Call Site Dependency Injection

This post documents call site dependency injection pattern. It is a rather low level specimen and has little to do with enterprise DI. The pattern is somewhat Rust-specific.

Usually, when you implement a type which needs some user-provided functionality, the first thought is to supply it in constructor:

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struct Engine {
    config: Config,
    ...
}

impl Engine {
    fn new(config: Config) -> Engine { ... }
    fn go(&mut self) { ... }
}

In this example, we implement Engine and the caller supplies Config.

An alternative is to pass the dependency to every method call:

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struct Engine {
    ...
}

impl Engine {
    fn new() -> Engine { ... }
    fn go(&mut self, config: &Config) { ... }
}

In Rust, the latter (call-site injection) sometimes works with lifetimes better. Let’s see the examples!

Lazy Field

In the first example, we want to lazily compute a field’s value based on other fields. Something like this:

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struct Widget {
    name: String,
    name_hash: Lazy<u64>,
}

impl Widget {
    fn new(name: String) -> Widget {
        Widget {
            name,
            name_hash: Lazy::new(|| {
                compute_hash(&self.name)
            }),
        }
    }
}

The problem with this design is that it doesn’t work in Rust. The closure in Lazy needs access to self, and that would create a self-referential data structure!

The solution is to supply the closure at the point where the Lazy is used:

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struct Widget {
    name: String,
    name_hash: OnceCell<u64>,
}

impl Widget {
    fn new(name: String) -> Widget {
        Widget {
            name,
            name_hash: OnceCell::new(),
        }
    }
    fn name_hash(&self) -> u64 {
        *self.name_hash.get_or_init(|| {
            compute_hash(&self.name)
        })
    }
}

Indirect Hash Table

The next example is about plugging a custom hash function into a hash table. In Rust’s standard library, this is only possible on the type level, by implementing the Hash trait for a type. A more general design would be to parameterize the table with a hash function at run-time. This is what C++ does. However in Rust this won’t be general enough.

Consider a string interner, which stores strings in a vector and additionally maintains a hash-based index:

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struct Interner {
    vec: Vec<String>,
    set: HashSet<usize>,
}

impl Interner {
    fn intern(&mut self, s: &str) -> usize { ... }
    fn lookup(&self, i: usize) -> &str { ... }
}

The set field stores the strings in a hash table, but it represents them using indices into neighboring vec.

Constructing the set with a closure wont work for the same reason Lazy didn’t work — this creates a self-referential structure. In C++ there exists a work-around — it is possible to box the vec and share a stable pointer between Interner and the closure. In Rust, that would create aliasing, preventing the use of &mut Vec.

Curiously, using a sorted vec instead of a hash works with std APIs:

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struct Interner {
    vec: Vec<String>,
    // Invariant: sorted
    set: Vec<usize>,
}

impl Interner {
    fn intern(&mut self, s: &str) -> usize {
        let idx = self.set.binary_search_by(|&idx| {
            self.vec[idx].cmp(s)
        });
        match idx {
            Ok(idx) => self.set[idx],
            Err(idx) => {
                let res = self.vec.len();
                self.vec.push(s.to_string());
                self.set.insert(idx, res);
                res
            }
        }
    }
    fn lookup(&self, i: usize) -> &str { ... }
}

This is because the closure is supplied at the call site rather than at the construction site.

The hashbrown crate provides this style of API for hashes via RawEntry.

Per Container Allocators

The third example is from the Zig programming language. Unlike Rust, Zig doesn’t have a blessed global allocator. Instead, containers in Zig come in two flavors. The “Managed” flavor accepts an allocator as a constructor parameter and stores it as a field (Source). The “Unmanaged” flavor adds an allocator parameter to every method (Source).

The second approach is more frugal — it is possible to use a single allocator reference with many containers.

Fat Pointers

The final example comes from the Rust language itself. To implement dynamic dispatch, Rust uses fat pointers, which are two words wide. The first word points to the object, the second one to the vtable. These pointers are manufactured at the point where a concrete type is used generically.

This is different from C++, where vtable pointer is embedded into the object itself during construction.


Having seen all these examples, I am warming up to Scala-style implicit parameters. Consider this hypothetical bit of Rust code with Zig-style vectors:

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{
    let mut a = get_allocator();
    let mut xs = Vec::new();
    let mut ys = Vec::new();
    xs.push(&mut a, 1);
    ys.push(&mut a, 2);
}

The problem here is Drop — freeing the vectors requires access to the allocator, and it’s unclear how to provide one. Zig dodges the problem by using defer statement rather than destructors. In Rust with implicit parameters, I imagine the following would work:

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impl<implicit a: &mut Allocator, T> Drop for Vec<T>

To conclude, I want to share one last example where CSDI thinking helped me to discover a better application-level architecture.

A lot of rust-analyzer’s behavior is configurable. There are toggles for inlay hints, completion can be tweaked, and some features work differently depending on the editor. The first implementation was to store a global Config struct together with the rest of analysis state. Various subsystems then read bits of this Config. To avoid coupling distinct features together via this shared struct, config keys were dynamic:

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type Config = HashMap<String, String>;

This system worked, but felt rather awkward.

The current implementation is much simpler. Rather than storing a single Config as a part of the state, each method now accepts a specific config parameter:

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fn get_completions(
    analysis: &Analysis,
    config: &CompletionConfig,
    file: FileId,
    offset: usize,
)

fn get_inlay_hints(
    analysis: &Analysis,
    config: &HintsConfig,
    file: FileId,
)

Not only the code is simpler, it is more flexible. Because configuration is no longer a part of the state, it is possible to use different configs for the same functionality depending on the context. For example, explicitly invoked completion might be different from the asynchronous one.

Discussion on /r/rust.