12. Advanced Topics

Implementing Message Handlers in C or C++

The AMPS Python client provides a wrapper that works with the python ctypes module to allow you to create message handlers in C or C++ and expose them to Python. This can improve performance in the message handler. When you use this technique, messages are delivered directly from the C++ client to your message handler: there is no Python code involved in handling the messages.

To use this capability, you:

  1. Create a message handler with C linkage, and compile that message handler into a shared library
  2. In your Python program, use the ctypes module to load the library
  3. Construct an instance of CMessageHandler, a wrapper object that holds a pointer to the message handler function and the userdata to be provided to the handler during each call.
  4. Pass the CMessageHandler to any method that expects a message handler.

The AMPS Python client registers the pointer and user data you provide as a C++ message handler. Once the handler is registered, no Python code is called when providing messages to the handler.

Implementing the Handler

To use this capability, you create a message handler that exposes a function with the following signature having C linkage:

extern "C"
void my_message_handler(
    AMPS::Message &message,
    void *userdata

Notice that this signature is the same signature used by message handlers in the AMPS C++ client.You implement the function and compile it into a shared library or DLL, using the instructions provided with your Python implementation. For details on the C++ client, you can install the client itself, or consult the documentation at http://docs.crankuptheamps.com/api/cpp/index.html.

Loading and Using the Handler

Once you’ve compiled the library, you use the ctypes module to load the library. You then create an instance of the message handler wrapper, and pass that wrapper to the AMPS client methods, as shown below:

import ctypes
import AMPS


# assumes that client is already created and connected

# load the shared object
dll = ctypes.CDLL("./libmymessagehandler.so")

# create a handler that points to the underlying C function
# and bind the user data to that handler.
handler = AMPS.CMessageHandler(dll.my_message_hander, "user data")

# handler can be used anywhere you would use a message handler
client.subscribe(handler, "myTopic")


# and so it goes

The AMPS.CMessageHandler type accepts a pointer to a message handler with the signature shown above and a Python object that can be marshalled into a native C type through the ctypes interface. Once marshalled, the object will be cast to a void * and provided in the userdata parameter of the message handler. Marshalling the userdata parameter follows the ctypes module conventions. If you need to explicitly control the way an object is marshalled, you can construct one of the ctypes objects and pass that new object into the method.

Using the C++ Client

While the AMPS Python client provides enough performance for a wide variety of applications, in some cases, using the underlying C++ implementation can provide extra performance. The AMPS Python client works with the ctypes module to allow you to pass the underlying C++ client to an arbitrary function, effectively allowing you to integrate C++ code directly into your Python program.

Consider using the C++ client directly when latency is at a premium or when your application works directly with C++. For example, you might you use the client directly when:

  • You are assembling messages from a C++ library without a Python binding
  • You need to customize client behavior that is implemented in C++ (for example, implementing a custom SubscriptionManager or BookmarkStore)
  • Your application needs to execute a set of commands with AMPS with minimal latency. For example, you might need to publish an array of values as individual messages with as little latency as possible. In this case, using the underlying C++ client directly can reduce latency.

To use the underlying C++ client, you:

  1. Create a function with C linkage, and compile that function into a shared library. One of the parameters of the function should be a reference to an AMPS::Client.
  2. In your Python program, use the ctypes module to load the library.
  3. Call the function on the library, passing the appropriate parameters for the C function.

Implementing the C++ Function

The only requirement on the C++ function is that it have C linkage and that one of the parameters is a reference to an AMPS::Client. By convention, 60East recommends that the first parameter is the AMPS::Client. However, this is not a requirement of the interface.

For example, a function that simply takes an AMPS::Client has the following signature:

extern "C"
void configure_client(AMPS::Client& client);

While a function that takes a client, a topic, and a pointer to data to be published might have the following signature:

extern "C"
void publish_data(
    AMPS::Client& client,
    const char * topic,
    const char * data

The ctypes module provides a standard AMPS::Client to these functions. Although the Client has been created by Python code, there is nothing Python-specific about the object within the C++ function. You can use the Client just as you would any other Client object.

You can also use the ctypes binding with AMPS::HAClient, as shown below:

extern "C"
void install_server_chooser(AMPS::HAClient& client);

Since the ctypes module passes the data through the C ABI, the module is not able to perform extensive type checking on C++ types. Your Python code must be careful to pass only objects of the appropriate type, or you may cause a segmentation violation. For example, if a method expecting an HAClient receives a Client and calls connectAndLogon (which is not a method provided by Client), your program will likely crash.


The ctypes module has a few important caveats.

The ctypes module does not provide strong type-safety guarantees for C++ classes. It is your responsibility to ensure that you call methods with objects of the appropriate type.

The ctypes module calls your function through an extern “C” interface. C++ exceptions cannot be propagated out of a function with C binding. You must catch all exceptions that may be thrown, or your application will likely crash.

Loading and Using the Function

Once you’ve compiled the library, you use the ctypes module to load the library. You can then call the function directly from Python, using the name of the C function and passing the appropriate arguments.

Let’s look at a simple example. For this example, assume that you have compiled a module named module.so with the following function:

extern "C" void publish_message(AMPS::Client& client,
                                const char* topic,
                                const char* data)
        if (&client && topic && data) {
    catch (AMPS::Exception& e)
        /* Handle error reporting and recovery logic */

You can load the module and call the function as shown below:

import ctypes

module = ctypes.CDLL("module.so")
client = AMPS.Client("client")

module.publish_data(client, "my_topic", "some_data")

The ctypes module handles type conversions between Python and C types. In this case, the module passes the underlying Python client as the first argument of the C function. The two Python strings are passed as NULL-terminated char * arrays.

The ctypes module also handles more complicated signatures and correctly passes arrays. For example, you could implement a method that publishes an array of Python values as follows:

extern "C" void vector_publish(AMPS::Client& client,
                                const char* topic,
                                const char** data,
                                size_t vector_length)
        if (topic && &client) {
            for (;vector_length;--vector_length,++data) {
    catch (AMPS::Exception& e)
        /* Handle reporting and recovery logic */

You could then use this function from Python as follows:

import ctypes

module = ctypes.CDLL("module.so")
client = AMPS.Client("client")

TOPIC = "topic"
DATA  = [{"data":x, "string_data":"string_data"} for x in range(5)]

# initialize vector of data to publish by
# dumping the dictionaries to JSON strings

vector = [json.dumps(data) for data in DATA[1:]]

# Set up the parameters to be passed to a C
# function as explained in the ctype documentation
param = (ctypes.c_char_p * len(vector))()
param[:] = vector

# Call the function
module.vector_publish(client,TOPIC, param,len(param))

The sample above creates an array of dictionaries and creates an array of JSON objects from those dictionaries.

In this case, it is important for us to control how the array of JSON objects is passed to the C function. We need to pass an array of C-style strings, that is, const char**. To control how the array is marshalled, the sample creates an object that knows how to translate between a Python array and const char**, then assigns the array to that object (see the ctype documentation for full details). Once we have that object, we simply call the vector_publish function. None of the Python infrastructure is visible to the vector_publish function: that function is able to use the provided data as native C++ data.

Transport Filtering

The AMPS Python client offers the ability to filter incoming and outgoing messages in the format they are sent and received on the network. This allows you to inspect or modify outgoing messages before they are sent to the network, and incoming messages as they arrive from the network. This can be especially useful when using SSL connections, since this gives you a way to monitor outgoing network traffic before it is encrypted, and incoming network traffic after it is decrypted.

To create a transport filter, you create a callable that expects a string that contains the raw data, and a direction parameter indicating whether the string is output or not. For example, the following function simply prints the direction and data:

def printing_filter(data, direction):
    if direction:
        print "INCOMING ---> %s" % data
        print "OUTGOING ---> %s" %data

You then register the filter by calling set_transport_filter with the callable, as shown below.

# client is an AMPS client

Notice that the transport filter function is called with the verbatim contents of data received from AMPS. This means that, for incoming data, the function may not be called precisely on message boundaries, and that the binary length encoding used by the client and server will be presented to the transport filter.

Working With Binary Data

A Message object contains two methods for retrieving the message payload:

  • get_data() returns the payload as a string
  • get_data_raw() returns the payload as bytes

If you are working with binary data that is not guaranteed to be valid UTF-8, use the get_data_raw method to avoid errors when attempting to encode the data to a string.

Using SSL

The AMPS Python client includes support for Secure Sockets Layer. To use this support in the Python client using the default OpenSSL implementation for the Python installation, you need only use tcps for the transport type in the connection string.

If your Python client does not have a default OpenSSL implementation, you must load an SSL implementation as described following. This is typically the case for Windows Python builds, and may be the case if your site uses a custom build of Python on Linux.

Loading a Different SSL Implementation

The Python client also allows you to load and use an OpenSSL implementation other than the default implementation for the Python installation. The AMPS Python client provides the method ssl_init, which takes the name of the library to load or a full path to the file that contains the library. For example, to load the SSL implementation at /opt/mycorp/trusted/vetted_ssl.so, you could use the following line of code:


You must load the SSL library before making the connection.