SharedMap

Introduction

The SharedMap distributed data structure (DDS) is use to store key-value data. It provides the same API as the Map built-in object that is provided in JavaScript, but also ensures that any edits being made to the object are simultaneously transmitted to all clients.

For example, in a traditional Map, setting a key would only set it on the local object. In a SharedMap, the moment one client sets that key, that update is automatically sent to all of the other connected clients who will update their local state with the new remote change. From a development standpoint, this allows you to develop against the SharedMap DDS as you would with a traditional Map, while ensuring that the data being updated is synced between all clients with all of the logic for managing and merging the changes abstracted away.

Differences between Map and SharedMap

  • SharedMaps must use string keys.
  • You must only store plain objects – those that are safely JSON-serializable – as values in a SharedMap. If you store class instances, for example, then data synchronization will not work as expected.
  • When storing objects as values in a SharedMap, changes to the object will be synchronized whole-for-whole. This means that individual changes to the properties of an object are not merged during synchronization. If you need this behavior you should store individual properties in the SharedMap instead of full objects. See Picking the right data structure for more information.

For additional background on DDSes and a general overview of their design, please take a look here.

Creation

The FluidContainer provides a container schema for defining which DDSes you would like to load from it. It provides two separate fields for establishing an initial roster of objects and dynamically creating new ones. For general guidance on using the ContainerSchema, please see here and for guidance on how to create/load a container using a service-specific client, please see here.

Let’s take a look at how you would specifically use the ContainerSchema for SharedMap.

The following example loads a SharedMap as part of the initial roster of objects you have available in the container.

const schema = {
    initialObjects: {
        customMap: SharedMap,
    }
}

const { container, services } = await client.createContainer(schema);

const map = container.initialObjects.customMap;

At this point, you can directly start using the map object within your application. Including the SharedMap as part of initial objects ensures that the DDS is available the moment the async call to createContainer finishes.

Similarly, if you are loading an existing container, the process stays largely identical with the only difference being that you use getContainer instead of createContainer.

const schema = {
    initialObjects: {
        customMap: SharedMap,
    }
}

const { container, services } = await client.getContainer(id, schema);

const map = container.initialObjects.customMap;

Finally, if you’d like to dynamically create SharedMap instances as part of the application lifecycle (i.e. if there are user interactions in the applications that require a new DDS to be created at runtime), you can add the SharedMap type to the dynamicObjectTypes field in the schema and call the container’s create function.

const schema = {
    /*...*/,
    dynamicObjectTypes: [ SharedMap ]
}

const { container, services } = await client.getContainer(id, schema);

const newMap = await container.create(SharedMap); // Create a new SharedMap

Once the async call to create returns, you can treat it the same as you were using the SharedMap instances from your initial objects above. The only caveat here is that you will need to maintain a pointer to your newly created object. To store it in another SharedMap, please see the Storing shared objects section below and for general guidance on storing DDS references as handles, please see here

API

The SharedMap object provides a number of functions to allow you to edit the key/value pairs stored on the object. As stated earlier, these are intended to match the Map API. However, the keys used in SharedMap must be strings. Each edit will also trigger a valueChanged event which will be discussed in the Events section below.

  • set(key, value) – Used for updating the value stored at key with the new provided value

  • get(key) – Returns the latest value stored on the key or undefined if it does not exist

  • has(key) – Checks to see if the key is available in the SharedMap and returns a boolean

  • keys() – Returns an iterator for all the keys that have been set for this map

  • entries() – Returns an iterator for all key/value pairs stored on the map

  • delete(key) – Removes the key/value from the map

  • forEach(callbackFn: (value, key, map) => void) – Applies the provided function to each entry in the map. For example, the following will print out all of the key/value pairs in the map

    this.map.forEach((value, key) => console.log(`${key}-${value}`));
    
  • clear() – Removes all data from the map, deleting all of the keys and values stored within it

Events

The SharedMap object will emit events on changes from local and remote clients. There are two events emitted:

valueChanged

  • Signature: (event: "valueChanged", listener: (changed, local) => void)
  • Description: This event is sent anytime the map is modified due to a key being added, updated, or removed. It takes in as parameters a changed object which provides the key that was updated and what the previousValue was, and a local boolean that indicates if the current client was the one that initiated the change

clear

  • Signature: (event: "clear", listener: (local) => void)
  • Description: This event is sent when clear() is called to alert clients that all data from the map has been removed. The local boolean parameter indicates if the current client is the one that made the function call.

If client A and client B are both updating the same SharedMap and client B triggers a set call to update a value, both client A and B’s local SharedMap objects will fire the valueChanged event. You can use these events in order to keep your application state in sync with all changes various clients are making to the map.

Consider the following example where you have a label and a button. When clicked, the button updates the label contents to be a random number.

const map = container.initialObjects.customMap;
const dataKey = "data";
const button = document.createElement('button');
button.textContent = "Randomize!";
const label = document.createElement('label');

button.addEventListener('click', () =>
    // Set the new value on the SharedMap
    map.set(dataKey, Math.random())
);

// This function will update the label from the SharedMap.
// It is connected to the SharedMap's valueChanged event,
// and will be called each time a value in the SharedMap is changed.
const updateLabel = () => {
    const value = map.get(dataKey) || 0;
    label.textContent = `${value}`;
};
map.on('valueChanged', updateLabel);

// Make sure updateLabel is called at least once.
updateLabel();

In the code above, whenever a user clicks the button, it sets a new random value on your map’s dataKey. This causes a valueChanged event to be sent on all of the clients who have this container open. Since updateLabel is a callback set up to update the view anytime this event gets fired, the view will always refresh with the new value for all users whenever any of the users clicks on the button.

Your event listener can be more sophisticated by using the additional information provided in the arguments listed above in the valueChanged event’s listener signature.

 1const map = container.initialObjects.customMap;
 2const dataKey = "data";
 3const button = document.createElement('button');
 4button.textContent = "Randomize!";
 5const label = document.createElement('label');
 6
 7button.addEventListener('click', () =>
 8    map.set(dataKey, Math.random())
 9);
10
11// Get the current value of the shared data to update the view whenever it changes.
12const updateLabel = (changed, local) => {
13    const value = map.get(dataKey) || 0;
14    label.textContent = `${value} from ${local ? "me" : "someone else"}`;
15    label.style.color = changed?.previousValue > value ? "red" : "green";
16};
17updateLabel(undefined, false);
18    // Use the changed event to trigger the rerender whenever the value changes.
19map.on('valueChanged', updateLabel);

Now, with the changes in updateLabel, the label will update to say if the value was last updated by the current user or by someone else. It will also compare the current value to the last one, and if the value has increased, it will set the text color to green. Otherwise, it will be red.

Storing primitives

As demonstrated in the examples above, you can store and fetch primitive values from a SharedMap using the set/get functions on the same key. The typical pattern is as follows:

  1. Create an event listener that updates app state using get to fetch the latest data. Connect this listener to the SharedMap’s valueChanged event.
  2. Add some app functionality to call set with new data. This could be from a user action as in the example above or some other mechanism.

Because the local set call causes the valueChanged event to be sent, and you’re handling those changes by updating your application state, then all local and remote clients see all of their local app states getting updated.

Storing objects

Storing objects in a SharedMap is very similar to storing primitives. However, one thing to note is that all values in SharedMap are merged using a last writer wins (LWW) strategy. This means that if multiple clients are writing values to the same key, whoever made the last update will “win” and overwrite the others. While this is fine for primitives, you should be mindful when storing objects in SharedMaps if you are looking for individual fields within the object to be independently modified. See Picking the right data structure for more information.

Warning

If your application requires different fields in an object to be edited simultaneously by multiple people, do NOT store the entire object under one key. Instead, store each field under its own separate key such that each one of them can be updated separately.

To understand this distinction, consider a scenario where you are building a task management tool where you’d like to assign various task to different people.

Here, each person may have multiple fields such as

{
    "name": "Joe Schmo",
    "email": "joeschmo@email.com",
    "address": "1234 Fluid Way"
}

And each task may also have multiple fields, including the person that it is assigned to, such as

{
    "title": "Awesome Task",
    "description": "Doing the most awesome things",
    "assignedTo": {
        "name": "Joe Schmo",
        "email": "joeschmo@email.com",
        "address": "1234 Fluid Way"
    }
}

Now, the next question to ask is which of these fields you’d like to be individually collaborative. For the sake of this example, assume that the title and description are user-entered values that you’d like people to be able to edit together whereas the assignedTo person data is something that you receive from a backend service call that you’d like to store with your object. You can change which person the task gets assigned to but the actual metadata of each person is based off of the returned value from the backend service.

The most direct – but ultimately flawed – approach here would be to just to store the entire object into the SharedMap under a singular key.

This would look something like this:

{
    "task1": {
        "title": "Awesome Task",
        "description": "Doing the most awesome things",
        "assignedTo": {
            "name": "Joe Schmo",
            "email": "joeschmo@email.com",
            "address": "1234 Fluid Way"
        }
    }
}

Now consider the scenario where two users begin to edit the task at the same time. For example, User A begins editing the title while User B is editing the description.

Each time that User A makes an edit, map.set("task1", editedTask) will get called where editedTask will hold the new title values. Similarly, whenever User B makes an edit, map.set("task1", editedTask) will also be called but description will now hold the updated values. However, since SharedMap uses the LWW merge strategy, whichever user sent their editedTask last will overwrite the others edit. If User A’s set occurs last, task1 will now hold the updates to the title but will have overwritten User B’s updates to description. Similarly, if User B’s set occurs last, description will be updated but not title.

There are two strategies you can use to avoid this behavior.

Storing values in separate keys

You can store each of these values in their own key and only hold the key at which they are stored in the task1 object itself. This means your SharedMap would have an object like this:

{
    "task1": {
        "titleKey": "task1Title",
        "descriptionKey": "task1Description",
        "assignedToKey": "task1AssignedTo"
    },
    "task1Title": "Awesome Task",
    "task1Description": "Doing the most awesome things",
    "task1AssignedTo": {
        "name": "Joe Schmo",
        "email": "joeschmo@email.com",
        "address": "1234 Fluid Way"
    }
}

With this, when user A is editing the title, they could be executing the following code:

const task = map.get("task1");
map.set(task.titleKey, editedTitle);

Similarly, when user B is editing the description, they could be executing the following:

const task = map.get("task1");
map.set(task.descriptionKey, editedDescription);

Now each user is updating the fields independently and would not overwrite each other, because the parent task1 object isn’t the one that is being set each time but rather just holding the references to each of the separate fields being edited.

Storing values in separate SharedMaps

One of the caveats of the above approach is that both the tasks as well as their values are now all stored at the same level within the map. For example, if you call map.values(), it will return both the tasks themselves as well as each of their individual fields. Instead, you can have each task be stored in its own SharedMap and have a parent SharedMap that keeps track of all of the different tasks under it. See the Nested shared objects example to see how to do this.

When values do not need to be separately stored

You can follow this same pattern for the assignedTo object. However, since the data in assignedTo is coming as a singular blob from a service, there’s no need to edit individual properties independently, so you can take the simpler approach of storing the whole object in the SharedMap in this case.

// This function (implementation not shown) fetches an array of users from an external service.
const users = await getAvailableUsers();

// Let's say that the user the task is assigned to is at index pickedUserIndex
const pickedUser = users[pickedUserIndex];

// Now store this user object as a whole into the SharedMap
const task = map.get("task1");
map.set(task.assignedToKey, pickedUser)

This will work as expected because the entire object is being stored each time instead of specific fields.

One way to think about this is that each value stored into the SharedMap is the smallest simultaneously editable piece of data. Any time you want users to be able to simultaneously edit individual pieces of an object, you should store those properties in separate keys.

Storing shared objects

One of the powerful features of DDSes is that they are nestable. A DDS can be stored in another DDS allowing you to dynamically set up your data hierarchy as best fits your application needs.

When storing a DDS within another DDS, you must store its handle, not the DDS itself. Similarly, when retrieving DDSes nested within other DDSes, you need to first get the object’s handle and then get the object from the handle. This reference based approach allows the Fluid Framework to virtualize the data underneath, only loading objects when they are requested.

That’s all you need to know about handles in order to use DDSes effectively. If you want to learn more about handles, seeĀ Fluid handles.

The following example demonstrates nesting DDSes using SharedMap. You specify an initial SharedMap as part of the initialObjects in the ContainerSchema and add the SharedMap type to dynamicObjectTypes.

const schema = {
    initialObjects: {
        initialMap: SharedMap,
    },
    dynamicObjectTypes: [SharedMap]
}

Now, you can dynamically create additional SharedMap instances and store their handles into the initial map that is always provided in the container.

const { container, services } = await client.getContainer(id, schema);

const initialMap = container.initialObjects.initialMap;

// Create a SharedMap dynamically at runtime
const newSharedMap = await container.create(SharedMap);

// BAD: This call won't work; you must store the handle, not the SharedMap itself.
// initialMap.set("newSharedMapKey", newSharedMap);

// GOOD: This call correctly stores the DDS via its handle.
initialMap.set("newSharedMapKey", newSharedMap.handle);

To load the newSharedMap at a later time, you first retrieve the handle and then retrieve the object from the handle.

const newSharedMapHandle = initialMap.get("newSharedMapKey");
const newSharedMap = await newSharedMapHandle.get();

Tip

Loading any DDS from its handle is an asynchronous operation. You will need to use an await or chain Promises on the handle.get() call to retrieve nested DDSes.

Nested shared objects example

You can further extend the example from the Storing objects section above to see how it can be updated to use nested SharedMaps. This will introduce a hierarchy to the data to make it easier to work with. To do so, consider the earlier data model but with two tasks.

{
    "task1": {
        "title": "Awesome Task",
        "description": "Doing the most awesome things",
        "assignedTo": {
            "name": "Joe Schmo",
            "email": "joeschmo@email.com",
            "address": "1234 Fluid Way"
        }
    },
    "task2": {
        "title": "Even More Awesome Task",
        "description": "Doing even more awesome things",
        "assignedTo": {
            "name": "Jane Doe",
            "email": "janedoe@email.com",
            "address": "5678 Framework Street"
        }
    }
}

To break this apart, you can have each task itself be its own SharedMap and have a parent SharedMap hold all of the handles to each task. Then the initial map would look like:

{
    "task1": task1MapHandle,
    "task2": task2MapHandle
}

And the task1 map would look like:

{
    "title": "Awesome Task",
    "description": "Doing the most awesome things",
    "assignedTo": {
        "name": "Joe Schmo",
        "email": "joeschmo@email.com",
        "address": "1234 Fluid Way"
    }
}

And the task2 map would look like:

{
    "title": "Even More Awesome Task",
    "description": "Doing even more awesome things",
    "assignedTo": {
        "name": "Jane Doe",
        "email": "janedoe@email.com",
        "address": "5678 Framework Street"
    }
}

With this nested map structure, you can both ensure that each field that will be simultaneously edited is stored separately and that you have a hierarchy in how you store the data in your SharedMap that reflects the app’s data model.

Whenever a new task is created, you can call container.create to create a new SharedMap instance and store its handle in the initialMap that is provided as an initialObject. Since each additional task map will need its own unique key, you can use a random string generator, such as uuid, to create a new one each time and avoid ID conflicts.

const schema = {
    initialObjects: {
        initialMap: SharedMap,
    },
    dynamicObjectTypes: [SharedMap]
}

const { container, services } = await client.getContainer(id, schema);

const initialMap = container.initialObjects.initialMap;

const newTask = await container.create(SharedMap);
const newTaskId = uuid();

initialMap.set(newTaskId, newTask.handle);

At this point, you can use initialMap.keys() to retrieve the IDs of all the tasks or initialMap.values() to return the handles to the SharedMaps for each task.

For example, if you wanted to fetch task with ID task123 and allow the user to edit its description, you would use code like this:

const taskHandle = initialMap.get("task123");
const task = await taskHandle.get();
task.set("description", editedDescription)

Since each task is stored in a separate SharedMap and all of the fields within the task object are being stored in their own unique keys, your data now has a hierarchical structure that reflects the app’s data model while individual tasks' properties can be edited independently.