Embedding multiple interpreters

Garthy garthy_nhtyp at entropicsoftware.com
Fri Dec 6 03:34:27 CET 2013


I hope I've got the right list here- there were a few to choose from. :}

I am trying to embed Python with multiple interpreters into an existing 
application. I have things working fine with a single interpreter thus 
far. I am running into problems when using multiple interpreters [1] and 
I am presently trying to track down these issues. Can anyone familiar 
with the process of embedding multiple interpreters have a skim of the 
details below and let me know of any obvious problems? If I can get the 
essentials right, then presumably it's just a matter of my tracking down 
any problems with my code.

I am presently using Python 3.3.3.

What I am after:

- Each sub-interpreter will have its own dedicated thread. Each thread 
will have no more than one sub-interpreter. Basically, there is a 
one-to-one mapping between threads and interpreters (some threads are 
unrelated to Python though).

- The default interpreter in the main thread will never be used, 
although I can explicitly use it if it'll help in some way.

- Each thread is created and managed outside of Python. This can't be 
readily changed.

- I have a single internal module I need to be able to use for each 

- I load scripts into __main__ and create objects from it to bootstrap.

- I understand that for the most part only a single interpreter will be 
running at a time due to the GIL. This is unfortunate but not a major 

- I don't need to share objects between interpreters (if it is even 
possible- I don't know).

- My fallback if I can't do this is to implement each instance in a 
dedicated *process* rather than per-thread. However, there is a 
significant cost to doing this that I would rather not incur.

Could I confirm:

- There is one GIL in a given process, shared amongst all (sub) 
interpreters. There seems some disagreement on this one online, although 
I'm fairly confident that there is only the one GIL.

- I am using the mod_wsgi source for inspiration. Is there a better 
source for an example of embedding multiple interpreters?

A query re the doco:


"Python supports the creation of additional interpreters (using 
Py_NewInterpreter()), but mixing multiple interpreters and the 
PyGILState_*() API is unsupported."

Is this actually correct? mod_wsgi seems to do it. Have I misunderstood?

I've extracted what I have so far from my code into a form that can be 
followed more easily. Hopefully I have not made any mistakes in doing 
so. The essence of what my code calls should be as follows:

=== Global init, run once:

static PyThreadState *mtstate = NULL;

PyImport_AppendInittab("myinternalmodule", PyInit_myinternalmodule);
Py_SetProgramName((wchar_t *)"foo");
mtstate = PyThreadState_Get();

=== Global shutdown, run once at end:


=== Per-interpreter init in main thread before launching child thread:

(none thus far)

=== Init in dedicated thread for each interpreter:

// NB: Also protected by a single global non-Python mutex to be sure.

PyGILState_STATE gil = PyGILState_Ensure();
PyThreadState *save_tstate = PyThreadState_Swap(NULL);
state = Py_NewInterpreter();

PyObject *mmodule = PyImport_AddModule("__main__");



=== Shutdown in dedicated thread for each interpreter:

// NB: Also protected by the same single global non-Python mutex as in 
the init.

PyGILState_STATE gil = PyGILState_Ensure();
PyThreadState *save_tstate = PyThreadState_Swap(state);

=== Placed at top of scope where calls made to Python C API:

SafeLock lock;

=== SafeLock implementation:

class SafeLock
     SafeLock() {gil = PyGILState_Ensure();}
     ~SafeLock() {PyGILState_Release(gil);}

     PyGILState_STATE gil;


Does this look roughly right? Have I got the global and per-interpreter 
init and shutdown right? Am I locking correctly in SafeLock- is 
PyGILState_Ensure() and PyGILState_Release() sufficient?

Is there an authoritative summary of the global and per-interpreter init 
and shutdown somewhere that I have missed? Any resource I should be reading?


[1] It presently crashes in Py_EndInterpreter() after running through a 
series of tests during the shutdown of the 32nd interpreter I create. I 
don't know if this is significant, but the tests pass for the first 31 

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