[Haskell-cafe] STM and FFI

Arnar Birgisson arnarbi at gmail.com
Tue Sep 9 06:08:07 EDT 2008

On Tue, Sep 9, 2008 at 11:58, Jules Bean <jules at jellybean.co.uk> wrote:
>> Maybe this is an idea for an extension to the STM system, adding
>> something like unsafeIOToSTM, except that in addition to the main IO
>> action, it also takes two more IO actions that are invoked on rollback
>> and commit, respectively.
>> This might allow for integration with transactional systems (e.g. a
>> remote transaction on an rdbms), although to support two-phased commit
>> we'd need a third action for the "prepare" step.
> That would be an absolutely killer feature.
> A common problem in large systems is that the underlying RDBMS supports
> transactionality, but then the software layer has to handle its own
> rollbacks. I've seen some nasty bugs when the DB rolled back and the
> software didn't.
> If we could have a transactional RDBMS linked into STM with matching
> semantics, that would be a very nice thing.

I think this is entirely doable. For comparison we already have done
this with another STM framework, the DSTM2 library for Java. I.e. we
hooked into prepare, commit and rollback and integrated with both
MySQL transactions and a transactional file system library from Apache

I'm not yet involved enough with the GHC library code, but I guess
this would require the addition of a "prepare" phase to the STM code.

There's also the question of what to do when the remote TX system
indicates failure, should the transaction be retried or aborted? In
the DSTM2 case we make it abort and throws an exception encapsulating
the remote error to the code that initiated the TX (in Haskell's case,
the caller of atomically).

On a related note, we do have a paper on utilizing the STM system for
authorization and policy enforcement in general. The paper is to be
presented at CCS'08, and has an implementation on top of DSTM2, but we
have a technical report in the works that implements this on top of
the Haskell STM and gives operational semantics for the whole thing.

You can find the conference paper on my website:


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