» First Steps with Haskell for Web Applications #

Paul R. Brown @ 2006-10-10

As I blogged yesterday, I'm planning to build a simplified personal publishing system to host this blog, partially to get around resource consumption issues with the current platform and partially to get some exercise with a new language or two. I thought about Smalltalk, Erlang, and Io, but Haskell gets the initial nod if for no other reason than it's a third side of the coin that Ruby and Java are two sides of — rigorously defined, "purely" functional, lazy, "typeful" and compiles to native code via GHC. (And, of course, the syntax warms the cockles of my mathematician's heart.) Like Ruby with gems, the GHC runtime also has excellent modularity, with a minimal and standard core and good package management via Cabal. (Hello? Java?)

The first question is how to integrate an application written in Haskell into a web container, preferably a web server like lightTPD or Apache via FastCGI. (CGI would be a consideration, too, but that's just too retro for me.) Thankfully, as of the forthcoming 6.6 version, GHC has good CGI support via the Network.CGI module, and Björn Bringert has a FastCGI binding that built on the GHC 6.5 tip with only a little tinkering. (I wanted to use the core Network.CGI module in place of Björn's cgi-compat module.)

A "Hello, World" implementation using the FastCGI binding and then compiled to native code performed well on a basic smoke benchmark. Here's the relevant line from top for an instance of the handler:

  PID COMMAND      %CPU   TIME   #TH #PRTS #MREGS RPRVT  RSHRD  RSIZE  VSIZE
[...]
  234 hello.fcgi   0.0%  0:06.83   1    13    21   692K  1.63M  1.69M  29.0M
[...]

Benchmarking with ab shows that 5 handlers can happily crank through around 4000 requests/second with 99% of the requests requiring <2ms.

For comparison purposes and with an identical FastCGI configuration, the simplest possible Ruby on Rails "Hello, World" implementation (create test controller, edit the .rhtml to return content, wire-up FastCGI) consumes considerably more memory:

  PID COMMAND      %CPU   TIME   #TH #PRTS #MREGS RPRVT  RSHRD  RSIZE  VSIZE
[...]
  537 ruby1.8     12.1%  0:26.49   1    14    94  22.5M  3.35M  24.5M  54.5M
[...]

and only manages around 100 requests/second with ~50ms response time for the 50th percentile and ~400ms at the 99th percentile. (I recognize that I should probably put a sic. after the "only", since 100 requests/second is significantly in excess of the peak throughput that my blog sees on a good day.)

This is far from apples-to-apples, as the RoR version is doing a lot more work under the covers, but it does give me the expectation that I can probably get a Haskell blog implementation that will have a memory footprint smaller than a base irb and provide Slashdottable performance.

Next up, deciding on how to store/represent an entry and how to implement Atom for syndication.

 

→ 2006-10-18 — More Haskell and Personal Publishing Platform Ramblings