Swiftpack.co - Package - apple/swift-nio


SwiftNIO is a cross-platform asynchronous event-driven network application framework for rapid development of maintainable high performance protocol servers & clients.

It's like Netty, but written for Swift.

Conceptual Overview

SwiftNIO is fundamentally a low-level tool for building high-performance networking applications in Swift. It particularly targets those use-cases where using a "thread-per-connection" model of concurrency is inefficient or untenable. This is a common limitation when building servers that use a large number of relatively low-utilization connections, such as HTTP servers.

To achieve its goals SwiftNIO extensively uses "non-blocking I/O": hence the name! Non-blocking I/O differs from the more common blocking I/O model because the application does not wait for data to be sent to or received from the network: instead, SwiftNIO asks for the kernel to notify it when I/O operations can be performed without waiting.

SwiftNIO does not aim to provide high-level solutions like, for example, web frameworks do. Instead, SwiftNIO is focused on providing the low-level building blocks for these higher-level applications. When it comes to building a web application, most users will not want to use SwiftNIO directly: instead, they'll want to use one of the many great web frameworks available in the Swift ecosystem. Those web frameworks, however, may choose to use SwiftNIO under the covers to provide their networking support.

The following sections will describe the low-level tools that SwiftNIO provides, and provide a quick overview of how to work with them. If you feel comfortable with these concepts, then you can skip right ahead to the other sections of this README.

Supported Platforms

SwiftNIO aims to support all of the platforms where Swift is supported. Currently, it is developed and tested on macOS and Linux, and is known to support the following operating system versions:

  • Ubuntu 14.04+
  • macOS 10.12+

Basic Architecture

The basic building blocks of SwiftNIO are the following 6 types of objects:

  • EventLoopGroup, a protocol
  • EventLoop, a protocol
  • Channel, a protocol
  • ChannelHandler, a protocol
  • Bootstrap, several related structures
  • ByteBuffer, a struct
  • EventLoopPromise and EventLoopFuture, two generic classes.

All SwiftNIO applications are ultimately constructed of these various components.

EventLoops and EventLoopGroups

The basic I/O primitive of SwiftNIO is the event loop. The event loop is an object that waits for events (usually I/O related events, such as "data received") to happen and then fires some kind of callback when they do. In almost all SwiftNIO applications there will be relatively few event loops: usually only one or two per CPU core the application wants to use. Generally speaking event loops run for the entire lifetime of your application, spinning in an endless loop dispatching events.

Event loops are gathered together into event loop groups. These groups provide a mechanism to distribute work around the event loops. For example, when listening for inbound connections the listening socket will be registered on one event loop. However, we don't want all connections that are accepted on that listening socket to be registered with the same event loop, as that would potentially overload one event loop while leaving the others empty. For that reason, the event loop group provides the ability to spread load across multiple event loops.

In SwiftNIO today there is one EventLoopGroup implementation, and two EventLoop implementations. For production applications there is the MultiThreadedEventLoopGroup, an EventLoopGroup that creates a number of threads (using the POSIX pthreads library) and places one SelectableEventLoop on each one. The SelectableEventLoop is an event loop that uses a selector (either kqueue or epoll depending on the target system) to manage I/O events from file descriptors and to dispatch work. Additionally, there is the EmbeddedEventLoop, which is a dummy event loop that is used primarily for testing purposes.

EventLoops have a number of important properties. Most vitally, they are the way all work gets done in SwiftNIO applications. In order to ensure thread-safety, any work that wants to be done on almost any of the other objects in SwiftNIO must be dispatched via an EventLoop. EventLoop objects own almost all the other objects in a SwiftNIO application, and understanding their execution model is critical for building high-performance SwiftNIO applications.

Channels, Channel Handlers, Channel Pipelines, and Channel Contexts

While EventLoops are critical to the way SwiftNIO works, most users will not interact with them substantially beyond asking them to create EventLoopPromises and to schedule work. The parts of a SwiftNIO application most users will spend the most time interacting with are Channels and ChannelHandlers.

Almost every file descriptor that a user interacts with in a SwiftNIO program is associated with a single Channel. The Channel owns this file descriptor, and is responsible for managing its lifetime. It is also responsible for processing inbound and outbound events on that file descriptor: whenever the event loop has an event that corresponds to a file descriptor, it will notify the Channel that owns that file descriptor.

Channels by themselves, however, are not useful. After all, it is a rare application that doesn't want to do anything with the data it sends or receives on a socket! So the other important part of the Channel is the ChannelPipeline.

A ChannelPipeline is a sequence of objects, called ChannelHandlers, that process events on a Channel. The ChannelHandlers process these events one after another, in order, mutating and transforming events as they go. This can be thought of as a data processing pipeline; hence the name ChannelPipeline.

All ChannelHandlers are either Inbound or Outbound handlers, or both. Inbound handlers process "inbound" events: events like reading data from a socket, reading socket close, or other kinds of events initiated by remote peers. Outbound handlers process "outbound" events, such as writes, connection attempts, and local socket closes.

Each handler processes the events in order. For example, read events are passed from the front of the pipeline to the back, one handler at a time, while write events are passed from the back of the pipeline to the front. Each handler may, at any time, generate either inbound or outbound events that will be sent to the next handler in whichever direction is appropriate. This allows handlers to split up reads, coalesce writes, delay connection attempts, and generally perform arbitrary transformations of events.

In general, ChannelHandlers are designed to be highly re-usable components. This means they tend to be designed to be as small as possible, performing one specific data transformation. This allows handlers to be composed together in novel and flexible ways, which helps with code reuse and encapsulation.

ChannelHandlers are able to keep track of where they are in a ChannelPipeline by using a ChannelHandlerContext. These objects contain references to the previous and next channel handler in the pipeline, ensuring that it is always possible for a ChannelHandler to emit events while it remains in a pipeline.

SwiftNIO ships with many ChannelHandlers built in that provide useful functionality, such as HTTP parsing. In addition, high-performance applications will want to provide as much of their logic as possible in ChannelHandlers, as it helps avoid problems with context switching.

Additionally, SwiftNIO ships with a few Channel implementations. In particular, it ships with ServerSocketChannel, a Channel for sockets that accept inbound connections; SocketChannel, a Channel for TCP connections; DatagramChannel, a Channel for UDP sockets; and EmbeddedChannel, a Channel primarily used for testing.

A Note on Blocking

One of the important notes about ChannelPipelines is that they are not thread-safe. This is very important for writing SwiftNIO applications, as it allows you to write much simpler ChannelHandlers in the knowledge that they will not require synchronization.

However, this is achieved by dispatching all code on the ChannelPipeline on the same thread as the EventLoop. This means that, as a general rule, ChannelHandlers must not call blocking code without dispatching it to a background thread. If a ChannelHandler blocks for any reason, all Channels attached to the parent EventLoop will be unable to progress until the blocking call completes.

This is a common concern while writing SwiftNIO applications. If it is useful to write code in a blocking style, it is highly recommended that you dispatch work to a different thread when you're done with it in your pipeline.


While it is possible to configure and register Channels with EventLoops directly, it is generally more useful to have a higher-level abstraction to handle this work.

For this reason, SwiftNIO ships a number of Bootstrap objects whose purpose is to streamline the creation of channels. Some Bootstrap objects also provide other functionality, such as support for Happy Eyeballs for making TCP connection attempts.

Currently SwiftNIO ships with three Bootstrap objects: ServerBootstrap, for bootstrapping listening channels; ClientBootstrap, for bootstrapping client TCP channels; and DatagramBootstrap for bootstrapping UDP channels.


The majority of the work in a SwiftNIO application involves shuffling buffers of bytes around. At the very least, data is sent and received to and from the network in the form of buffers of bytes. For this reason it's very important to have a high-performance data structure that is optimized for the kind of work SwiftNIO applications perform.

For this reason, SwiftNIO provides ByteBuffer, a fast copy-on-write byte buffer that forms a key building block of most SwiftNIO applications.

ByteBuffer provides a number of useful features, and in addition provides a number of hooks to use it in an "unsafe" mode. This turns off bounds checking for improved performance, at the cost of potentially opening your application up to memory correctness problems.

In general, it is highly recommended that you use the ByteBuffer in its safe mode at all times.

For more details on the API of ByteBuffer, please see our API documentation, linked below.

Promises and Futures

One major difference between writing concurrent code and writing synchronous code is that not all actions will complete immediately. For example, when you write data on a channel, it is possible that the event loop will not be able to immediately flush that write out to the network. For this reason, SwiftNIO provides EventLoopPromise<T> and EventLoopFuture<T> to manage operations that complete asynchronously.

An EventLoopFuture<T> is essentially a container for the return value of a function that will be populated at some time in the future. Each EventLoopFuture<T> has a corresponding EventLoopPromise<T>, which is the object that the result will be put into. When the promise is succeeded, the future will be fulfilled.

If you had to poll the future to detect when it completed that would be quite inefficient, so EventLoopFuture<T> is designed to have managed callbacks. Essentially, you can hang callbacks off the future that will be executed when a result is available. The EventLoopFuture<T> will even carefully arrange the scheduling to ensure that these callbacks always execute on the event loop that initially created the promise, which helps ensure that you don't need too much synchronization around EventLoopFuture<T> callbacks.

Another important topic for consideration is the difference between how the promise passed to close works as opposed to closeFuture on a Channel. For example, the promise passed into close will succeed after the Channel is closed down but before the ChannelPipeline is completely cleared out. This will allow you to take action on the ChannelPipeline before it is completely cleared out, if needed. If it is desired to wait for the Channel to close down and the ChannelPipeline to be cleared out without any futher action, then the better option would be to wait for the closeFuture to succeed.

There are several functions for applying callbacks to EventLoopFuture<T>, depending on how and when you want them to execute. Details of these functions is left to the API documentation.

Design Philosophy

SwiftNIO is designed to be a powerful tool for building networked applications and frameworks, but it is not intended to be the perfect solution for all levels of abstraction. SwiftNIO is tightly focused on providing the basic I/O primitives and protocol implementations at low levels of abstraction, leaving more expressive but slower abstractions to the wider community to build. The intention is that SwiftNIO will be a building block for server-side applications, not necessarily the framework those applications will use directly.

Applications that need extremely high performance from their networking stack may choose to use SwiftNIO directly in order to reduce the overhead of their abstractions. These applications should be able to maintain extremely high performance with relatively little maintenance cost. SwiftNIO also focuses on providing useful abstractions for this use-case, such that extremely high performance network servers can be built directly.

The core SwiftNIO repository will contain a few extremely important protocol implementations, such as HTTP, directly in tree. However, we believe that most protocol implementations should be decoupled from the release cycle of the underlying networking stack, as the release cadence is likely to be very different (either much faster or much slower). For this reason, we actively encourage the community to develop and maintain their protocol implementations out-of-tree. Indeed, some first-party SwiftNIO protocol implementations, including our TLS and HTTP/2 bindings, are developed out-of-tree!

Useful Protocol Implementations

The following projects contain useful protocol implementations that do not live in-tree in SwiftNIO:


Example Usage

There are currently several example projects that demonstrate how to use SwiftNIO.

  • chat client https://github.com/apple/swift-nio/tree/master/Sources/NIOChatClient
  • chat server https://github.com/apple/swift-nio/tree/master/Sources/NIOChatServer
  • echo client https://github.com/apple/swift-nio/tree/master/Sources/NIOEchoClient
  • echo server https://github.com/apple/swift-nio/tree/master/Sources/NIOEchoServer
  • HTTP server https://github.com/apple/swift-nio/tree/master/Sources/NIOHTTP1Server

Getting Started

SwiftNIO primarily uses SwiftPM as its build tool, so we recommend using that as well. If you want to depend on SwiftNIO in your own project, it's as simple as adding a dependencies clause to your Package.swift:

dependencies: [
    .package(url: "https://github.com/apple/swift-nio.git", from: "1.0.0")

and then adding the appropriate SwiftNIO module(s) to your target dependencies.

To work on SwiftNIO itself, or to investigate some of the demonstration applications, you can clone the repository directly and use SwiftPM to help build it. For example, you can run the following commands to compile and run the example echo server:

swift build
swift test
swift run NIOEchoServer

To verify that it is working, you can use another shell to attempt to connect to it:

echo "Hello SwiftNIO" | nc localhost 9999

If all goes well, you'll see the message echoed back to you.

To generate an Xcode project to work on SwiftNIO in Xcode:

swift package generate-xcodeproj

This generates an Xcode project using SwiftPM. You can open the project with:

open swift-nio.xcodeproj

An alternative: using docker-compose

Alternatively, you may want to develop or test with docker-compose.

First make sure you have Docker installed, next run the following commands:

  • docker-compose -f docker/docker-compose.yaml run test

    Will create a base image with Swift runtime and other build and test dependencies, compile SwiftNIO and run the unit and integration tests

  • docker-compose -f docker/docker-compose.yaml up echo

    Will create a base image, compile SwiftNIO, and run a sample NIOEchoServer on localhost:9999. Test it by echo Hello SwiftNIO | nc localhost 9999.

  • docker-compose -f docker/docker-compose.yaml up http

    Will create a base image, compile SwiftNIO, and run a sample NIOHTTP1Server on localhost:8888. Test it by curl http://localhost:8888

Developing SwiftNIO

For the most part, SwiftNIO development is as straightforward as any other SwiftPM project. With that said, we do have a few processes that are worth understanding before you contribute. For details, please see CONTRIBUTING.md in this repository.


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1.8.0 - May 31, 2018

Semver Minor

  • Added new ByteBufferView type, exposing portions of a ByteBuffer as a Collection<UInt8>. Added ByteBuffer.readableBytesView and ByteBuffer.viewBytes(at:length:) to obtain ByteBufferView objects. (#411)
  • Renamed MultiThreadedEventLoopGroup.init(numThreads:) to MultiThreadedEventLoopGroup.init(numberOfThreads:). Deprecated the old name. (#443)
  • Made HTTPRequestDecoder.init(leftOverBytesStrategy:) and enum RemoveAfterUpgradeStrategy public, which allows users creating custom HTTP pipelines to ensure that removing HTTPRequestDecoder after an upgrade was attempted does not cause unexpected bytes delivery. (#438)

Semver Patch

  • Conformed internal _UInt24 and _UInt56 structures to CustomStringConvertible. (#445)
  • Prevented crashes on macOS/iOS when under heavy load and remote peers close connections before we realise they connected. (#453)
  • Miscellaneous code cleanups and testing improvements. (#412, #441, #442, #447, #454)

1.7.2 - May 24, 2018

Semver Patch

  • Removed some unnecessary EventLoopPromise allocations. (#437)
  • Fixed issues where removing a HTTPDecoder could lead to the pipeline consuming raw ByteBuffers, rather than decoded HTTP components. (#430)
  • Fixed an issue where datagram writes would be counted incorrectly, potentially leading to precondition failure. (#431)
  • Resolved a number of re-entrancy issues with HTTPDecoder. (#427)

1.7.1 - May 22, 2018

Semver Patch

  • Fixed an issue where the bootstraps may not correctly invoke the channel initialisers on the event loop for the channel being initialised, causing substantial overhead when configuring the channel. (#424)
  • Fixed issues where Channel objects and their associated sockets created by the bootstraps may be leaked if channel registration failed for any reason. (#413)
  • Fixed issues where the Channel may be deallocated before the ChannelPipeline is cleaned up, causing crashes. (#415)
  • Fixed an issue where write promises were satisfied too early on EmbeddedChannel objects. (#421)
  • Fixed an issue where the WebSocketFrameDecoder would write a connection close frame but not flush it when a protocol error was encountered. (#421)
  • Worked around a compiler crash with type aliases in 4.2 snapshots. (#420)
  • Testing and documentation improvements. (#416, #419, #423, #425)

1.7.0 - May 18, 2018

Semver Minor

  • Added ChannelCore.removeHandlers to help implementers building custom channels do correct channel shutdown. (#408)
  • Added initial support for sending quiescing signals to Channels, and support for these signals to AcceptHandler and HTTPServerPipelineHandler. (#399)
  • Added executable product NIOPerformanceTester to run standardised NIO performance tests. (#396)
  • Made EventLoopFuture.hopTo(eventLoop:) public: while it was introduced in 1.3.0 it was accidentally left internal.

Semver Patch

  • Improved the resilience of ByteToMessageDecoder against re-entrant calls to decode. (#370)
  • Improved performance of writingSequences to ByteBuffer objects in cases where the standard library has fast-path access. (#391, #392)
  • Fixed an issue where we could accidentally corrupt headers or URIs when parsing HTTP/1 messages due to re-entrant calls to decode. (#385)
  • Enhanced SocketChannel objects to register themselves with the Selector lazily, allowing them to more easily be used without needing to handle their registration and binding/connection very carefully. (#388)
  • Removed some warnings when compiling in Swift 4.2 mode. (#407)
  • Removed a String allocation when reading Connection headers to determine keep-alive state for HTTP/1. (#402)
  • Attempted to use http_parser's detected keep-alive status as much as possible in server applications, reducing the computation overhead of checking keep-alive status in most cases. (#299)
  • Removed some reliance on implicit importing of header files on Linux. (#400)
  • Fixed minor invalid pointer type assumption. (#397)
  • Fixed broken 32-bit support. (#383)
  • Miscellaneous tooling and code quality improvements. (#390, #394, #398, #403)

1.6.1 - May 4, 2018

Semver Patch

  • fix warning in new ByteBuffer test (#377)
  • fix one more register/bind race (#379)
  • fix Swift 4.2 compile error (#384)
  • don't crash if close is called when close fails (#387)
  • fix event loop hop between registration and activation of accepted channels (#389)