Introduction

gevent is a coroutine -based Python networking library that uses greenlet to provide a high-level synchronous API on top of the libev or libuv event loop.

Features include:

gevent is inspired by eventlet but features a more consistent API, simpler implementation and better performance. Read why others use gevent and check out the list of the open source projects based on gevent.

gevent was written by Denis Bilenko.

Since version 1.1, gevent is maintained by Jason Madden for NextThought with help from the contributors and is licensed under the MIT license.

See what’s new in the latest major release.

Check out the detailed changelog for this version.

Example

The following example shows how to run tasks concurrently.

>>> import gevent
>>> from gevent import socket
>>> urls = ['www.google.com', 'www.example.com', 'www.python.org']
>>> jobs = [gevent.spawn(socket.gethostbyname, url) for url in urls]
>>> gevent.joinall(jobs, timeout=2)
>>> [job.value for job in jobs]
['74.125.79.106', '208.77.188.166', '82.94.164.162']

After the jobs have been spawned, gevent.joinall() waits for them to complete, allowing up to 2 seconds. The results are then collected by checking the value property. The gevent.socket.gethostbyname() function has the same interface as the standard socket.gethostbyname() but it does not block the whole interpreter and thus lets the other greenlets proceed with their requests unhindered.

Monkey patching

The example above used gevent.socket for socket operations. If the standard socket module was used the example would have taken 3 times longer to complete because the DNS requests would be sequential (serialized). Using the standard socket module inside greenlets makes gevent rather pointless, so what about existing modules and packages that are built on top of socket (including the standard library modules like urllib)?

That’s where monkey patching comes in. The functions in gevent.monkey carefully replace functions and classes in the standard socket module with their cooperative counterparts. That way even the modules that are unaware of gevent can benefit from running in a multi-greenlet environment.

>>> from gevent import monkey; monkey.patch_socket()
>>> import urllib2 # it's usable from multiple greenlets now

See Example concurrent_download.py.

Beyond sockets

Of course, there are several other parts of the standard library that can block the whole interpreter and result in serialized behavior. gevent provides cooperative versions of many of those as well. They can be patched independently through individual functions, but most programs using monkey patching will want to patch the entire recommended set of modules using the gevent.monkey.patch_all() function:

>>> from gevent import monkey; monkey.patch_all()
>>> import subprocess # it's usable from multiple greenlets now

Tip

When monkey patching, it is recommended to do so as early as possible in the lifetime of the process. If possible, monkey patching should be the first lines executed. Monkey patching later, especially if native threads have been created, atexit or signal handlers have been installed, or sockets have been created, may lead to unpredictable results including unexpected LoopExit errors.

Event loop

Instead of blocking and waiting for socket operations to complete (a technique known as polling), gevent arranges for the operating system to deliver an event letting it know when, for example, data has arrived to be read from the socket. Having done that, gevent can move on to running another greenlet, perhaps one that itself now has an event ready for it. This repeated process of registering for events and reacting to them as they arrive is the event loop.

Unlike other network libraries, though in a similar fashion as eventlet, gevent starts the event loop implicitly in a dedicated greenlet. There’s no reactor that you must call a run() or dispatch() function on. When a function from gevent’s API wants to block, it obtains the gevent.hub.Hub instance — a special greenlet that runs the event loop — and switches to it (it is said that the greenlet yielded control to the Hub). If there’s no Hub instance yet, one is automatically created.

Tip

Each operating system thread has its own Hub. This makes it possible to use the gevent blocking API from multiple threads (with care).

The event loop uses the best polling mechanism available on the system by default.

Note

A low-level event loop API is available under the gevent.core module. This module is not documented, not meant for general purpose usage, and its exact contents and semantics change slightly depending on whether the libev or libuv event loop is being used. The callbacks supplied to the event loop API are run in the Hub greenlet and thus cannot use the synchronous gevent API. It is possible to use the asynchronous API there, like gevent.spawn() and gevent.event.Event.set().

Cooperative multitasking

The greenlets all run in the same OS thread and are scheduled cooperatively. This means that until a particular greenlet gives up control, (by calling a blocking function that will switch to the Hub), other greenlets won’t get a chance to run. This is typically not an issue for an I/O bound app, but one should be aware of this when doing something CPU intensive, or when calling blocking I/O functions that bypass the event loop.

Tip

Even some apparently cooperative functions, like gevent.sleep(), can temporarily take priority over waiting I/O operations in some circumstances.

Synchronizing access to objects shared across the greenlets is unnecessary in most cases (because yielding control is usually explict), thus traditional synchronization devices like the gevent.lock.BoundedSemaphore, gevent.lock.RLock and gevent.lock.Semaphore classes, although present, aren’t used very often. Other abstractions from threading and multiprocessing remain useful in the cooperative world:

Lightweight pseudothreads

New greenlets are spawned by creating a Greenlet instance and calling its start method. (The gevent.spawn() function is a shortcut that does exactly that). The start method schedules a switch to the greenlet that will happen as soon as the current greenlet gives up control. If there is more than one active greenlet, they will be executed one by one, in an undefined order as they each give up control to the Hub.

If there is an error during execution it won’t escape the greenlet’s boundaries. An unhandled error results in a stacktrace being printed, annotated by the failed function’s signature and arguments:

>>> gevent.spawn(lambda : 1/0)
>>> gevent.sleep(1)
Traceback (most recent call last):
 ...
ZeroDivisionError: integer division or modulo by zero
<Greenlet at 0x7f2ec3a4e490: <function <lambda...>> failed with ZeroDivisionError

The traceback is asynchronously printed to sys.stderr when the greenlet dies.

Greenlet instances have a number of useful methods:

  • join – waits until the greenlet exits;
  • kill – interrupts greenlet’s execution;
  • get – returns the value returned by greenlet or re-raises the exception that killed it.

Greenlets can be subclassed with care. One use for this is to customize the string printed after the traceback by subclassing the Greenlet class and redefining its __str__ method. For more information, see Subclassing Greenlet.

Greenlets can be killed synchronously from another greenlet. Killing will resume the sleeping greenlet, but instead of continuing execution, a GreenletExit will be raised.

>>> g = Greenlet(gevent.sleep, 4)
>>> g.start()
>>> g.kill()
>>> g.dead
True

The GreenletExit exception and its subclasses are handled differently than other exceptions. Raising GreenletExit is not considered an exceptional situation, so the traceback is not printed. The GreenletExit is returned by get as if it were returned by the greenlet, not raised.

The kill method can accept a custom exception to be raised:

>>> g = Greenlet.spawn(gevent.sleep, 5) # spawn() creates a Greenlet and starts it
>>> g.kill(Exception("A time to kill"))
Traceback (most recent call last):
 ...
Exception: A time to kill
Greenlet(5) failed with Exception

The kill can also accept a timeout argument specifying the number of seconds to wait for the greenlet to exit. Note that kill cannot guarantee that the target greenlet will not ignore the exception (i.e., it might catch it), thus it’s a good idea always to pass a timeout to kill (otherwise, the greenlet doing the killing will remain blocked forever).

Tip

The exact timing at which an exception is raised within a target greenlet as the result of kill is not defined. See that function’s documentation for more details.

Caution

Use care when killing greenlets, especially arbitrary greenlets spawned by a library or otherwise executing code you are not familiar with. If the code being executed is not prepared to deal with exceptions, object state may be corrupted. For example, if it has acquired a Lock but does not use a finally block to release it, killing the greenlet at the wrong time could result in the lock being permanently locked:

def func():
    # DON'T DO THIS
    lock.acquire()
    socket.sendall(data) # This could raise many exceptions, including GreenletExit
    lock.release()

This document describes a similar situation for threads.

Timeouts

Many functions in the gevent API are synchronous, blocking the current greenlet until the operation is done. For example, kill waits until the target greenlet is dead before returning [1]. Many of those functions can be made asynchronous by passing the keyword argument block=False.

Furthermore, many of the synchronous functions accept a timeout argument, which specifies a limit on how long the function can block (examples include gevent.event.Event.wait(), gevent.Greenlet.join(), gevent.Greenlet.kill(), gevent.event.AsyncResult.get(), and many more).

The socket and SSLObject instances can also have a timeout, set by the settimeout method.

When these are not enough, the gevent.Timeout class and gevent.with_timeout() can be used to add timeouts to arbitrary sections of (cooperative, yielding) code.

Further Reading

To limit concurrency, use the gevent.pool.Pool class (see Example dns_mass_resolve.py).

Gevent comes with TCP/SSL/HTTP/WSGI servers. See Implementing servers.

There are a number of configuration options for gevent. See Configuring gevent for details. This document also explains how to enable gevent’s builtin monitoring and debugging features.

The objects in gevent.util may be helpful for monitoring and debugging purposes.

See API reference for a complete API reference.

External resources

Gevent for working Python developer is a comprehensive tutorial.

Footnotes

[1]This was not the case before 0.13.0, kill method in 0.12.2 and older was asynchronous by default.

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