# Sessions

The session framework provides a straightforward interface for scheduling multiple activities on a single worker without requiring you to manually specify the task list name. It also includes features like concurrent session limitation and worker failure detection.

# Use Cases

  • File Processing: You may want to implement a workflow that can download a file, process it, and then upload the modified version. If these three steps are implemented as three different activities, all of them should be executed by the same worker.

  • Machine Learning Model Training: Training a machine learning model typically involves three stages: download the data set, optimize the model, and upload the trained parameter. Since the models may consume a large amount of resources (GPU memory for example), the number of models processed on a host needs to be limited.

# Basic Usage

Before using the session framework to write your workflow code, you need to configure your worker to process sessions. To do that, set the EnableSessionWorker field of worker.Options to true when starting your worker.

The most important APIs provided by the session framework are workflow.CreateSession() and workflow.CompleteSession(). The basic idea is that all the activities executed within a session will be processed by the same worker and these two APIs allow you to create new sessions and close them after all activities finish executing.

Here's a more detailed description of these two APIs:

type SessionOptions struct {
    // ExecutionTimeout: required, no default.
    //     Specifies the maximum amount of time the session can run.
    ExecutionTimeout time.Duration

    // CreationTimeout: required, no default.
    //     Specifies how long session creation can take before returning an error.
    CreationTimeout  time.Duration

func CreateSession(ctx Context, sessionOptions *SessionOptions) (Context, error)

CreateSession() takes in workflow.Context, sessionOptions and returns a new context which contains metadata information of the created session (referred to as the session context below). When it's called, it will check the task list name specified in the ActivityOptions (or in the StartWorkflowOptions if the task list name is not specified in ActivityOptions), and create the session on one of the workers which is polling that task list.

The returned session context should be used to execute all activities belonging to the session. The context will be cancelled if the worker executing this session dies or CompleteSession() is called. When using the returned session context to execute activities, a workflow.ErrSessionFailed error may be returned if the session framework detects that the worker executing this session has died. The failure of your activities won't affect the state of the session, so you still need to handle the errors returned from your activities and call CompleteSession() if necessary.

CreateSession() will return an error if the context passed in already contains an open session. If all the workers are currently busy and unable to handle new sessions, the framework will keep retrying until the CreationTimeout you specified in SessionOptions has passed before returning an error (check the Concurrent Session Limitation section for more details).

func CompleteSession(ctx Context)

CompleteSession() releases the resources reserved on the worker, so it's important to call it as soon as you no longer need the session. It will cancel the session context and therefore all the activities using that session context. Note that it's safe to call CompleteSession() on a failed session, meaning that you can call it from a defer function after the session is successfully created.

# Sample Code

func FileProcessingWorkflow(ctx workflow.Context, fileID string) (err error) {
    ao := workflow.ActivityOptions{
        ScheduleToStartTimeout: time.Second * 5,
        StartToCloseTimeout:    time.Minute,
    ctx = workflow.WithActivityOptions(ctx, ao)

    so := &workflow.SessionOptions{
        CreationTimeout:  time.Minute,
        ExecutionTimeout: time.Minute,
    sessionCtx, err := workflow.CreateSession(ctx, so)
    if err != nil {
        return err
    defer workflow.CompleteSession(sessionCtx)

    var fInfo *fileInfo
    err = workflow.ExecuteActivity(sessionCtx, downloadFileActivityName, fileID).Get(sessionCtx, &fInfo)
    if err != nil {
        return err

    var fInfoProcessed *fileInfo
    err = workflow.ExecuteActivity(sessionCtx, processFileActivityName, *fInfo).Get(sessionCtx, &fInfoProcessed)
    if err != nil {
        return err

    return workflow.ExecuteActivity(sessionCtx, uploadFileActivityName, *fInfoProcessed).Get(sessionCtx, nil)

# Session Metadata

type SessionInfo struct {
    // A unique ID for the session
    SessionID         string

    // The hostname of the worker that is executing the session
    HostName          string

    // ... other unexported fields

func GetSessionInfo(ctx Context) *SessionInfo

The session context also stores some session metadata, which can be retrieved by the GetSessionInfo() API. If the context passed in doesn't contain any session metadata, this API will return a nil pointer.

# Concurrent Session Limitation

To limit the number of concurrent sessions running on a worker, set the MaxConcurrentSessionExecutionSize field of worker.Options to the desired value. By default this field is set to a very large value, so there's no need to manually set it if no limitation is needed.

If a worker hits this limitation, it won't accept any new CreateSession() requests until one of the existing sessions is completed. CreateSession() will return an error if the session can't be created within CreationTimeout.

# Recreate Session

For long-running sessions, you may want to use the ContinueAsNew feature to split the workflow into multiple runs when all activities need to be executed by the same worker. The RecreateSession() API is designed for such a use case.

func RecreateSession(ctx Context, recreateToken []byte, sessionOptions *SessionOptions) (Context, error)

Its usage is the same as CreateSession() except that it also takes in a recreateToken, which is needed to create a new session on the same worker as the previous one. You can get the token by calling the GetRecreateToken() method of the SessionInfo object.

token := workflow.GetSessionInfo(sessionCtx).GetRecreateToken()

# Q & A

# Is there a complete example?

Yes, the file processing example in the cadence-sample repo has been updated to use the session framework.

# What happens to my activity if the worker dies?

If your activity has already been scheduled, it will be cancelled. If not, you will get a workflow.ErrSessionFailed error when you call workflow.ExecuteActivity().

# Is the concurrent session limitation per process or per host?

It's per worker process, so make sure there's only one worker process running on the host if you plan to use that feature.

# Future Work

  • Support automatic session re-establishing Right now a session is considered failed if the worker process dies. However, for some use cases, you may only care whether worker host is alive or not. For these uses cases, the session should be automatically re-established if the worker process is restarted.

  • Support fine-grained concurrent session limitation The current implementation assumes that all sessions are consuming the same type of resource and there's only one global limitation. Our plan is to allow you to specify what type of resource your session will consume and enforce different limitations on different types of resources.