Elixir v1.7.0-dev Supervisor behaviour View Source

A behaviour module for implementing supervisors.

A supervisor is a process which supervises other processes, which we refer to as child processes. Supervisors are used to build a hierarchical process structure called a supervision tree. Supervision trees provide fault-tolerance and encapsulate how our applications start and shutdown.

A supervisor may be started directly with a list of children via start_link/2 or you may define a module-based supervisor that implements the required callbacks. The sections below use start_link/2 to start supervisors in most examples, but it also includes a specific section on module-based ones.

Examples

In order to start a supervisor, we need to first define a child process that will be supervised. As an example, we will define a GenServer that represents a stack:

defmodule Stack do
  use GenServer

  def start_link(state) do
    GenServer.start_link(__MODULE__, state, name: __MODULE__)
  end

  ## Callbacks

  @impl true
  def init(stack) do
    {:ok, stack}
  end

  @impl true
  def handle_call(:pop, _from, [head | tail]) do
    {:reply, head, tail}
  end

  @impl true
  def handle_cast({:push, head}, tail) do
    {:noreply, [head | tail]}
  end
end

The stack is a small wrapper around lists. It allows us to put an element on the top of the stack, by prepending to the list, and to get the top of the stack by pattern matching.

We can now start a supervisor that will start and supervise our stack process. The first step is to define a list of child specifications that control how each child behaves. Each child specification is a map, as shown below:

children = [
  # The Stack is a child started via Stack.start_link([:hello])
  %{
    id: Stack,
    start: {Stack, :start_link, [[:hello]]}
  }
]

# Now we start the supervisor with the children and a strategy
{:ok, pid} = Supervisor.start_link(children, strategy: :one_for_one)

# After started, we can query the supervisor for information
Supervisor.count_children(pid)
#=> %{active: 1, specs: 1, supervisors: 0, workers: 1}

Notice that when starting the GenServer, we are registering it with name Stack, which allows us to call it directly and get what is on the stack:

GenServer.call(Stack, :pop)
#=> :hello

GenServer.cast(Stack, {:push, :world})
#=> :ok

GenServer.call(Stack, :pop)
#=> :world

However, there is a bug in our stack server. If we call :pop and the stack is empty, it is going to crash because no clause matches:

GenServer.call(Stack, :pop)
** (exit) exited in: GenServer.call(Stack, :pop, 5000)

Luckily, since the server is being supervised by a supervisor, the supervisor will automatically start a new one, with the initial stack of [:hello]:

GenServer.call(Stack, :pop)
#=> :hello

Supervisors support different strategies; in the example above, we have chosen :one_for_one. Furthermore, each supervisor can have many workers and/or supervisors as children, with each one having its own configuration (as outlined in the “Child specification” section).

The rest of this document will cover how child processes are started, how they can be specified, different supervision strategies and more.

Start and shutdown

When the supervisor starts, it traverses all child specifications and then starts each child in the order they are defined. This is done by calling the function defined under the :start key in the child specification and typically defaults to start_link/1.

The start_link/1 (or a custom) is then called for each child process. The start_link/1 function must return {:ok, pid} where pid is the process identifier of a new process that is linked to the supervisor. The child process usually starts its work by executing the init/1 callback. Generally speaking, the init callback is where we initialize and configure the child process.

The shutdown process happens in reverse order.

When a supervisor shuts down, it terminates all children in the opposite order they are listed. The termination happens by sending a shutdown exit signal, via Process.exit(child_pid, :shutdown), to the child process and then awaiting for a time interval for the child process to terminate. This interval defaults to 5000 milliseconds. If the child process does not terminate in this interval, the supervisor abruptly terminates the child with reason :kill. The shutdown time can be configured in the child specification which is fully detailed in the next section.

If the child process is not trapping exits, it will shutdown immediately when it receives the first exit signal. If the child process is trapping exits, then the terminate callback is invoked, and the child process must terminate in a reasonable time interval before being abruptly terminated by the supervisor.

In other words, if it is important that a process cleans after itself when your application or the supervision tree is shutting down, then this process must trap exits and its child specification should specify the proper :shutdown value, ensuring it terminates within a reasonable interval.

Now that we understand the start and shutdown process, let’s take a complete look at all of the options provided in the child specification.

Child specification

The child specification describes how the supervisor starts, shuts down, and restarts child processes.

The child specification contains 5 keys. The first two are required, and the remaining ones are optional:

  • :id - a value used to identify the child specification internally by the supervisor; defaults to the given module. In the case of conflicting :id values, the supervisor will refuse to initialize and require explicit IDs. This key is required.

  • :start - a tuple with the module-function-args to be invoked to start the child process. This key is required.

  • :restart - an atom that defines when a terminated child process should be restarted (see the “Restart values” section below). This key is optional and defaults to :permanent.

  • :shutdown - an atom that defines how a child process should be terminated (see the “Shutdown values” section below). This key is optional and defaults to 5000 if the type is :worker or :infinity if the type is :supervisor.

  • :type - specifies that the child process is a :worker or a :supervisor. This key is optional and defaults to :worker.

There is a sixth key, :modules, that is rarely changed. It is set automatically based on the value in :start.

Let’s understand what the :shutdown and :restart options control.

Shutdown values (:shutdown)

The following shutdown values are supported in the :shutdown option:

  • :brutal_kill - the child process is unconditionally and immediately terminated using Process.exit(child, :kill).

  • any integer >= 0 - the amount of time in milliseconds that the supervisor will wait for children to terminate after emitting a Process.exit(child, :shutdown) signal. If the child process is not trapping exits, the initial :shutdown signal will terminate the child process immediately. If the child process is trapping exits, it has the given amount of time in milliseconds to terminate. If it doesn’t terminate within the specified time, the child process is unconditionally terminated by the supervisor via Process.exit(child, :kill).

  • :infinity - works as an integer except the supervisor will wait indefinitely for the child to terminate. If the child process is a supervisor, the recommended value is :infinity to give the supervisor and its children enough time to shutdown. This option can be used with regular workers but doing so is discouraged and requires extreme care. If not used carefully, the child process will never terminate, preventing your application from terminating as well.

Restart values (:restart)

The :restart option controls what the supervisor should consider to be a successful termination or not. If the termination is successful, the supervisor won’t restart the child. If the child process crashed, the supervisor will start a new one.

The following restart values are supported in the :restart option:

  • :permanent - the child process is always restarted.

  • :temporary - the child process is never restarted, regardless of the supervision strategy: any termination (even abnormal) is considered successful.

  • :transient - the child process is restarted only if it terminates abnormally, i.e., with an exit reason other than :normal, :shutdown, or {:shutdown, term}.

For a more complete understanding of the exit reasons and their impact, see the “Exit reasons and restarts” section.

child_spec/1

When starting a supervisor, we pass a list of child specifications. Those specifications are maps that tell how the supervisor should start, stop and restart each of its children:

%{
  id: Stack,
  start: {Stack, :start_link, [[:hello]]}
}

The map above defines a supervisor with :id of Stack that is started by calling Stack.start_link([:hello]).

However, specifying the child specification for each child as a map can be quite error prone, as we may change the Stack implementation and forget to update its specification. That’s why Elixir allows you to pass a tuple with the module name and the start_link argument instead of the specification:

children = [
  {Stack, [:hello]}
]

The supervisor will then invoke Stack.child_spec([:hello]) to retrieve a child specification. Now the Stack module is responsible for building its own specification. By default, use GenServer defines a Stack.child_spec/1 function which returns the same child specification we had before:

%{
  id: Stack,
  start: {Stack, :start_link, [[:hello]]}
}

It is also possible to simply pass the Stack module as a child:

children = [
  Stack
]

When only the module name is given, it is equivalent to {Stack, []}. In this case, we will end-up with a child specification that looks like this:

%{
  id: Stack,
  start: {Stack, :start_link, [[]]}
}

By replacing the map specification by {Stack, [:hello]} or Stack, we keep the child specification encapsulated in the Stack module, using the default implementation defined by use GenServer. We can now share our Stack worker with other developers and they can add it directly to their supervision tree without worrying about the low-level details of the worker.

Overall, the child specification can be one of:

  • a map representing the child specification itself - as outlined in the “Child specification” section
  • a tuple with a module as first element and the start argument as second - such as {Stack, [:hello]}. In this case, Stack.child_spec([:hello]) is called to retrieve the child specification
  • a module - such as Stack. In this case, Stack.child_spec([]) is called to retrieve the child specification

If you need to convert how a tuple or module child specification to a map or modify a child specification, you can use the Supervisor.child_spec/2 function. For example, to run the stack with a different :id and a :shutdown value of 10 seconds (10_000 milliseconds):

children = [
  Supervisor.child_spec({Stack, [:hello]}, id: MyStack, shutdown: 10_000)
]

The call to Supervisor.child_spec/2 above will return the following specification:

%{
  id: MyStack,
  start: {Stack, :start_link, [[:hello]]},
  shutdown: 10_000
}

You may also configure the child specification in the Stack module itself to use a different :id or :shutdown value by passing options to use GenServer:

defmodule Stack do
  use GenServer, id: MyStack, shutdown: 10_000

The options above will customize the Stack.child_spec/1 function defined by use GenServer. It accepts the same options as the Supervisor.child_spec/2 function.

You may also completely override the child_spec/1 function in the Stack module and return your own child specification. Note there is no guarantee the child_spec/1 function will be called by the Supervisor process, as other processes may invoke it to retrieve the child specification before reaching the supervisor.

Exit reasons and restarts

A supervisor restarts a child process depending on its :restart configuration. For example, when :restart is set to :transient, the supervisor does not restart the child in case it exits with reason :normal, :shutdown or {:shutdown, term}.

So one may ask: which exit reason should I choose when exiting? There are three options:

  • :normal - in such cases, the exit won’t be logged, there is no restart in transient mode, and linked processes do not exit

  • :shutdown or {:shutdown, term} - in such cases, the exit won’t be logged, there is no restart in transient mode, and linked processes exit with the same reason unless they’re trapping exits

  • any other term - in such cases, the exit will be logged, there are restarts in transient mode, and linked processes exit with the same reason unless they’re trapping exits

Notice that supervisor that reached maximum restart intensity will exit with :shutdown reason. In this case the supervisor will only be restarted if its child specification was defined with the :restart option set to :permanent (the default).

Module-based supervisors

In the example above, a supervisor was started by passing the supervision structure to start_link/2. However, supervisors can also be created by explicitly defining a supervision module:

defmodule MyApp.Supervisor do
  # Automatically defines child_spec/1
  use Supervisor

  def start_link(arg) do
    Supervisor.start_link(__MODULE__, arg, name: __MODULE__)
  end

  @impl true
  def init(_arg) do
    children = [
      {Stack, [:hello]}
    ]

    Supervisor.init(children, strategy: :one_for_one)
  end
end

The difference between the two approaches is that a module-based supervisor gives you more direct control over how the supervisor is initialized. Instead of calling Supervisor.start_link/2 with a list of children that are automatically initialized, we manually initialized the children by calling Supervisor.init/2 inside its init/1 callback.

use Supervisor also defines a child_spec/1 function which allows us to run MyApp.Supervisor as a child of another supervisor:

children = [
  MyApp.Supervisor
]

Supervisor.start_link(children, strategy: :one_for_one)

A general guideline is to use the supervisor without a callback module only at the top of your supervision tree, generally in the Application.start/2 callback. We recommend using module-based supervisors for any other supervisor in your application, so they can run as a child of another supervision in the tree. The generated child_spec/1 can be customized with the following options:

  • :id - the child specification id, defaults to the current module
  • :start - how to start the child process (defaults to calling __MODULE__.start_link/1)
  • :restart - when the supervisor should be restarted, defaults to :permanent

So far we have started the supervisor passing a single child as a tuple as well as a strategy called :one_for_one:

Supervisor.start_link([
  {Stack, [:hello]}
], strategy: :one_for_one)

or from inside the init/1 callback:

Supervisor.init([
  {Stack, [:hello]}
], strategy: :one_for_one)

The first argument given to start_link/2 and init/2 is a list of child specifications as defined in the “child_spec/1” section above.

The second argument is a keyword list of options:

  • :strategy - the supervision strategy option. It can be either :one_for_one, :rest_for_one or :one_for_all. Required. See the “Strategies” section.

  • :max_restarts - the maximum number of restarts allowed in a time frame. Defaults to 3.

  • :max_seconds - the time frame in which :max_restarts applies. Defaults to 5.

  • :name - a name to register the supervisor process. Supported values are explained in the “Name registration” section of the documentation of GenServer. Optional.

Strategies

Supervisors support different supervision strategies (through the :strategy option, as seen above):

  • :one_for_one - if a child process terminates, only that process is restarted.

  • :one_for_all - if a child process terminates, all other child processes are terminated and then all child processes (including the terminated one) are restarted.

  • :rest_for_one - if a child process terminates, the “rest” of the child processes, i.e., the child processes after the terminated one in start order, are terminated. Then the terminated child process and the rest of the child processes are restarted.

In the above, process termination refers to unsuccessful termination, which is determined by the :restart option.

There is also a deprecated strategy called :simple_one_for_one which has been replaced by the DynamicSupervisor. The :simple_one_for_one supervisor was similar to :one_for_one but suits better when dynamically attaching children. Many functions in this module behaved slightly differently when this strategy is used. See the DynamicSupervisor module for more information and migration strategies.

Name registration

A supervisor is bound to the same name registration rules as a GenServer. Read more about these rules in the documentation for GenServer.

Link to this section Summary

Types

The supervisor specification

Options given to start_link/2 and init/2

The Supervisor name

Return values of start_link functions

Return values of start_child functions

Option values used by the start* functions

Options used by the start* functions

Supported strategies

The supervisor reference

Functions

Builds and overrides a child specification

Returns a map containing count values for the given supervisor

Deletes the child specification identified by child_id

Receives a list of children to initialize and a set of options

Restarts a child process identified by child_id

Adds a child specification to supervisor and starts that child

Starts a supervisor with the given children

Starts a module-based supervisor process with the given module and arg

Synchronously stops the given supervisor with the given reason

Terminates the given child identified by child id

Returns a list with information about all children of the given supervisor

Callbacks

Callback invoked to start the supervisor and during hot code upgrades

Link to this section Types

Link to this type child() View Source
child() :: pid() | :undefined
Link to this type child_spec() View Source
child_spec() :: %{
  :id => term(),
  :start => {module(), atom(), [term()]},
  optional(:restart) => :permanent | :transient | :temporary,
  optional(:shutdown) => timeout() | :brutal_kill,
  optional(:type) => :worker | :supervisor,
  optional(:modules) => [module()] | :dynamic
}

The supervisor specification

Link to this type init_option() View Source
init_option() ::
  {:strategy, strategy()}
  | {:max_restarts, non_neg_integer()}
  | {:max_seconds, pos_integer()}

Options given to start_link/2 and init/2

Link to this type name() View Source
name() :: atom() | {:global, term()} | {:via, module(), term()}

The Supervisor name

Link to this type on_start() View Source
on_start() ::
  {:ok, pid()}
  | :ignore
  | {:error, {:already_started, pid()} | {:shutdown, term()} | term()}

Return values of start_link functions

Link to this type on_start_child() View Source
on_start_child() ::
  {:ok, child()}
  | {:ok, child(), info :: term()}
  | {:error, {:already_started, child()} | :already_present | term()}

Return values of start_child functions

Link to this type option() View Source
option() :: {:name, name()} | init_option()

Option values used by the start* functions

Link to this type options() View Source
options() :: [option(), ...]

Options used by the start* functions

Link to this type strategy() View Source
strategy() :: :one_for_one | :one_for_all | :rest_for_one

Supported strategies

Link to this type supervisor() View Source
supervisor() :: pid() | name() | {atom(), node()}

The supervisor reference

Link to this section Functions

Link to this function child_spec(module_or_map, overrides) View Source
child_spec(child_spec() | {module(), arg :: term()} | module(), keyword()) ::
  child_spec()

Builds and overrides a child specification.

Similar to start_link/2 and init/2, it expects a module, {module, arg} or a map as the child specification. If a module is given, the specification is retrieved by calling module.child_spec(arg).

After the child specification is retrieved, the fields on overrides are directly applied on the child spec. If overrides has keys that do not map to any child specification field, an error is raised.

See the “Child specification” section in the module documentation for all of the available keys for overriding.

Examples

This function is often used to set an :id option when the same module needs to be started multiple times in the supervision tree:

Supervisor.child_spec({Agent, fn -> :ok end}, id: {Agent, 1})
#=> %{id: {Agent, 1},
#=>   start: {Agent, :start_link, [fn -> :ok end]}}
Link to this function count_children(supervisor) View Source
count_children(supervisor()) :: %{
  specs: non_neg_integer(),
  active: non_neg_integer(),
  supervisors: non_neg_integer(),
  workers: non_neg_integer()
}

Returns a map containing count values for the given supervisor.

The map contains the following keys:

  • :specs - the total count of children, dead or alive

  • :active - the count of all actively running child processes managed by this supervisor

  • :supervisors - the count of all supervisors whether or not these child supervisors are still alive

  • :workers - the count of all workers, whether or not these child workers are still alive

Link to this function delete_child(supervisor, child_id) View Source
delete_child(supervisor(), term()) :: :ok | {:error, error}
when error: :not_found | :simple_one_for_one | :running | :restarting

Deletes the child specification identified by child_id.

The corresponding child process must not be running; use terminate_child/2 to terminate it if it’s running.

If successful, this function returns :ok. This function may return an error with an appropriate error tuple if the child_id is not found, or if the current process is running or being restarted.

Link to this function init(children, options) View Source
init([:supervisor.child_spec() | {module(), term()} | module()], [init_option()]) ::
  {:ok, tuple()}

Receives a list of children to initialize and a set of options.

This is typically invoked at the end of the init/1 callback of module-based supervisors. See the sections “Module-based supervisors” and “start_link/2, init/2 and strategies” in the module documentation for more information.

This function returns a tuple containing the supervisor flags and child specifications.

Examples

def init(_arg) do
  Supervisor.init([
    {Stack, [:hello]}
  ], strategy: :one_for_one)
end

Options

  • :strategy - the supervision strategy option. It can be either :one_for_one, :rest_for_one, :one_for_all, or the deprecated :simple_one_for_one.

  • :max_restarts - the maximum number of restarts allowed in a time frame. Defaults to 3.

  • :max_seconds - the time frame in which :max_restarts applies. Defaults to 5.

The :strategy option is required and by default a maximum of 3 restarts is allowed within 5 seconds. Check the Supervisor module for a detailed description of the available strategies.

Link to this function restart_child(supervisor, child_id) View Source
restart_child(supervisor(), term()) ::
  {:ok, child()} | {:ok, child(), term()} | {:error, error}
when error: :not_found | :simple_one_for_one | :running | :restarting | term()

Restarts a child process identified by child_id.

The child specification must exist and the corresponding child process must not be running.

Note that for temporary children, the child specification is automatically deleted when the child terminates, and thus it is not possible to restart such children.

If the child process start function returns {:ok, child} or {:ok, child, info}, the PID is added to the supervisor and this function returns the same value.

If the child process start function returns :ignore, the PID remains set to :undefined and this function returns {:ok, :undefined}.

This function may return an error with an appropriate error tuple if the child_id is not found, or if the current process is running or being restarted.

If the child process start function returns an error tuple or an erroneous value, or if it fails, this function returns {:error, error}.

Link to this function start_child(supervisor, child_spec) View Source
start_child(
  supervisor(),
  :supervisor.child_spec() | {module(), term()} | module() | [term()]
) :: on_start_child()

Adds a child specification to supervisor and starts that child.

child_spec should be a valid child specification. The child process will be started as defined in the child specification.

If a child specification with the specified id already exists, child_spec is discarded and this function returns an error with :already_started or :already_present if the corresponding child process is running or not, respectively.

If the child process start function returns {:ok, child} or {:ok, child, info}, then child specification and PID are added to the supervisor and this function returns the same value.

If the child process start function returns :ignore, the child specification is added to the supervisor, the PID is set to :undefined and this function returns {:ok, :undefined}.

If the child process start function returns an error tuple or an erroneous value, or if it fails, the child specification is discarded and this function returns {:error, error} where error is a term containing information about the error and child specification.

Link to this function start_link(children, options) View Source
start_link(
  [:supervisor.child_spec() | {module(), term()} | module()],
  options()
) :: on_start()
start_link(module(), term()) :: on_start()

Starts a supervisor with the given children.

The children is a list of modules, 2-element tuples with module and arguments or a map with the child specification. A strategy is required to be provided through the :strategy option. See “start_link/2, init/2 and strategies” for examples and other options.

The options can also be used to register a supervisor name. The supported values are described under the “Name registration” section in the GenServer module docs.

If the supervisor and its child processes are successfully spawned (if the start function of each child process returns {:ok, child}, {:ok, child, info}, or :ignore) this function returns {:ok, pid}, where pid is the PID of the supervisor. If the supervisor is given a name and a process with the specified name already exists, the function returns {:error, {:already_started, pid}}, where pid is the PID of that process.

If the start function of any of the child processes fails or returns an error tuple or an erroneous value, the supervisor first terminates with reason :shutdown all the child processes that have already been started, and then terminates itself and returns {:error, {:shutdown, reason}}.

Note that a supervisor started with this function is linked to the parent process and exits not only on crashes but also if the parent process exits with :normal reason.

Link to this function start_link(module, arg, options \\ []) View Source
start_link(module(), term(), GenServer.options()) :: on_start()

Starts a module-based supervisor process with the given module and arg.

To start the supervisor, the init/1 callback will be invoked in the given module, with arg as its argument. The init/1 callback must return a supervisor specification which can be created with the help of the init/2 function.

If the init/1 callback returns :ignore, this function returns :ignore as well and the supervisor terminates with reason :normal. If it fails or returns an incorrect value, this function returns {:error, term} where term is a term with information about the error, and the supervisor terminates with reason term.

The :name option can also be given in order to register a supervisor name, the supported values are described in the “Name registration” section in the GenServer module docs.

Link to this function stop(supervisor, reason \\ :normal, timeout \\ :infinity) View Source
stop(supervisor(), reason :: term(), timeout()) :: :ok

Synchronously stops the given supervisor with the given reason.

It returns :ok if the supervisor terminates with the given reason. If it terminates with another reason, the call exits.

This function keeps OTP semantics regarding error reporting. If the reason is any other than :normal, :shutdown or {:shutdown, _}, an error report is logged.

Link to this function terminate_child(supervisor, child_id) View Source
terminate_child(supervisor(), term()) :: :ok | {:error, error}
when error: :not_found | :simple_one_for_one

Terminates the given child identified by child id.

The process is terminated, if there’s one. The child specification is kept unless the child is temporary.

A non-temporary child process may later be restarted by the supervisor. The child process can also be restarted explicitly by calling restart_child/2. Use delete_child/2 to remove the child specification.

If successful, this function returns :ok. If there is no child specification for the given child id, this function returns {:error, :not_found}.

Link to this function which_children(supervisor) View Source
which_children(supervisor()) :: [
  {term() | :undefined, child() | :restarting, :worker | :supervisor,
   :supervisor.modules()}
]

Returns a list with information about all children of the given supervisor.

Note that calling this function when supervising a large number of children under low memory conditions can cause an out of memory exception.

This function returns a list of {id, child, type, modules} tuples, where:

  • id - as defined in the child specification

  • child - the PID of the corresponding child process, :restarting if the process is about to be restarted, or :undefined if there is no such process

  • type - :worker or :supervisor, as specified by the child specification

  • modules - as specified by the child specification

Link to this section Callbacks

Link to this callback init(args) View Source
init(args :: term()) ::
  {:ok, {:supervisor.sup_flags(), [:supervisor.child_spec()]}} | :ignore

Callback invoked to start the supervisor and during hot code upgrades.

Developers typically invoke Supervisor.init/2 at the end of their init callback to return the proper supervision flags.