Traverse and update/filter ETS table

Experimenting with ETS has forced me to look at Erlang docs and stare at the Stream module more than I have previously. I am able to traverse an ETS table using Stream.resource/3, something like this:

tid = :my_ets_table

      fn -> [] end,
        [] ->
          case :ets.first(tid) do
            :"$end_of_table" -> {:halt, []}
            first_key -> {:ets.lookup(tid, first_key), first_key}

        acc ->
          case, acc) do
            :"$end_of_table" -> {:halt, acc}
            next_key -> {:ets.lookup(tid, next_key), next_key}
      fn _acc -> :ok end

And because the above emits a Stream, I can pipe it to other Stream functions, e.g. Stream.filter/2:

# ... cont'd from above
|> Stream.filter(&maybe_remove/1)

But this doesn’t work: the resulting stream has the proper items filtered, but of course, the ETS table remains unchanged.

If I instead use Stream.each/2 and attempt to delete keys, e.g.

# cont'd from orig
|> Stream.each(fn {k, v} -> 
  case check_something({k, v}) do
    false -> :ets.delete(tid, k)
    _ -> nil

then there are errors because I have maimed the stream:

** (ArgumentError) errors were found at the given arguments:

  * 2nd argument: not a key that exists in the table

    (stdlib 3.16.1), :b)

Things work fine if I do this operation using regular Enum (i.e. not via a stream), but of course, this could be problematic/slow for large tables.

One possibility here would be to use the stream and accumulate only the keys for items that had to be deleted, then delay the actual deletion until after the stream had been run. (But this is maybe a wee bit tricky because Stream has no reduce function).

Another possibility might be to write the stream results into a new table, then replace the original (e.g. by deleting the original and renaming the temporary one).

Am I missing something obvious? Any words of wisdom are welcomed!

1 Like

Not the leading expert on ets tables, but:

  • if your deletion logic is based on simple pattern matching, you could use match_delete/2

  • If not, you can traverse the table using foldl/3 (or foldr/3):

foo =, [])
:ets.insert(foo, [{:a, 1}, {:b, 2}, {:c, 3}])

:ets.foldl(fn term, deleted -> 
     if term == {:b, 2} do
       :ets.delete_object(foo, term)
       deleted + 1
iex> 1

iex> [c: 3, a: 1]

Seems to be working…

1 Like

:ets.safe_fixtable/2 seems to speak to your exact use-case:

When a table is fixed, a sequence of first/1 and next/2 calls are guaranteed to succeed even if keys are removed during the traversal.

1 Like

Thank you, the lfold worked beautifully. Oddly, once I did that, I didn’t need the safe_fixtable option, but maybe that might be required if the write or read concurrency were false.

higher-level APIs for the win :joy:

Ha. Brilliant.