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Last active January 16, 2023 14:42
What would you like to do?
Zio like monad in F#
// Computations with extensible environment, error handling, and asynchronicity
// I recently reviewed some F# code that turned out to be using
// Dependency Interpretation
// and got thinking about whether one could construct a usable Zio like monad
// in F# with an extensible environment, error handling, and asynchronicity.
// The way I might put it, a primary motivation for using such a thing is that
// it allows parts of application code to be parameterized with respect to
// contextual dependencies, such as database connections or logging facilities,
// in a relatively convenient manner. This parameterization then makes it easy
// to run parts of the application code in various contexts such as actual
// production and under e.g. a unit testing environment.
// Of course, it has already been known for a long time that we can achieve this
// kind of extensibility in F# by using type constraints on type variables.
// Scott Wlaschin explains the technique in
// Dependency injection using the Reader monad
// and there are advanced libraries for F# using (in part) similar techniques
// such as
// Eff
// by Nick Palladinos.
// So, the technicality I'm particularly interested in is in how one might make
// the error handling mechanism extensible. More specifically, it should be
// easy to introduce new error types, raise errors of such types, and handle
// errors. Furthermore, it would be nice to have the combination of errors
// potentially raised be inferred by the compiler and it would be nice that
// errors could be handled and removed from the combination. Essentially a kind
// of checked exceptions. Of course, as argued by Eirik Tsarpalis,
// You’re better off using Exceptions
// in most cases, but curiosity got the better of me.
// Without further ado, let's sketch such a Zio style monad!
// First let's the define the `Zio<'r, 'h, 'a>` type:
type Zio<'r, 'h, 'a> =
{ go: 'r -> 'h -> ('a -> unit) -> unit }
// If you are familiar with Zio, then you might have noticed that I named the
// second type parameter `'h`, for "handler", rather than `'e`, for "error".
// That choice of word is the key to the extensible error mechanism.
// So, basically, a value of the `Zio<'r, 'h, 'a>` type is a computation that
// requires an environment of type `'r` and may either produce a value, or
// answer, of type `'a` or raise an error that needs a handler of type `'h`.
// The concrete implementation is essentially a function that takes the
// environment, handler, and a continuation as parameters. The record wrapper,
// `{ go: ... }`, is there just to make the inferred types more readable.
// Below is the straightforward computation expression builder definition `zio`:
type ZioBuilder() =
member _.Delay(f) = { go = fun r -> f().go r }
member _.ReturnFrom xZ = xZ
member _.Return x = { go = fun _ _ k -> k x }
member this.Zero() = this.Return()
member this.Combine(lZ, rZ) = this.Bind(lZ, (fun _ -> rZ))
member _.Bind(xZ, xyZ) =
{ go = fun r h k -> xZ.go r h (fun x -> xyZ(x).go r h k) }
let zio = ZioBuilder()
// We also need a primitive operation for `ask`ing the environment:
let ask = { go = fun r _ k -> k r }
// And, for convenience, let's define a helper for `call`ing methods of services
// passed through the environment:
let call fn = zio.Bind(ask, fn)
// So, with the above we can already write application code that is
// parameterized with respect to their dependencies.
// For example, we could define a service for reading lines of input
type IReadLn =
abstract ReadLn : unit -> Zio<'r, 'h, option<string>>
let readLn () = call (fun (s: #IReadLn) -> s.ReadLn())
// and a service for writing lines of output
type IWriteLn =
abstract WriteLn : string -> Zio<'r, 'h, unit>
let writeLn t =
call (fun (s: #IWriteLn) -> s.WriteLn t)
// An essential detail above is the use of flexibly typed parameters `s:
// #IReadLn` and `s: #IWriteLn`. It is a key to make the type inference for the
// usages work out nicely.
// As an example, we could now write a computation that copies all lines from
// input to the output:
let rec copyAll () =
zio {
match! readLn () with
| None -> return ()
| Some line ->
do! writeLn line
return! copyAll ()
// The signature conveniently inferred for the `copyAll` computation
// val copyAll:
// unit -> Zio<'r, 'h, unit> when 'r :> IWriteLn and 'r :> IReadLn
// shows that `copyAll` requires the environment `'r` to provide both the
// `IWriteLn` and `IReadLn` interfaces.
// Note that the handler type `'h` remains unconstrained. This means that the
// `copyAll` computation does not raise errors.
// Of course, things are rarely this simple. In the above we essentially
// assumed that neither the `ReadLn` nor the `WriteLn` computation can fail.
// That is rarely a valid assumption and there are situations where we'd like to
// write code that is guaranteed to handle some failure conditions at some
// point.
// Did you react to the wording "handle some failure conditions at some point"?
// Perhaps it sounds rather vague. However, the wording is intentional. Some
// errors in a program are such that you never want to handle them. You just
// let the program crash with a stack trace. Other "errors" are such that you
// don't only want to handle them, but they are best expressed as an ordinary
// case of the result of an operation. And then there are errors that you'd
// rather not handle after every operation, but you still want your program to
// handle them at some point. Say, when performing a sequence of operations,
// you just want to make sure that any error from any step of the sequence will
// stop the sequence and will be handled e.g. by giving a suitable message to
// the user. It is the last of these three cases that is of interest here.
// First we introduce a primitive operation to `throw` errors:
let throw e = { go = fun _ h _ -> e h }
// This is the first point where we make use of the `h` or handler. The handler
// `h` is passed to the error `e`.
// We also need an operation to `catch` errors:
type ZioRunner<'r, 'h, 'a>(r, h, k) =
inherit ZioBuilder()
member _.Run(xZ: Zio<'r, 'h, 'a>) = xZ.go r h k
let catch h' xZ =
{ go = fun r h k -> xZ.go r (h' (ZioRunner(r, h, k))) k }
// The implementation here is a bit more tricky. We want to allow error
// handlers to also perform arbitrary computations in the same monad. As our
// monad uses continuation passing we can keep the types simple by passing in a
// special computation builder when constructing handlers.
// So, how does one use this error mechanism then?
// Well, to define a new error, one defines an interface for the handler of such
// errors. As an example, let's define an error for unexpected end of input:
type IUnexpectedEndOfInput =
abstract UnexpectedEndOfInput : unit -> unit
let UnexpectedEndOfInput (h: #IUnexpectedEndOfInput) = h.UnexpectedEndOfInput()
// The function `UnexpectedEndOfInput` is helper we use with `throw`. Its usage
// looks like an error constructor. Note again the use of a flexible type for
// the handler parameter.
// As an example, we could now define a `copy1` operation that copies a line
// of input to output or throws the error:
let copy1 () =
zio {
match! readLn () with
| None -> return! throw UnexpectedEndOfInput
| Some line -> return! writeLn line
// The signature
// val copy1:
// unit -> Zio<'r, #IUnexpectedEndOfInput, unit>
// when 'r :> IWriteLn and 'r :> IReadLn
// reflects both the environment and error handling requirements of the
// operation.
// Let's then define another error for too long lines
type ILineTooLong =
abstract LineTooLong : {| max: int; actual: int |} -> unit
let LineTooLong e (h: #ILineTooLong) = h.LineTooLong e
// and another operation for copying a line of given maximum length
let copy1Of max =
zio {
match! readLn () with
| None -> return! throw UnexpectedEndOfInput
| Some line ->
if max < line.Length then
return! throw (LineTooLong {| max = max; actual = line.Length |})
return! writeLn line
// Again, the inferred signature
// val copy1Of:
// max: int -> Zio<'r, 'h, unit>
// when 'r :> IWriteLn and 'r :> IReadLn
// and 'h :> ILineTooLong and 'h :> IUnexpectedEndOfInput
// reflects both the environment and error handling requirements.
// Let's put together the happy path of a little interaction:
let interaction () =
zio {
do! writeLn "Type me max 10 characters:"
do! copy1Of 10
do! writeLn "Thank you for your co-operation!"
// Can you guess the signature of `interaction`?
// Alright, let's then figure out how we can actually run these kinds of
// computations. For that purpose let's first define a primitive `startIn`
// operation:
let startIn r uZ = uZ.go r () id
// Notice that while the environment is allowed to be of any type, the handler
// (and the answer type) are required to be of type `unit`. The effect of that
// is to ensure that no errors can be left unhandled and no (interesting) result
// may be ignored implicitly.
// How do we handle the errors? First we need to define an interface that
// inherits all the handlers that our program requires.
type IHandler =
inherit IUnexpectedEndOfInput
inherit ILineTooLong
// Now we can define a `program` that performs the `interaction` and also
// catches the errors:
let program () =
interaction ()
|> catch (fun zio ->
{ new IHandler with
member _.UnexpectedEndOfInput() =
zio { return! writeLn "You gave me nothing!" }
member _.LineTooLong e =
zio {
$"You gave me {e.actual - e.max} characters more than I asked!"
} })
// What is the signature of `program`?
// Using `catch` allows handler constraints to be changed. The old constraints
// are dropped and the new constraints are based on the error handling
// requirements of the handlers and following computation. In this case the
// following computation has no further error handling requirements and the
// signature of `program`
// val program:
// unit -> Zio<'r, 'h, unit> when 'r :> IWriteLn and 'r :> IReadLn
// shows that.
// The next thing we need is to implement the environment. Similarly to what we
// did with `IHandler`, we could define a new interface `IEnv` that inherits all
// the required service interfaces. However, as discussed in the beginning, a
// primary motivation is to be able to run computations in different
// environments meaning that, in a more realistic setting, we may want to have
// many different implementations. Implementing environments one method at a
// time would get old pretty fast. So, let's try to find a more compositional
// approach.
// Instead of defining a combined interface, let's implement the environment as
// a class, `Env`, that implements all the service interfaces by delegating to
// individual implementations of the interfaces passed as arguments:
type Env(readLn: IReadLn, writeLn: IWriteLn) =
interface IReadLn with
member _.ReadLn() = readLn.ReadLn()
interface IWriteLn with
member _.WriteLn line = writeLn.WriteLn line
member _.With(?readLnAs: IReadLn, ?writeLnAs: IWriteLn) =
readLn = defaultArg readLnAs readLn,
writeLn = defaultArg writeLnAs writeLn
// We are now free to implement the service interfaces individually. For
// example, we could implement `IReadLn` and `IWriteLn` services using
// `System.Console`.
module Console =
let ReadLn =
{ new IReadLn with
member _.ReadLn() =
zio {
match System.Console.ReadLine() with
| null -> return None
| line -> return Some(line)
} }
let WriteLn =
{ new IWriteLn with
member _.WriteLn line =
zio { return System.Console.WriteLine line } }
// Finally we can just instantiate the desired service implementation
// combination for our program to `startIn`:
program ()
|> startIn (Env(readLn = Console.ReadLn, writeLn = Console.WriteLn))
// In a more realistic setting you might have many more service interfaces with
// multiple implementations. In such a case you could instantiate default
// combinations and use the `env.With(...)´ method to customize them further.
// So, what do you think?
// What I like about this is that it is all rather simple and straightforward.
// There is no need for any major workarounds for type system deficiencies. The
// type constraints for the environment and handlers are nicely inferred and are
// arguably quite readable.
// This sketch doesn't include anything asynchronous, but due to the use of
// continuation passing style and an extensible environment, async computations
// are easily subsumed and interoperated with.
// This sketch also doesn't do anything with or about exceptions. In a real
// library you should think about and provide appropriate support for exception
// handling.
// This is, of course, just a sketch and a toy program, but, who knows, maybe
// you found some inspiration from this.
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srdjan commented Nov 20, 2021

very nice intro / explanation to the zio monad!

Little golden nugget also hiding in there:
"Some errors in a program are such that you never want to handle them. You just let the program crash with a stack trace. Other errors" are such that you don't only want to handle them, but they are best expressed as an ordinary case of the result of an operation. And then there are errors that you'd rather not handle after every operation, but you still want your program to handle them at some point."

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Thanks! I updated the sketch with a more compositional approach to implementing environments.

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