Threads may not be be best way, or the only way, to scale out your code. Multi-process solutions seem more and more attractive to me.
Unfortunately multi-process and the JVM are currently two tastes that don’t taste great together. You can do it, but it’s not the kind of thing you want to do too much. So, the Jruby guys had a problem — Rail’s scalability story is only multi-process (rails core is NOT thread safe), and Java’s not so good that that….
Solution: Running “multiple isolated execution environments” in a single java process.
I think that’s a neat hack. The JRuby team is to be congratulated in making this work. It lets Rails mix multi-process concurrency with multi-threaded concurrency, if only on the JVM. But it’s likely to incur some memory bloat, so it’s probably not as good as it would be if Rails itself were to become threadsafe.
I’m not sure that the Jython folks have done anything like this. And I’m not sure they should. It’s a solution python folks don’t really have. Django used to have some thread-safety issues, but those have been worked out on some level. While the Django people aren’t promising anything about thread safety, it seems that there are enough people using it in a multi-threaded environment to notice if anything’s not working right.
At the same time, TurboGears has been threadsafe, from the beginning, as has Pylons, Zope, and many other python web dev tools. The point is, you have good web-framework options, without resorting to multiple python environments in one JVM.
Why you actually want multi-threaded execution…
In TurboGears we’ve found that the combination of both multi-threaded and multi-process concurrency works significantly better than either one would alone. This allows us to use threads to maximize the throughput of one process up to the point where python’s interpreter lock becomes the bottleneck, and use multi-processing to scale beyond that point, and to provide additional system redundancy.
A multi threaded system is particularly important for people who use Windows, which makes multi-process computing much more memory intensive than it needs to be. As my Grandma always said Windows “can’t fork worth a damn.” ;)
But, given how hard multi-threaded computing can be to get right TurboGears and related projects work hard to keep our threads isolated and not manipulate any shared resources across threads. So, really it’s kinda like shared-memory optimized micro-processes running inside larger OS level processes, and that makes multi-threaded applications a lot more reasonable to wrap your brain around. Once you start down the path of lock managment the non-deterministic character of the system can quickly overwhelm your brain.
As far as i can see, the same would be true for a Ruby web server in Ruby 1.9, where there is both OS level thread support and an interpreter lock.
I’m well aware of the fact that stackless, twisted, and Nginx have proved that there are other (asynchronous) methods that can easily outperform the multi-threaded+multi-process model throughput/concurrency per unit of server hardware. The async model requires thinking about the problem space pretty differently, so it’s not a drop in replacement, but for some problems async is definitely the way to go.
Anyway, hats off to the Jruby team, and here’s hoping that Rails itself becomes threadsafe at some point in the future.