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Fwd: GSOC Project discussion : Async sftp implementation

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Eshan Kelkar <eshankelkar@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, Mar 7, 2023 at 3:28 PM
Subject: Re: GSOC Project discussion : Async sftp implementation
To: Jakub Jelen <jjelen@xxxxxxxxxx>

Hello Jakub,

I would suggest starting from the benchmark code
> we have in tests/benchmarks/, which has an example of async donwload
> (but there is only the download part -- the upload part does not exist
> now).

As per your suggestion, I have read that example and have gone through the
source code to understand how the current async read is working using
sftp_async_read_begin and sftp_async_read. Please correct me if I am wrong
but the way I understand how the api currently works is like this.

First let me go through the synchronous read function which will help us to
better understand how the async read api works :

[sync_read refers to the sftp_read function in normal(blocking mode) in
sync_read(file_handle, buffer_to_read_into, count)
NOTE : In the text sftp session refers to the session corresponding to the
file_handle received in the  parameter

//Phase-1 (Registering the request)
Step- 1 : Get an id for this read request with respect to the sftp session
to the file whose handle is received in the parameter.
Step-2 : Pack  a ssh_buffer with the id, file handle, offset and count of
bytes to read.
Step-3 : Write a packet using sftp_packet_write to send a read request
along with
this ssh_buffer.
Step-4 : After a successful Step-3 free this ssh_buffer as its no longer
needed and
its data has been sent along with the packet

//Phase-2(Waiting for the request to get processed)
Now the packet gets sent along with the request id. The server processes it
and sends a packet back again containing the same id as in the request.
The id is kept the same to match the request and response. The incoming
from the server are read using sftp_packet_read_and_dispatch which reads a
and adds it to a queue of messages from the server corresponding to this
sftp session.

The waiting is done like this
read_and_dispatch - read a response packet and add message to queue
sftp_dequeue - try to dequeue a message from the queue corresponding to
the id we got in Phase-1 and assign whatever it returns to the msg
variable. In case
the queue doesn't contain any message with the id of Phase-1 the dequeue
returns NULL which gets assigned to msg and the loop runs again.
}//while(msg==NULL) ends

After we receive the message corresponding to the send request.
If the message contains some data(i.e msg->packet_type is SSH_FXP_DATA),
write that data in the location whose address has been received in the

So the loop of Phase-2 is responsible for the waiting, which is essentially
reading the
response packet adding the message received in it to a queue(corresponding
to a sftp session)
and then the loop checks whether the response received was corresponding to
the request sent
(matching of request and response based on the id of Phase-1) and if not
then the loop runs again.
}//sync_read ends

This explanation of synchronous read is important to understand how the
asynchronous read currently
works, asynchronous read api is divided into two functions
sftp_async_read_begin and sftp_async_read

sftp_async_read_begin(file_handle, count)
Phase-1's code(Registering request by sending a packet) of sync_read comes
and return the id for the request to the user which he'll pass while
calling sftp_async_read

sftp_async_read(file_handle, where_to_store, bytes_to_read, request_id)
Phase-2's code to wait for the response message corresponding to the
request with that
request_id as received in parameter and then writing the data which came in
that message
comes here

Now one problem I notice in this approach is that Phase-1's code for
a request involves the use of sftp_packet_write and sftp_packet_write
uses ssh_channel_write (defined in src/channels.c) and this
ssh_channel_write is synchronous
write (it may block if unable to write to the channel). Hence according to
me sftp_async_read_begin
may also block if say the channel corresponding to that sftp session is too
much saturated/dirty
with pending writes. So technically this operation is not an asynchronous
one, its synchronous in
the sense that the control will return after the packet for registering the
read request has been written
to the underlying send buffer (corresponding to the channel).

So is this current state of async read acceptable ?

One may argue that the chances of blocking in case of registering a read
request are less
because we're sending less info in the packet  : request id, from where we
have to read and from
what offset, but still a scope for blocking still exists and certainly this
kind of approach won't work for async write.
As in the write request we also send the data to write using
sftp_packet_write and in this case the chances of
blocking are significant if too much data is to be sent.

Kindly comment on my interpretation of the code, and answer whether the
current state of async
read is as desired or not. If not, please give a rough overview of how it
should be and
what is expected out of the async libssh api.
(For example - my interpretation of the async read is that user issues a
request using an api function call, the function returns and he continues
to do
what he wants to do while the the read request is handled by the api and
data received from the server is written to the buffer supplied by the
user. API has some
means to communicate[via callbacks or some data structure of which user has
to the user about the state of the operation)

Eshan Kelkar

On Sun, Mar 5, 2023 at 5:30 PM Jakub Jelen <jjelen@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> On 3/3/23 06:36, Eshan Kelkar wrote:
> > Hi, I am Eshan Kelkar and would like to create the async sftp for libssh
> > as the GSOC project. I have gone through liburing to understand what
> > async i/o is and how it is implemented using io_uring. So in this async
> > sftp implementation I believe we can place calls to the liburing api
> > functions from inside of the async sftp api functions so that things
> > occur asynchronously.
> >
> > Another approach that comes to my mind is that on a call to async sftp
> > api function a seperate thread gets created which does the waiting and
> > all and on completion places a call to the callback function notifying
> > that the operation has occurred. The second approach is async
> > conceptually as the user of api can continue his job after the call as
> > the waiting occurs on the separate thread but this approach seems a bit
> > "naive" as for each api call a new thread gets created which is resource
> > expensive.
> >
> > Kindly comment on these two approaches and suggest any other approach
> > which you have in mind to implement the async sftp api, those
> > suggestions will help me prepare better before sending in the proposal.
> Hello Eshan,
> first of all, sorry for late reply. I saw your message on IRC, but
> before I got back to reply, you were already away so thank you for
> patience to reach out to us on other channels.
> The async SFTP implementation is one of our priorities and one of the
> more complicated tasks. I would suggest starting from the benchmark code
> we have in tests/benchmarks/, which has an example of async donwload
> (but there is only the download part -- the upload part does not exist
> now).
> I do not think it is a good idea to spawn more threads as it would
> require a lot of synchronization. The example in the benchmarks can run
> several download requests from a single thread, which can help saturate
> the network connection without the need for threads.
> I did not read much about io_uring yet, but it sounds like it solves the
> issues we have with speed of synchronous writes/reads caused by context
> switching so this would be our preference. There are already some
> hints/comments in the following issues, so if you will have some more
> questions, comments, feel free to ask here or in either of the following
> issues:
> https://gitlab.com/libssh/libssh-mirror/-/issues/65
> https://gitlab.com/libssh/libssh-mirror/-/issues/124
> Regards,
> --
> Jakub Jelen
> Crypto Team, Security Engineering
> Red Hat, Inc.

Re: GSOC Project discussion : Async sftp implementationEshan Kelkar <eshankelkar@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
GSOC Project discussion : Async sftp implementationEshan Kelkar <eshankelkar@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Re: GSOC Project discussion : Async sftp implementationJakub Jelen <jjelen@xxxxxxxxxx>
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