Concurrent Data Structures in C++: Web crawler lab
The goals for this lab are:
complete and test a web crawler application, which fetches web pages then visits the links contained in those web pages, using STL containers;
experiment with an example of threads programming, a type of multicore parallel programming;
to complete a correct multi-threaded web crawler application that uses TBB containers.
Note: The work on this lab requires a "tarball" named
cds.tar.gz , which is located on the Manycore Testing Lab
Note to Workshop 34 participants:
cds.tar.gz is an incomplete version for
students, to be completed as part of the lab exercise.
For the workshop, we have created a second tarball for professors
cds_all.tar.gz which is complete, which we would
not provide to students.
Also, the steps below may be carried out on MTL or on your own computer. Packages needed to run both of these Concurrent Data Structures labs on your own computer:
Standard Template Library STL
CURL library for web access
Boost library, for threads and mutexes
Intel's Threading Building Blocks (TBB)
The first version of the web crawler program is located in a
This is a sequential program, which is uses only one
processing element as it carries out its work. (The alternative is
a parallel program, which can use multiple cores and/or
computers to do multiple computations physically at the same time.)
Copy the tarball into your directory as follows.
% scp sigc-sNN@188.8.131.52:../Note: This command is for a Linux or Macintosh terminal window. Do not enter the character
%-- it represents the command prompt. Here,
NNis the number assigned to you for accessing MTL. This command will prompt you for the password for your MTL account
sigc-sNN. On Windows, use your SCP client (such as WinSCP) to perform the copy.
Then, unpack the tarball as follows:
% tar xfzOn Windows, use a utility such as 7-Zip to unpack the tarball.
This will create a directory
cds that contains the
code. Change to that directory.
% cd cds
contains several subdirectories, and is organized
in a structure suitable for a software project that is capable
of growing very large.
Examine the code for this program. Observe the following:
The source files (
.cpp implementation and driver
modules) are contained in a
src, and the header files (interface
modules) are named with
and are stored in a subdirectory named
Some of the state variables in classes within
serial are STL containers, as described in a class handout.
Three classes are defined:
spider is the main class, with methods for
crawling from page to page and for processing each page, and state
variables for recording the work to be done (i.e., web addresses or
URLs of pages to visit), the finished work (URLs already
processes), and a
page contains state variables for the URL of a
particular web page (as a
string) and a
vector of URLs found
in that web page (which are candidates for future
page also contains a method for scanning a
web page and filling that
vector with URLs that are
contained in that page.
raw_page has helper methods for fetching pages
from the web and for delivering the HTML code from a fetched web page.
The main program is in the file
spider_driver.cpp. It obtains two values from the
command line, namely the starting URL to crawl from, and the maximum number of
URLs to visit (which must be parsed from a string to an
integer). Then, the program performs the crawl and prints results.
make variables to
make it easier to change items such as compilation flags. Source files
src subdirectory are compiled to produce object
.o) files in the
build subdirectory, and
those object files are linked to creat an executable named
DO THIS: Write down other observations or comments
serial code. Feel free
to include opinions you may have about the code or its organization.
spider.cpp indicate that two parts of
the code need to be filled in for the crawler program to work. Before
actually fillin that code in, we will see if we can compile and run the
First, insert output statements in those two locations, to indicate whether those sections of the code are reached. One message might state "processing the page x" where x is the URL of the page being processed, and the other might state "crawling the page x".
cd to the
serial directory, and
make command in that directory
serial. This should compile the code and create an
Now fill in the missing code for the
spider::crawl() method. Notes:
You will have to use appropriate methods for fetching a web
page, processing that page, and adding that page to the finished
queue, then adding 1 to the variable named
Note: The method for fetching requires a C-style string
(null-terminated array of characters) for its argument, but the URL
you are crawling
is stored in a
string object. Use the online
string to look for a method of
string that returns a C-style string with the same
characters as that
Do you get the expected output, given that
spider::process() is still only printing a message?
Finally, complete the implementation of the
spider::process() method, compile, and test.
spider::is_image() currently always
false. In a more sophisticated crawler, this
method could examine file extensions in order to determine whether a
URL is an image (no need to crawl) or not.
A thread is a separate sequence of instruction execution within a program. Different threads may run on different cores of a multi-core computer; if there are more threads than cores, those threads are scheduled in turns while that program runs.
This section of the lab introduces thread programming with
boost threads, a version of which are part of the
new C++11 standard.
Change directory to the
% cd ~/lab1/cds/threads
First, look at the sequential program
in that directory. It computes a table of primes up to a maximum
number, then counts the number of primes produced.
primes.cpp does not use threads, but is an
ordinary program with multiple loops.
Then, compile and run the program, using the Makefile provided
make primes). Feel free to experiment. Note: Be prepared to wait...
Now, examine the multi-threaded program
threads/primes2.cpp. This program uses the same algorithm
for determining primes, but it divides the range 2..
threadct non-overlapping subranges or "chunks",
and has a separate
boost thread determine the primes
within each chunk. Observe the following:
The loop for determining primes from 2 to
which was located in
main() in the program
primes.cpp, has been relocated to a separate function
work(). That function has two arguments
max, and the loop has been modified to check only the
max instead of the entire
Each thread will execute
work() as if it were a "main
program" for that thread.
pool is an array of pointers to
boost thread is initialized with a unique
subrange of 2..
MAX. Threads other than the first and the
last receive subranges of length
segsize. The first and
last subranges are treated specially, to insure that the complete computation
covers exactly the range 2..
To construct a
boost thread running
work() with arguments
the following constructor call would be used:
thread(boost::bind(work, a, b))
The call above constructs a thread, but that thread doesn't
begin executing until its
join() method is called. Thus,
there is a separate loop that calls
join() for all the
threads in the array
pool, which starts up all the
Now, compile and run the program
threads/primes2.cpp, using the
make primes2). This program takes an optional positive
integer argument, for the thread count (default is 1 thread).
You can time how long a program runs at the Linux or Macintosh
by preceding the command with the word
example, the two commands
% time primes % time primes2 4
will report the timing for running both the sequential
primes program, and the multi-threaded
primes2 program with four threads.
Perform time tests of these two programs, for at least
one run of
primes, one run of
one thread, and one run of
primes2 with 4 threads. Feel
free to experiment further.
Examine the code for the program
The same four-directory structure is used as for the
serial directory in the previous lab.
The header files
parallel/include/page.hpp are identical. You can use the
diff command to verify this:
$ cd ~/SD/lab1 $ diff serial/include/page.hpp parallel/include/page.hpp
diff command finds any differences between its
two file arguments, it will report those differences; if there are no
diff will print nothing.
DO THIS: Use the
diff command to
these two versions
diff program will report differences
by printing lines that appear differently in those files. Lines that
appear only in the first file argument to
diff will be
<, and lines that appear only in the
second file will be prefixed by
Here are differences between
A different selection of
appears in the two files. In particular,
<queue>, for the
STL queue container.
parallel/include/spider.hpp includes three other files instead of
<queue>. One refers to a new file
atomic_counter.hpp that is part of this program (in the
parallel/include). The others
provide two TBB containers, named
TBB stands for Intel Threading Building Blocks, which provides an alternative implementation of some common containers. TBB also provides various parallel algorithms, but we will not use those algorithm features in this lab.
The state variables
m_pages use the TBB
tbb::concurrent_vector instead of the STL containers
parallel/include/spider.hpp has two new state variables:
m_processed, which has type
atomic_counter (defined in
m_threadCount of type
is an integer type
parallel, one of the constructors for
spider has a second argument of type
There are two new methods, named
Note: TBB containers are used instead of STL containers because TBB containers are thread safe. This means that multiple threads can safely interact with a TBB container at the same time without causing errors. STL containers are not thread-safe: with STL containers, it is possible for two threads to interact with a container in a way that produces incorrect results.
When the correct behavior of a program depends on timing, we say that program has a race condition. The parallel version of the program uses TBB containers in order to avoid race conditions. (Race conditions are discussed in other CSinParallel modules.)
Likewise, the state variable
m_processed has the type
atomic_counter instead of
long because the
atomic_counter type is
thread-safe, enabling us to avoid a race condition that may arise if multiple
threads interact with an integer variable at about the same time.
parallel/src/spider.cpp contain the main differences between
these programs -- the
parallel version uses multiple
diff shows these differences:
parallel, one of the constructors for
spider has a second argument, to specify the number of
threads to use.
processed is a local variable in
serial. This local
variable is replaced by a state variable
The main work of
crawl is moved into a method
work() for the multithreaded version
and that version creates
threadCount threads to carry
that work out. Note that
work() has one argument, an
integer index of a thread in the array
spider::process() and the rest of the
spider.cpp are identical (except for missing
code). The comment within
process() indicates that the
same algorithm can be used for
parallel as for
serial. Why can the same
algorithm be used in the multi-threaded version as in the sequential version?
Fill in the code indicated in two locations for the
parallel version of
spider.cpp, working from the code
you wrote for the
serial version, as indicated by
comments in the
parallel code. Then compile and run your
Note: This version of the program requires three command-line arguments: the maximum number of URLs; the number of threads to use (this arg is new); and the starting URL to crawl.
Run the program with multiple threads (say, 4 threads). What do you observe about the run?
You can examine the beginning of the output using the
more program, e.g.,
% bin/spider 100 4 www.stolaf.edu | more
Each thread is programmed to print a message such as
Thread 2 finished after processing 29 URLswhen it completes.
You will probably find that a small number of threads processed all of the URLs, and that the other threads finished early without doing any work. How many threads processed URLs in your run? Can you think of a reason why the others finished early without processing any URLs? (Hint: Think about the work queue near the beginning of the program, just as the threads are starting their work.)
To spread the computational work out better among the threads,
observe that the method
spider::crawl() includes a call
to a method
work_once() that has been commented
/* work_once(); */Remove those comments, in order to enable that call to
work_once();. This will cause the program to process one web page before beginning multi-thread processing. If that first processed page includes several links, they will be added to the queue
m_work, so that several threads can retrieve web pages to process when they first begin.