The concepts in this post were first introduced in a talk at the 2015 Cassandra Summit.

I’ve been a .NET developer for roughly 10 years now - since the summer after my freshman year in college in 2005 I’ve been developing in Visual Studio and .NET. I’ve founded three startups on .NET, worked for Microsoft, and founded multiple successful OSS projects in .NET - I say all of this in evidence to the depth of my commitment and investment in the .NET ecosystem.

But it’s time we, the .NET community, address a major elephant in the room - .NET is, and often has been, way behind in other ecosystems in terms of overall innovation, openness to new ideas, and flexibility.

The Experience of Being a .NET Developer

.NET has been, historically, an expensive ecosystem to play in.

Because to play in it, you have to do so by Microsoft’s rules.

It's Ballmer's World, Bro

  • You have to buy a license for Visual Studio, or more likely, an MSDN subscription.
  • You have to buy a license for Windows Server.
  • You have to buy a license for Windows Server.
  • You have to develop your web applications in a framework built by Microsoft, like ASP.NET or WCF.
  • You have to host your web applications in IIS.

And the list goes on - the point being that our entire way of developing our own products depends on a single company in Redmond choosing what tools it wants to make available to us at any given time and price.

The Impact of Marrying .NET to Microsoft

I want to share with you a little story from a point in my career with Microsoft during 2010-2011. By 2011 HTML5 had become mostly standardized and its...

Stopping an actor is a routine operation that developers often find confusing. This is because each actor is like a micro process, and all interaction with an actor is asynchronous. So shutting down an actor is more complex than stopping entities in procedural code.

In this post, I’m going to review one of the common questions that I’ve heard lately:

How do I stop an actor?!

The Ways of Stopping an Actor

In short, there are three ways to stop an actor:

  1. Stop() the actor: stops the actor immediately after it finishes processing the current message.
  2. Kill the actor: this throws an ActorKilledException which will be logged and handled. The actor will stop immediately after it finishes processing the current message.
  3. Send the actor a PoisonPill: the actor will finish processing the messages currently in its mailbox, and then Stop.

Now let’s go over each in detail.

1) The Default: Stop() an Actor

This is the go-to method to stop an actor, and should be your default approach.

What Happens When I Stop() an Actor?

This is the sequence of events when you Stop() an actor:

  1. Actor receives the Stop message and suspends the actor’s Mailbox.
  2. Actor tells all its children to Stop. Stop messages propagate down the hierarchy below the actor.
  3. Actor waits for all children to stop.
  4. Actor calls PostStop lifecycle hook method for resource cleanup.
  5. Actor shuts down.

The point of this sequence is to make sure that an actor—and any hierarchy beneath it—have a clean shut down.

How Do I Use Stop()?

You Stop() an actor via the ActorContext, like this:

// targetActorRef dies immediately after...
      
    

The actor model is a radically new concept for the majority of Akka.NET users, and therein lies some challenges. In this post we’re going to outline some of the common mistakes we see from beginners all the time when we take Akka.NET questions in Gitter chat, StackOverflow, and in our emails.

7. Making message classes mutable

One of the fundamental principles of designing actor-based systems is to make 100% of all message classes immutable, meaning that once you allocate an instance of that object its state can never be modified again.

The reason why immutable messages are crucial is because you can send the same message to 1000 actors concurrently and if each one of those actors makes a modification to the state of the message, all of those state changes are local to each actor.

There are no side effects to other actors when one actor modifies a message, which is why you should never need to use a lock inside an actor!

For example, this is an immutable message class:

public class Foo{ public Foo(string name, ReadOnlyList<int> points){ Name = name; Points = points; } public string Name {get; private set;} public ReadOnlyList<int> Points {get; private set;} } 

This class is immutable because:

  • string is an immutable class - any modifications to it produce an entirely new string. The original is never modified, so to all of the other actors processing this Foo instance