Linear Resources

We have introduced App for writing interactive programs, using interfaces to constrain which operations are permitted, but have not yet seen the Path parameter in action. Its purpose is to constrain when programs can throw exceptions, to know where linear resource usage is allowed. The bind operator for App is defined as follows (not via Monad):

data SafeBind : Path -> (l' : Path) -> Type where
     SafeSame : SafeBind l l
     SafeToThrow : SafeBind NoThrow MayThrow

(>>=) : SafeBind l l' =>
        App {l} e a -> (a -> App {l=l'} e b) -> App {l=l'} e b

The intuition behind this type is that, when sequencing two App programs:

  • if the first action might throw an exception, then the whole program might throw.

  • if the first action cannot throw an exception, the second action can still throw, and the program as a whole can throw.

  • if neither action can throw an exception, the program as a whole cannot throw.

The reason for the detail in the type is that it is useful to be able to sequence programs with a different Path, but in doing so, we must calculate the resulting Path accurately. Then, if we want to sequence subprograms with linear variables, we can use an alternative bind operator which guarantees to run the continuation exactly once:

bindL : App {l=NoThrow} e a ->
        (1 k : a -> App {l} e b) -> App {l} e b

To illustrate the need for bindL, we can try writing a program which tracks the state of a secure data store, which requires logging in before reading the data.

Example: a data store requiring a login

Many software components rely on some form of state, and there may be operations which are only valid in specific states. For example, consider a secure data store in which a user must log in before getting access to some secret data. This system can be in one of two states:

  • LoggedIn, in which the user is allowed to read the secret

  • LoggedOut, in which the user has no access to the secret

We can provide commands to log in, log out, and read the data, as illustrated in the following diagram:


The login command, if it succeeds, moves the overall system state from LoggedOut to LoggedIn. The logout command moves the state from LoggedIn to LoggedOut. Most importantly, the readSecret command is only valid when the system is in the LoggedIn state.

We can represent the state transitions using functions with linear types. To begin, we define an interface for connecting to and disconnecting from a store:

interface StoreI e where
    connect : (1 prog : (1 d : Store LoggedOut) ->
              App {l} e ()) -> App {l} e ()
    disconnect : (1 d : Store LoggedOut) -> App {l} e ()

Neither connect nor disconnect throw, as shown by generalising over l. Once we have a connection, we can use the following functions to access the resource directly:

data Res : (a : Type) -> (a -> Type) -> Type where
     (#) : (val : a) -> (1 resource : r val) -> Res a r

login : (1 s : Store LoggedOut) -> (password : String) ->
        Res Bool (\ok => Store (if ok then LoggedIn else LoggedOut))
logout : (1 s : Store LoggedIn) -> Store LoggedOut
readSecret : (1 s : Store LoggedIn) ->
             Res String (const (Store LoggedIn))

Res is defined in the Prelude, since it is commonly useful. It is a dependent pair type, which associates a value with a linear resource. We’ll leave the other definitions abstract, for the purposes of this introductory example.

The following listing shows a complete program accessing the store, which reads a password, accesses the store if the password is correct and prints the secret data. It uses let (>>=) = bindL to redefine do-notation locally.

storeProg : Has [Console, StoreI] e => App e ()
storeProg = let (>>=) = bindL in
      do putStr "Password: "
         password <- getStr
         connect $ \s =>
           do let True # s = login s password
                | False # s => do putStrLn "Wrong password"
                                  disconnect s
              let str # s = readSecret s
              putStrLn $ "Secret: " ++ show str
              let s = logout s
              disconnect s

If we omit the let (>>=) = bindL, it will use the default (>>=) operator, which allows the continuation to be run multiple times, which would mean that s is not guaranteed to be accessed linearly, and storeProg would not type check. We can safely use getStr and putStr because they are guaranteed not to throw by the Path parameter in their types.

App1: Linear Interfaces

Adding the bindL function to allow locally rebinding the (>>=) operator allows us to combine existing linear resource programs with operations in App - at least, those that don’t throw. It would nevertheless be nice to interoperate more directly with App. One advantage of defining interfaces is that we can provide multiple implementations for different contexts, but our implementation of the data store uses primitive functions (which we left undefined in any case) to access the store.

To allow control over linear resources, Control.App provides an alternative parameterised type App1:

data App1 : {default One u : Usage} ->
            (es : List Error) -> Type -> Type

There is no need for a Path argument, since linear programs can never throw. The Usage argument states whether the value returned is to be used once, or has unrestricted usage, with the default in App1 being to use once:

data Usage = One | Any

The main difference from App is the (>>=) operator, which has a different multiplicity for the variable bound by the continuation depending on the usage of the first action:

Cont1Type : Usage -> Type -> Usage -> List Error -> Type -> Type
Cont1Type One a u e b = (1 x : a) -> App1 {u} e b
Cont1Type Any a u e b = (x : a) -> App1 {u} e b

(>>=) : {u : _} -> (1 act : App1 {u} e a) ->
        (1 k : Cont1Type u a u' e b) -> App1 {u=u'} e b

Cont1Type returns a continuation which uses the argument linearly, if the first App1 program has usage One, otherwise it returns a continuation where argument usage is unrestricted. Either way, because there may be linear resources in scope, the continuation is run exactly once and there can be no exceptions thrown.

Using App1, we can define all of the data store operations in a single interface, as shown in the following listing. Each operation other than disconnect returns a linear resource.

interface StoreI e where
  connect : App1 e (Store LoggedOut)
  login : (1 d : Store LoggedOut) -> (password : String) ->
          App1 e (Res Bool (\ok => Store (if ok then LoggedIn
                                                else LoggedOut))
  logout : (1 d : Store LoggedIn) -> App1 e (Store LoggedOut)
  readSecret : (1 d : Store LoggedIn) ->
               App1 e (Res String (const (Store LoggedIn)))
  disconnect : (1 d : Store LoggedOut) -> App {l} e ()

We can explicitly move between App and App1:

app : (1 p : App {l=NoThrow} e a) -> App1 {u=Any} e a
app1 : (1 p : App1 {u=Any} e a) -> App {l} e a

We can run an App program using app, inside App1, provided that it is guaranteed not to throw. Similarly, we can run an App1 program using app1, inside App, provided that the value it returns has unrestricted usage. So, for example, we can write:

storeProg : Has [Console, StoreI] e => App e ()
storeProg = app1 $ do
     store <- connect
     app $ putStr "Password: "

This uses app1 to state that the body of the program is linear, then app to state that the putStr operation is in App. We can see that connect returns a linear resource by inspecting the hole what_next, which also shows that we are running inside App1:

 0 e : List Type
 1 store : Store LoggedOut
what_next : App1 e ()

For completeness, one way to implement the interface is as follows, with hard coded password and internal data:

Has [Console] e => StoreI e where
      = do app $ putStrLn "Connect"
           pure1 (MkStore "xyzzy")

  login (MkStore str) pwd
      = if pwd == "Mornington Crescent"
           then pure1 (True # MkStore str)
           else pure1 (False # MkStore str)
  logout (MkStore str) = pure1 (MkStore str)
  readSecret (MkStore str) = pure1 (str # MkStore str)

  disconnect (MkStore _)
      = putStrLn "Disconnect"

Then we can run it in main:

main : IO ()
main = run storeProg