Aja

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Extension of the Elixir standard library focused on data stuctures, data manipulation and performance.

Data structures

"there is one aspect of functional programming that no amount of cleverness on the part of the compiler writer is likely to mitigate — the use of inferior or inappropriate data structures." -- Chris Okasaki

Persistent vectors: A.Vector

A blazing fast, pure Elixir implementation of a persistent vector, meant to offer an efficient alternative to lists. Supports many operations like appends and random access in effective constant time.

iex> vector = A.Vector.new(1..10)
vec([1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10])
iex> A.Vector.append(vector, :foo)
vec([1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, :foo])
iex> vector[3]
4
iex> A.Vector.replace_at(vector, -1, :bar)
vec([1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, :bar])
iex> 3 in vector
true

A.Vector reimplements many of the functions from the Enum module specifically for vectors, with efficiency in mind. It should be easier to use from Elixir than Erlang's :array module and faster in most cases.

The A.vec/1 and A.vec_size/1 macros, while being totally optional, can make it easier to work with vectors and make pattern-matching possible:

iex> import A
iex> vec([a, 2, c, _d, e]) = A.Vector.new(1..5); {a, c, e}
{1, 3, 5}
iex> vec(first ||| last) = A.Vector.new(1..1_000_000); {first, last}
{1, 1000000}
iex> match?(v when vec_size(v) > 9, vec(1..10))
true

The A.+++/2 operator provides synctactic sugar for vector concatenation:

iex> vec([1, 2, 3]) +++ vec([4, 5])
vec([1, 2, 3, 4, 5])

Ordered maps: A.OrdMap

The standard library does not offer any similar functionality:

  • regular maps do not keep track of the insertion order
  • keywords do but they only support atoms and do not have the right performance characteristics (plain lists)
iex> %{"one" => 1, "two" => 2, "three" => 3}
%{"one" => 1, "three" => 3, "two" => 2}
iex> ord_map = A.OrdMap.new([{"one", 1}, {"two", 2}, {"three", 3}])
ord(%{"one" => 1, "two" => 2, "three" => 3})
iex> ord_map["two"]
2
iex> Enum.to_list(ord_map)
[{"one", 1}, {"two", 2}, {"three", 3}]

Ordered maps behave pretty much like regular maps, and the A.OrdMap module offers the same API as Map. The convenience macro A.ord/1 make them a breeze to instantiate or pattern-match upon:

iex> import A
iex> ord_map = ord(%{"一" => 1, "二" => 2, "三" => 3})
ord(%{"一" => 1, "二" => 2, "三" => 3})
iex> ord(%{"三" => three, "一" => one}) = ord_map
iex> {one, three}
{1, 3}

All data structures offer:

  • great performance characteristics at any size (see FAQ)
  • well-documented APIs that are consistent with the standard library
  • implementation of Inspect, Enumerable and Collectable protocols
  • implementation of the Access behaviour
  • (optional if Jason is installed) implemention of the Jason.Encoder protocol

Optimized Enum: A.Enum

A.Enum mirrors the Enum module, but its implementation is highly optimized for Aja structures such as A.Vector or A.OrdMap.

A.Enum on vectors/ord maps can be even faster than Enum on lists/maps, depending on the function and size of the sequence.

Utility functions

Sigil i for IO data

iex> import A
iex> ~i"atom: #{:foo}, charlist: #{'abc'}, number: #{12 + 2.35}\n"
["atom: ", "foo", ", charlist: ", 'abc', ", number: ", "14.35", 10]

Exclusive ranges: A.ExRange

iex> A.ExRange.new(0, 10) |> Enum.to_list()
[0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]
iex> import A
iex> Enum.map(0 ~> 5, &"id_#{&1}")
["id_0", "id_1", "id_2", "id_3", "id_4"]

Don't Break The Pipe!

iex> %{foo: "bar"} |> A.Pair.wrap(:noreply)
{:noreply, %{foo: "bar"}}
iex> {:ok, 55} |> A.Pair.unwrap!(:ok)
55

Various other convenience helpers

iex> A.String.slugify("> \"It Was Me, Dio!!!\"\n")
"it-was-me-dio"
iex> A.Integer.decimal_format(1234567)
"1,234,567"
iex> A.Integer.div_rem(7, 3)
{2, 1}
iex> A.List.repeat(&:rand.uniform/0, 3)
[0.7498295129076106, 0.06161655489244533, 0.7924073127680873]
iex> A.IO.iodata_empty?(["", []])
true

Nothing groundbreaking, but having these helpers to hand might save you the implementation and the testing, or bringing over a library just for this one thing.

Browse the API documentation for more details.

Installation

Aja can be installed by adding aja to your list of dependencies in mix.exs:

def deps do
  [
    {:aja, "~> 0.5.1"}
  ]
end

Documentation can be found at https://hexdocs.pm/aja.

About Aja

Inspirations

Goals

  • like the standard library, being delightful to use ✨️ (consistency with Elixir and itself, quality, documentation)
  • no external dependency to help you preserve a decent dependency tree
  • performance-conscious (right algorithm, proper benchmarking, fast compile times*)
  • mostly dead-simple pure functions: no configuration, no mandatory macro, no statefulness / OTP

(* while fast compile time is a target, vectors are optimized for fast runtime at the expense of compile time)

Non-goals

  • add every possible feature that has not been accepted in elixir core (Aja is opinionated!)
  • touching anything OTP-related / stateful

Resources

FAQ

How stable is it?

Aja is still pretty early stage and the high-level organisation is still in flux. Expect some breaking changes until it reaches maturity.

However, most of its APIs are based on the standard library and should therefore remain fairly stable.

Besides, Aja is tested quite thoroughly both with unit tests and property-based testing (especially for data structures). This effort is far from perfect, but increases our confidence in the overall reliability.

How is the performance?

Vectors

Most operations from A.Vector are much faster than Erlang's :array equivalents, and in some cases are even noticeably faster than equivalent list operations (map, folds, join, sum...). Make sure to read the performance guide from the doc.

Ordered maps

Performance for ordered maps has an inevitable though decent overhead over plain maps in terms of creation and update time (write operations), as well as memory usage, since some extra work is needed to keep track of the order. It has however very good read performance, with a very minimal overhead in terms of key access, and can be enumerated much faster than maps.

Aja 💖️ JIT

Aja's data structures (vectors and ordered maps) are already pretty fast on pre-JIT versions of OTP (<= 23). Benchmarks on OTP 24 suggest however that they are taking great advantage of the JIT, relative to lists/maps, making them even more interesting performance-wise.

Benchmarks

Aja data structures should work fine in most cases, but if you're considering them for performance-critical sections of your code, make sure to benchmark them.

Benchmarking is still a work in progress, but you can check the bench folder for more detailed figures.

Does Aja try to do too much?

The Unix philosophy of "Do one thing and do it well" is arguably the right approach in many cases. Aja doesn't really follow it, but there are conscious reasons for going that direction.

While it might be possible later down the road to split some of its components, there is no plan to do so at the moment.

First, we don't think there is any real downside of shipping "too much": Aja is and aims to remain lightweight and keep a modular structure. You can just use what you need without suffering from what you don't.

This lodash-like approach has benefits too: it aims to ship with a lot of convenience while introducing only one flat dependency. This can help staying out of two extreme paths:

  • the "leftpad way", where every project relies on a ton of small dependencies, ending up with un-manageable dependency trees and brittle software.
  • the "Lisp Curse way", where everybody keeps rewriting the same thing over and over because nobody wants the extra dependency. Being a hidden Lisp with similar super powers and expressiveness, Elixir might make it relatively easy and tempting to go down that path.

Finally, data structures can work more efficiently together than if they were separated libraries.

What are the next steps?

Nothing is set in stone, but the next steps will probably be:

  • complete the API for A.Enum and improve its ergonomics
  • more benchmarks and performance optimizations
  • investigate how to make a subset of Aja available on other BEAM languages

Aja is licensed under the MIT License.