haskell has an extremely simple programmer interface:

par :: a -> b -> b

Evaluation of an expression of the form (par x y) will cause x to be
put in a queue of expressions to be evaluated by a worker on some OS
thread, if there is free time, before resulting in y. If there is no
time to evaluate x on some processor before it is eventually needed,
then evaluation just proceeds normally, but if there is, then it won't
need evaluation later, due to the usual sharing from lazy evaluation.
>From this extremely simple form of parallel annotation, it's possible
to build lots of interesting mechanisms for carrying out evaluation in
parallel. You can read more about that in a paper titled "Algorithm +
Strategy = Parallelism" by PW Trinder, K Hammond, H-W Loidl and Simon
Peyton Jones, or check out the documentation for

 - Cale

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