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Re: Strong Typing, Dynamic Languages, What to do?

Matthias Felleisen <matthias@ccs.neu.edu> writes:

> Chris, this is an interesting problem. Would you mind distilling the
> parsing problem so that we can perform stress tests and figure out whether
> we have a bottleneck? Thanks -- Matthias

Sure.  I'm not sure if the bottleneck is a problem of the
implementation or a problem with the programmer (me).  However, any
insight would be most welcome.  Here is an example message.  It
contains the top 5 bid and ask quotes for some symbol on a particular

This is a pseudo-FIX formatted message, with FIX being the "industry
standard" we muck it up quite a bit... so anyone familiar with real
FIX, my apologies.  :)


The fields of importance are:

35=...., which identifies the message type.  In this case, 535 means
it's a quote message from a particular ECN.  (Quotes from other ECNs
have different numbers, and other non-quote messages have other
numbers.  Every message type is unique per message.

Fields 206, 583, 587, 591, and 595 are the top 5 "bid" prices.
Fields 208, 585, 589, 593, and 597 are the top 5 "ask" prices.
Fields 207, 584, 588, 592, and 596 are the top 5 bid sizes (#shares avail)
Fields 209, 586, 590, 594, and 598 are the top 5 ask sizes (#shares avail)

(the size fields have appended a colon and then a number of orders.
For example 300:1 means 300 shares available due to one order.  300:2
would mean that there are two orders who add up to a total of 300
shares but you don't know how many shares there are per order, maybe
100,200, maybe 150,150, etc.)

201 is the stock symbol.  

One of these messages arrives whenever any quote in the top 5 price
levels changes. for any symbol.

10=0 is an "end of line" field.  It usually is a checksum but for
simplicity it's just zero.

(Sorry if this is too much detail.)

The other fields are not really important (sequence numbers, etc.)

There are several trading networks that originate quotes, and we need
to build a "book" of all the quotes that integrates all the quotes.
Prices of zero do not need to enter the book because they're not real

The representation is to have a "quote" object hold the price and
size, exchange-id, and symbol. 

(define-struct quote (price size exch-id symbol))

Each symbol will have a bid-list and an ask-list of the above quote

Basically the overall data structure is this:

  a symbol hashes to some "Symbol Data"

  Symbol Data contains two quote lists, the bid list and the ask list.

  Each quote list contains all the relevant quotes, stored in quote

(At least that's how I have it working in my C++ program.)

My challenge is to efficiently break the message down into pieces so I
can create these quote objects, and then add the new quotes to the
existing quote list, and remove the old quotes.  Alternatley, I could
simply update the existing quotes in-place if their position doesn't
need to change.  They're sorted by price.

I can handle the list manipulation in scheme, but I am having trouble
writing code to parse the string messages to produce/update the quote

The first part of the challenge is that there are many different
message types, and the parsing strategy depend on the value in field
35, which dictates which fields to expect and how to interpret them.
So the first thing I need to do is find field 35.  Then based on that,
I select my message-specific parser.  

(The above pseudo-FIX message is just one of about 100 messages types
we have, though the vast majority of messages will actually only be
from a handful of different types, and many of them are similar enough
to share the same parser.)

The fields are not necessarily in any particular order, either, making
it difficult for a single regular expression to work.  Also, the
specifications permit "new" fields to be added without notice, and the
code should ignore fields it doesn't know how to handle.

But for now, if I could just parse the above quote message quickly I
could probably figure out how to translate that technique to the other

Another problem is that I'm doing this in my "free time" as it's not
work my employers is paying me to do (but I think there is value in
doing it), and so I'm really not able to commit a lot of time to doing
this, at least not yet.  I think that a scriptable, dynamic language
adds great flexibility, though Ruby, Perl, and Python all have strong
proponents here (especially Perl), I'm the lonely "Scheme proponent"
here.  :)

Also, it looks like on the horizon (sometime this summer) the amount
of data will skyrocket, nearly at the levels of saturating a T1 line,
at which point I'm afraid that no single process would be able to keep
up, in any language, and then we'll be splitting the load among
different machines.  At this point I'm not sure what will be practical
anymore.  :(

Is character-by-character parsing viable in Scheme?  It seems awkward
to me.

The good news is that without actually parsing the data, but simply
reading in the lines using the mzScheme built-in TCP/IP code, the
following program is able to keep up with the data perfectly well:

Here is my "main loop" that is capable of keeping up:

  ;; fromshipper is the networked input data source

  (let ([sem (make-semaphore)]
        [q (make-queue)])

    (thread (lambda ()
              (let loop ([line (read-line fromshipper)])
                (queue-insert! q line)
                (semaphore-post sem)
                (loop (read-line fromshipper)))))

    (let loop ()
      (semaphore-wait sem)

      ;; TODO: process this data....

          (queue-pop! q)


I threaded it so that the network reader can always read.  The data
source does non-blocking writes and does not buffer data upon write
failure.  Therefore a write failure is inexcusable.  Clients simply
must keep up with the data or it corrupts.

The "process" function is not written yet, at least not in a way that
I can use.  That's the part where I'm stumbling.  The above is running
at the slowest part of the day, in uncompiled raw Scheme code, at
about 3% CPU.  That is very promising, and if push came to shove and I
really insisted upon it, I could split the load among more than one
machine (perhaps symbols A-M on one, N-Z on another, etc.) 

However, politically, the code must do as well as the C++ version
(that already works perfectly well) before it'd be accepted around

If it matters, the queue code is based on the queue discussion found
in "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs"

Does this approach look reasonable so far?

PS, I've never done multi-threaded code in Scheme before, and am
amazed at how much easier it is than in C++!  Wow!