Objects

In Ray, tasks and actors create and compute on objects. We refer to these objects as remote objects because they can be stored anywhere in a Ray cluster, and we use object refs to refer to them. Remote objects are cached in Ray’s distributed shared-memory object store, and there is one object store per node in the cluster. In the cluster setting, a remote object can live on one or many nodes, independent of who holds the object ref(s).

An object ref is essentially a pointer or a unique ID that can be used to refer to a remote object without seeing its value. If you’re familiar with futures, Ray object refs are conceptually similar.

Object refs can be created in two ways.

  1. They are returned by remote function calls.

  2. They are returned by put (docstring).

# Put an object in Ray's object store.
y = 1
object_ref = ray.put(y)
// Put an object in Ray's object store.
int y = 1;
ObjectRef<Integer> objectRef = Ray.put(y);
// Put an object in Ray's object store.
int y = 1;
ray::ObjectRef<int> object_ref = ray::Put(y);

Note

Remote objects are immutable. That is, their values cannot be changed after creation. This allows remote objects to be replicated in multiple object stores without needing to synchronize the copies.

Fetching Object Data

You can use the get method (docstring) to fetch the result of a remote object from an object ref. If the current node’s object store does not contain the object, the object is downloaded.

If the object is a numpy array or a collection of numpy arrays, the get call is zero-copy and returns arrays backed by shared object store memory. Otherwise, we deserialize the object data into a Python object.

# Get the value of one object ref.
obj_ref = ray.put(1)
assert ray.get(obj_ref) == 1

# Get the values of multiple object refs in parallel.
assert ray.get([ray.put(i) for i in range(3)]) == [0, 1, 2]

# You can also set a timeout to return early from a ``get``
# that's blocking for too long.
from ray.exceptions import GetTimeoutError

@ray.remote

def long_running_function():
    time.sleep(8)

obj_ref = long_running_function.remote()
try:
    ray.get(obj_ref, timeout=4)
except GetTimeoutError:
    print("`get` timed out.")
// Get the value of one object ref.
ObjectRef<Integer> objRef = Ray.put(1);
Assert.assertTrue(objRef.get() == 1);
// You can also set a timeout(ms) to return early from a ``get`` that's blocking for too long.
Assert.assertTrue(objRef.get(1000) == 1);

// Get the values of multiple object refs in parallel.
List<ObjectRef<Integer>> objectRefs = new ArrayList<>();
for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
  objectRefs.add(Ray.put(i));
}
List<Integer> results = Ray.get(objectRefs);
Assert.assertEquals(results, ImmutableList.of(0, 1, 2));

// Ray.get timeout example: Ray.get will throw an RayTimeoutException if time out.
public class MyRayApp {
  public static int slowFunction() throws InterruptedException {
    TimeUnit.SECONDS.sleep(10);
    return 1;
  }
}
Assert.assertThrows(RayTimeoutException.class,
  () -> Ray.get(Ray.task(MyRayApp::slowFunction).remote(), 3000));
// Get the value of one object ref.
ray::ObjectRef<int> obj_ref = ray::Put(1);
assert(*obj_ref.Get() == 1);

// Get the values of multiple object refs in parallel.
std::vector<ray::ObjectRef<int>> obj_refs;
for (int i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
  obj_refs.emplace_back(ray::Put(i));
}
auto results = ray::Get(obj_refs);
assert(results.size() == 3);
assert(*results[0] == 0);
assert(*results[1] == 1);
assert(*results[2] == 2);

Passing Object Arguments

Ray object references can be freely passed around a Ray application. This means that they can be passed as arguments to tasks, actor methods, and even stored in other objects. Objects are tracked via distributed reference counting, and their data is automatically freed once all references to the object are deleted.

There are two different ways one can pass an object to a Ray task or method. Depending on the way an object is passed, Ray will decide whether to de-reference the object prior to task execution.

Passing an object as a top-level argmuent: When an object is passed directly as a top-level argument to a task, Ray will de-reference the object. This means that Ray will fetch the underlying data for all top-level object reference arguments, not executing the task until the object data becomes fully available.

import ray


@ray.remote
def echo(a: int, b: int, c: int):
    """This function prints its input values to stdout."""
    print(a, b, c)


# Passing the literal values (1, 2, 3) to `echo`.
echo.remote(1, 2, 3)
# -> prints "1 2 3"

# Put the values (1, 2, 3) into Ray's object store.
a, b, c = ray.put(1), ray.put(2), ray.put(3)

# Passing an object as a top-level argument to `echo`. Ray will de-reference top-level
# arguments, so `echo` will see the literal values (1, 2, 3) in this case as well.
echo.remote(a, b, c)
# -> prints "1 2 3"

Passing an object as a nested argument: When an object is passed within a nested object, for example, within a Python list, Ray will not de-reference it. This means that the task will need to call ray.get() on the reference to fetch the concrete value. However, if the task never calls ray.get(), then the object value never needs to be transferred to the machine the task is running on. We recommend passing objects as top-level arguments where possible, but nested arguments can be useful for passing objects on to other tasks without needing to see the data.

import ray


@ray.remote
def echo_and_get(x_list):  # List[ObjectRef]
    """This function prints its input values to stdout."""
    print("args:", x_list)
    print("values:", ray.get(x_list))


# Put the values (1, 2, 3) into Ray's object store.
a, b, c = ray.put(1), ray.put(2), ray.put(3)

# Passing an object as a nested argument to `echo_and_get`. Ray does not
# de-reference nested args, so `echo_and_get` sees the references.
echo_and_get.remote([a, b, c])
# -> prints args: [ObjectRef(...), ObjectRef(...), ObjectRef(...)]
#           values: [1, 2, 3]

The top-level vs not top-level passing convention also applies to actor constructors and actor method calls:

# Examples of passing objects to actor constructors.
actor_handle = Actor.remote(obj)  # by-value
actor_handle = Actor.remote([obj])  # by-reference

# Examples of passing objects to actor method calls.
actor_handle.method.remote(obj)  # by-value
actor_handle.method.remote([obj])  # by-reference

Closure Capture of Objects

You can also pass objects to tasks via closure-capture. This can be convenient when you have a large object that you want to share verbatim between many tasks or actors, and don’t want to pass it repeatedly as an argument. Be aware however that defining a task that closes over an object ref will pin the object via reference-counting, so the object will not be evicted until the job completes.

import ray

# Put the values (1, 2, 3) into Ray's object store.
a, b, c = ray.put(1), ray.put(2), ray.put(3)


@ray.remote
def print_via_capture():
    """This function prints the values of (a, b, c) to stdout."""
    print(ray.get([a, b, c]))


# Passing object references via closure-capture. Inside the `print_via_capture`
# function, the global object refs (a, b, c) can be retrieved and printed.
print_via_capture.remote()
# -> prints [1, 2, 3]

Nested Objects

Ray also supports nested object references. This allows you to build composite objects that themselves hold references to further sub-objects.

# Objects can be nested within each other. Ray will keep the inner object
# alive via reference counting until all outer object references are deleted.
object_ref_2 = ray.put([object_ref])