The continuation interface is Traffic Server’s basic callback mechanism. Continuations are instances of the opaque data type TSCont. In its basic form, a continuation represents a handler function and a mutex.

This chapter covers the following topics:

Mutexes and Data

A continuation must be created with a mutex if your continuation does one of the following:

  • is registered globally (TSHttpHookAdd or TSHttpSsnHookAdd) to an HTTP hook and uses TSContDataSet/Get
  • is registered locally (TSHttpTxnHookAdd), but for multiple transactions uses TSContDataSet/Get
  • uses TSCacheXXX, TSNetXXX, TSHostLookup, or TSContSchedule APIs

Before being activated, a caller must grab the continuation’s mutex. This requirement makes it possible for a continuation’s handler function to safely access its data and to prevent multiple callers from running it at the same time (see the About the Sample Protocol for usage). The data protected by the mutex is any global or continuation data associated to the continuation by TSContDataSet. This does not include the local data created by the continuation handler function. A typical example of continuations created with associated data structures and mutexes is the transaction state machine created in the sample Protocol plugin (see One Way to Implement a Transaction State Machine).

A reentrant call occurs when the continuation passed as an argument to the API can be called in the same stack trace as the function calling the API. For example, if you call TSCacheRead (contp, mykey), it is possible that contp‘s handler will be called directly and then TSCacheRead returns.

Caveats that could cause issues include the following:

  • a continuation has data associated with it (TSContDataGet).
  • the reentrant call passes itself as a continuation to the reentrant API. In this case, the continuation should not try to access its data after calling the reentrant API. The reason for this is that data may be modified by the section of code in the continuation’s handler that handles the event sent by the API. It is recommended that you always return after a reentrant call to avoid accessing something that has been deallocated.

Below is an example, followed by an explanation.

continuation_handler (TSCont contp, TSEvent event, void *edata) {
    switch (event) {
        case event1:
            TSReentrantCall (contp);
            /* Return right away after this call */
        case event2:
            TSContDestroy (contp);

The above example first assumes that the continuation is called back with event1; it then does the first reentrant call that schedules the continuation to receive event2. Because the call is reentrant, the processor calls back the continuation right away with event2 and the continuation is destroyed. If you try to access the continuation or one of its members after the reentrant call, then you might access something that has been deallocated. To avoid accessing something that has been deallocated, never access the continuation or any of its members after a reentrant call - just exit the handler.

Note: Most HTTP transaction plugin continuations do not need non-null mutexes because they’re called within the processing of an HTTP transaction, and therefore have the transaction’s mutex.

It is also possible to specify a continuation’s mutex as NULL. This should be done only when registering a continuation to a global hook, by a call to TSHttpHookAdd. In this case, the continuation can be called simultaneously by different instances of HTTP SM running on different threads. Having a mutex here would slow and/or hinder Traffic Server performance, since all the threads will try to lock the same mutex. The drawback of not having a mutex is that such a continuation cannot have data associated with it (i.e., TSContDataGet/Set cannot be used).

When using a NULL mutex it is dangerous to access the continuation’s data, but usually continuations with NULL mutexes have no data associated with them anyway. An example of such a continuation is one that gets called back every time an HTTP request is read, and then determines from the request alone if the request should go through or be rejected. An HTTP transaction gives its continuation data to the contp.