Ingress Bridges

Swim’s built-in networking stack enables communication with other processes–which might themselves be other Swim servers. There are two directions of data flow: from Swim to external processes, and from external processes to Swim. This article discusses the latter.

We hereafter call any logic that enables this flow an ingress bridge for an application, as it enables ingression of data into your Swim server. Several ingress bridge implementations are possible, but all of them can be categorized into one of two high-level models: push-type and pull-type.

“Push” Model

This high-level ingress bridge design has data sources write (i.e. push) data to a Swim server.

Option 1: Swim Client

Writes to a Swim server are most easily accomplished using a Swim client instance, but doing so requires one of the following:

Note that the second is simply the first with an intermediary process.

Either way, the process that talks directly to the Swim server updates the server by either sending commands or writing to downlinks.

// swim/basic/
public class SwimWriter {
  // example usage:
  //   new SwimWriter()
  //      .generateOnce("warp://localhost:9001", "/unit/foo", "publish",
  //        Text.from("PushOption1"));
  // Note that this `SwimWriter` wrapper class is mostly just pedantic; nothing
  // wrong with directly operating with `ClientRuntime` instances

  private final ClientRuntime swim;

  public SwimWriter() {
    this.swim = new ClientRuntime();

  public void generateOnce(String host, String node, String lane, Value v) {
    this.swim.command(host, node, lane, v);

Option 2: Websocket Messages

Because WARP is built on top of websockets, sending the right websocket messages in the right order, even without a proper Swim handle, can trigger actions on a Swim server. Downlinks are near-impossible to instantiate in this manner, but sending commands is very simple (by design, because this is how we want non-Swim clients to write to Swim). Commanding a lane without WARP just requires two steps:

  1. Open a websocket connection to the desired server’s hostUri
  2. Write a string of the form @command(node:"%n",lane:"%l")%p through this connection, where %n is the desired nodeUri, %l is the laneUri, and %p is the payload

Consequently, this kind of ingress bridge can be written in any language that supports websockets. In Python:

# Prereq: install websocket-client:

from websocket import create_connection

ws = create_connection('ws://localhost:9001')

# all parameters are strings
def generate_once(host, node, lane, v):
  message = '@command(node:{},lane:{}){}'.format(node, lane, v)
  # equivalent old-school syntax:
  #   message = '@command(node:%s,lane:%s)%s' % (node, lane v)

Note that message could have been populated by data received from a different networking protocol; it is only the push to Swim that must be done through a websocket.

“Pull” Model

If you prefer that your Web Agents pull data rather than have messages pushed to them, you will have to be very careful. Running Swim agents on a single machine “in parallel” only works because each agent executes in a thread pool. Simple pull-type network requests (e.g. HTTP GETs) often involve blocking calls, which will bog down not only the current Agent but Agents scheduled for future execution by the same thread.

There are options to avoid this. “True” pull-type, nonblocking designs are only guaranteed over WARP. Otherwise, data flow can still be initiated by pull-type patterns, but the ultimate write to your Swim server will likely be a push.

If, but only if, the data source is itself a Swim server, then the work is minimal. Simply open downlinks to the data source lanes, and have the callback functions of these downlinks populate the Swim server’s lanes (or, optionally, do some analytics with this data first); data transfer through a downlink never blocks.

// swim/basic/
package swim.basic;

import swim.api.SwimLane;
import swim.api.agent.AbstractAgent;
import swim.api.downlink.ValueDownlink;
import swim.api.lane.CommandLane;
import swim.api.lane.MapLane;
import swim.structure.Form;

public class UnitAgent extends AbstractAgent {

  private ValueDownlink<String> toDataSource;

  MapLane<Long, String> history = this.<Long, String>mapLane();

  CommandLane<String> publish = this.<String>commandLane()
      .onCommand(msg -> {
        this.history.put(System.currentTimeMillis(), msg);

  public void didStart() {
    subscribe("warp://localhost:9002", "/source/" + getProp("id").stringValue(), "val");

  private void subscribe(String host, String node, String lane) {
    if (this.toDataSource != null) {
    this.toDataSource = downlinkValue()
      .didSet((n, o) -> {
        this.history.put(System.currentTimeMillis(), n);

  private void logMessage(Object msg) {
    System.out.println(nodeUri() + ": " + msg);

Option 2: Secondary Service

If the data source is not a Swim server and you still want something of a pull model, we recommend the following architecture:

It is not required that this service run outside of the Swim server. There is a way to execute blocking calls within a server context without impacting Web Agent functionality. This feature exceeds the scope of this discussion, but a fully-worked example can be found in our HTTP ingestion example.

Try It Yourself

A standalone project is available here. We do not demonstrate the “push” type bridges, as these are trivial applications of Swim clients. Instead, we demonstrate both pull-type ingress bridges: once with downlinks (hence another a Swim server as the data source), and once with an external process that pulls from the data source over MQTT prior to writing to Swim.