Model Relay

Using the Infusion Model Relay system, you can supply declarative configuration which specifies rules for keeping multiple pieces of model state around the component tree automatically up to date with each other's changes.

We sometimes use the term model skeleton to refer to a connected set of models around the component tree which are related together by relay rules. This term illustrates that these models form an inner core which arrive at a set of mutually consistent model values, before they start to notify listeners out in the periphery of each component (generally, in its view layer). The system might make several passes over a model skeleton in order to satisfy all the relay rules, and then update all modelListeners as a single operation — presenting them with a consistent snapshot of the state of the entire skeleton all at once. This guarantees that no model listener ever sees a model value which is inconsistent with the relay rules which are meant to be keeping them in step, which greatly enhances the reliability and clarity of the application design.

Every Infusion component descended from the grade fluid.modelComponent (a model-bearing component) supports a configuration area named modelRelay in which these rules can be defined, as well as allowing a short-form implicit syntax in the model area which can be used where the model values to be synchronised are identical at each end of the relationship.

Two styles for configuring model relay

There are two styles of configuration for setting up model relay — firstly, using the implicit syntax which just consists of IoC References from the model configuration for one model-bearing component to another — that is, in the component's configuration under the top-level model entry. Secondly, the explicit syntax which involves an entry in the component's top-level modelRelay block expressing a more complex rule, most likely involving some form of Model Transformation to apply during the relay process. Both of these styles will set up a permanent and bidirectional relationship between the two models at the ends of the relay — the relationship will be established as the components construct (during the initial transaction), and will persist until one of the components at the endpoints is destroyed.

How model relay updates propagate

A set of models which are linked by relay rules are called a model skeleton. Whenever an update (via its ChangeApplier) is received to any model which is part of the skeleton, a transaction begins in order to propagate it to all the related models with which it should be synchronised. The framework will keep propagating the change to all the models in the skeleton until they have all been brought up to date — however, these updates will initially occur privately within the transaction and any external listeners (modelListeners) will not be notified during the update process. Once the framework has computed final synchronised values for all of the models in the skeleton, the transaction ends, and then all listeners (via their respective ChangeAppliers) will be notified all at once.

If any of these listeners have a priority field attached to the listener declaration, the framework will sort all of these listeners globally across the entire model skeleton impacted by the change, before starting to notify them.

The initial transaction

Whenever a new model-bearing component (or an entire tree of model-bearing components) constructs, there will be a particular, large style of update transaction known as an initial transaction.
This is very similar to any other synchronisation transaction caused by a model relay update, although it will typically involve more data since all of the initial values of all the involved models must be taken into account — these result from any of the normal sources for component configuration, including defaults, user-supplied values, distributed options, etc. At the end of the initial transaction, any declaratively registered listeners will observe all of the new models go through the transition from holding their primordial value of undefined to holding their correct synchronised initial values. As with any other relay update transaction, this will appear to all the observers to occur in a single step even though from the point of view of the framework it may be a complex process involving many passes through the components.

You can control which components have the default values for their models honoured and which ignored during the initial transaction, by using the directives forward and backward in the modelRelay block - these are discussed in the section Controlling Propagation Through a Relay Rule.

Implicit model relay style

This is the most straightforward style for setting up model relay. This takes the form of a simple IoC Reference between one component's model and other. Here is a component which has a child component which sets up a model relay relationship with it:

fluid.defaults("examples.implicitModelRelay", {
    gradeNames: "fluid.modelComponent",
    model: {
         parentValue: 3
    },
    components: {
        child: {
            type: "fluid.modelComponent",
            options: {
                model: {
    // implicit relay rule setting up synchronisation with one field in parent's model
                    childValue: "{examples.implicitModelRelay}.model.parentValue"
                }
            }
        }
    }
});

var that = examples.implicitModelRelay();
// next line logs 3 - parent's value has been synchronised to child on construction
console.log(that.child.model.childValue);

The IoC expression {examples.implicitModelRelay}.model.parentValue here refers from one field of the child's model called childValue to one field of the parent's model called parentValue. This sets up a permanent model relay linking these two fields. From the construction point onwards, the framework will ensure that all updates made to one field will be reflected in the other. The framework will naturally ensure that if either of the components at the endpoint are destroyed, the relay will be torn down.

For example, here are some further pieces of code we could write, following on from the above example — these use the programmatic ChangeApplier API although in practice it is desirable to express as many such updates as declaratively as possible:

that.applier.change("parentValue", 4);      // update the parent's model field to hold the value 4
console.log(that.child.model.childValue);   // 4 - The child's model value has been updated
that.child.applier.change("childValue", 5); // update the child's model to hold the value 5
console.log(that.model.parentValue);        // 5 - The parent's model value has been updated

Explicit model relay style

This style is used when we require a Model Transformation rule to mediate between the updates synchronising one model value with another, or more control over the occasions when the updates occur. The simple implicit style is only capable of "moving" the same value between one path and another. Sometimes different models choose different strategies for representing "the same value" — for example, one component might represent a sound volume level on a scale of 0-100, whereas another might use a range of 0-1. The framework is capable of accommodating this kind of difference in viewpoint by allowing the user to explicitly list a transformation rule relating one model's instance of a value with another. This is done using the modelRelay section of a component's top-level options. Here is the layout of this options section:

Layout of top-level modelRelay section of fluid.modelComponent options

The modelRelay options block may take one of the following three forms -

  • A single modelRelayBlock holding a single model relay rule - OR
  • An array of modelRelayBlock sections - OR
  • A map of keys (namespaces) to modelRelayBlock sections

The first and third cases are disambiguated by looking for a member of the block named target which holds a String value - required for a single modelRelayBlock.

modelRelayBlock layout

Option nameTypeDescriptionExample
source (usual, but not required) String (EL Reference or short local path) The source model path to be linked by this relay rule. This option can be omitted if all arguments to the transform are presented as IoC references in its definition — as, for example, with fluid.transforms.free. "volume" / "{someComponent}.model.volume"
target (required) String (EL Reference or short local path) The target model path to be linked by this relay rule. This option must always be present. "volume" / "{someComponent}.model.volume"
singleTransform JSON (single Model Transformation rule) A short form which can be used where the transformation consists of just a single Model Transformation transform rule. Use either this or transform { type: "fluid.transforms.linearScale", factor: 100 }
transform JSON (full Model Transformation document) A long form of singleTransform which allows any valid Model Transformation document to be used to mediate the relay. This is an infrequently used form. See the list of available transformation functions for more information.
forward (optional) sourceFilterRecord Control the situations in which the forward leg of the transform operates - by listing one or more change sources which must match (includeSource) or not match (excludeSource) in the current transaction. {excludeSource: "init"}
backward (optional) sourceFilterRecord Control the situations in which the backward leg of the transform operates - by listing one or more change sources which must match (includeSource) or not match (excludeSource) in the current transaction. {excludeSource: "init"}
namespace (optional) String Identifies this model relay rule uniquely within its parent component. This namespace may be used to override the relay rule from a derived grade, or to control the priority of one relay rule with respect to another by using the priority field. Compare with the similar uses of namespaces within Infusion events, model listeners, etc. As with modelListener, this value will be taken from the key of the modelRelayBlock if it is in the "map of keys" form and the namespace member is absent. "resolveCentre"
priority (optional) Priority (Number|String) In complex scenarios where multiple model relay rules might be activated in response to a particular invalidation of the model, it can be useful to be able to control which one is picked first. Depending on the implementation of the model relay rules, very different model states might result from the final relay resolution, and only one of these might be acceptable to the user. "after:resolveCentre"

sourceFilterRecord in an explicit model relay block

A sourceFilterRecord holds members with one or both of the names excludeSource and includeSource. These members hold one or more strings representing change sources which can be used to control the situations in which the relay rule holding the record operates. These strings will be matched against all of the sources currently marked to the current transaction, and will prevent the relay being triggered (for excludeSource or allow it (for includeSource). These rules are exactly the same as the source matching rules for the members of the same names in a modelListener record.

Example showing explicit relay rule

Here is an example of two components linked by explicit model relay representing the situation we described earlier:

fluid.defaults("examples.explicitModelRelay", {
    gradeNames: "fluid.modelComponent",
    model: {
        volume: 95
    },
    components: {
        child: {
            type: "fluid.modelComponent",
            options: {
                modelRelay: {
                    source: "{examples.explicitModelRelay}.model.volume",
                    target: "volume",
                    singleTransform: {
                        type: "fluid.transforms.linearScale",
                        factor: 0.01
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    }
});

var that = examples.explicitModelRelay();
console.log(that.child.model.volume); // 0.95 - transformed during the initial transaction to sync with outer value
that.applier.change("volume", 50);
console.log(that.child.model.volume); // 0.5 - transformed to update with outer value
that.child.applier.change("volume", 1);
console.log(that.model.volume);       // 100 - inverse transformed to accept update from child component

In general those transformations which are invertible are the best choice for this kind of linkage. If the transforms are not invertible (or have no inverse defined in the framework), the updates will propagate only in one direction. This can still be highly useful. In addition to its invertibility, the propagation of updates through a relay rule can be fine-tuned by the options forward and backward, as described in the following section.

Controlling propagation through a relay rule

Each explicit relay rule can accept options forward and backward which allows the configurer to control the occasions on which the relay is operated in those directions — that is, forward representing the direction from source to target, and backward representing the direction from target to source. If the transform is not invertible, the backward option is ignored, and the system will behave as if it read backward: {excludeSource: "*"}.

Some use cases for controlling propagation relative to the init source are:

  • Operating only during the initial transaction with includeSource: "init",
  • Operating only during the "mature life" of the component after construction with excludeSource: "init"

Restricting the relay with excludeSource: init in one direction can often be useful to express the fact that whatever default value is configured into the model at the other end of the relay is to be ignored. This is frequently useful, since default model values typically propagate outwards from an implementation core and are normally expected to overwrite defaults which are held in more reusable components held at the periphery.

A rule leg marked excludeSource: "*" can be useful to express the fact that a particular component is only expected to act as a source of updates and is not prepared to receive them from the outside — it may control some kind of device, for example, which by construction cannot accept input.

A rule leg marked includeSource: "init" is less often useful, but can be helpful in contributing special initial values to certain kinds of "integrated models".

Compare these directives with the similar ones used for source guarding in model listeners.

Example showing propagation directive in explict relay

Here the same example that we saw illustrating explicit relay above showing the use of a propagation directive, in this case backward: {excludeSource: "init"}. In this case the directive is useful because we have added a default initial value 0.5 to the volume field at the forward end of the relay which conflicts with the value that the relay would establish as it synchronises the value 95 from the backward end. In this case, we want the backward value to take precedence during the initial transaction, but the relay to operate normally in both directions once both components are fully constructed. This component behaves identially as in the transcript in the above example.

fluid.defaults("examples.modelRelayPropagation", {
    gradeNames: "fluid.modelComponent",
    model: {
        volume: 95
    },
    components: {
        child: {
            type: "fluid.modelComponent",
            options: {
                model: {
                    volume: 0.5 // conflicting default initial value
                },
                modelRelay: {
                    source: "{examples.modelRelayPropagation}.model.volume",
                    target: "volume",
                    backward: {
                        excludeSource: "init"
                    },
                    singleTransform: {
                        type: "fluid.transforms.linearScale",
                        factor: 0.01
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    }
});

Applying priorities to model relay rules

Just as with many other directives in the framework (e.g. listeners, model listeners, options distributions, etc.) a model relay rule can be supplied with a priority annotation. In many cases, the exact order in which model relay rules are operated is not important, and the different orders will lead to the same final synchronised model state. However, in some cases where several transform-based model relay rules might react to the same model change, it might be important to ensure that one of them is always chosen first.

General notes on model relay rules

NOTE: Any plain function which accepts one argument and returns one argument is suitable to appear in the type field of a transform or singleTransform rule — e.g. fluid.identity. This is a quick and easy way of setting up "ad hoc" transforms. If the function accepts multiple arguments, or an argument which holds a complex structure derived from several values around the model, you should instead use the transform with type fluid.transform.free and encode them in its option named args. Note that no such transforms will be invertible — they can only propagate updates from source to target.

NOTE: The documentation for the available transformation functions mentions, for each input or output of the transform, a parallel option whose name ends in Path - e.g. inputPath, outputPath, leftPath, rightPath, etc. - these forms with Path are not used in relay documents — the relay system automatically takes up the role of gearing values to the arguments of transforms when you write an IoC reference in any of those slots. Relay documents are just written with the simple option names, e.g. input, output, left, right etc.

Note on future evolution and some technicalities

The use of the term "transactions" to describe the process by which the model skeleton updates is not entirely consistent with its use elsewhere in the industry. Those interested in more semantic and detailed discussion can consult New Notes on the ChangeApplier which describes how the new relay-capable implementation differs from the old one, and how our approach to and thinking about coordinated model updates is different to that of other frameworks. A more recent page of notes describing the future evolution of model relay can be found at New New Notes on the ChangeApplier.