Using the Producer-Consumer concurrency pattern in Go.


I’ve been writing new solutions to existing problems using Go.
CS50 exercise sets, or psets are interesting little problems, and while the problems themselves are not huge challenges, they’re fun to solve, using a language’s special features to provide idiomatic and efficient solutions.

One of the problems was ‘breaking’ a DES hash, to ‘decode’ a 5-character password. The bruteforce approach is quite slow, but using simple concurrency, there was a 5x speedup, without adding much complexity. Here’s the solution in a gist. If you have any suggestions for improvements, you can leave a comment or feel free to fork it.

The Pattern in Go

This specific problem was a good opportunity to implement a “Producer-Consumer” pattern.

Being familiar with OpenMP's idea of parallel computing, I had an overview of the various common pitfalls, and how to overcome them (resource sharing is hard, man). Go provides a much simpler interface to deal with them, and forces you into a different mindset, eg. Do not communicate by sharing memory; instead, share memory by communicating.

Without sacrificing too many details, here’s an outline of how I implemented the “Producer-Consumer” on this case

func produce(in chan string) {
    defer close(in)
    // producedPassword = somestuff....
    in <- producedPassword

func consume(in, out chan string, wg *sync.WaitGroup) {
    defer wg.Done()

    for s := range in {
        currentHash := crypt(s)
        // success condition
        if currentHash == hashToCrack {
            out <- s

func stop(out chan string, wg *sync.WaitGroup){

func main() {

    in, out := make(chan string), make(chan string)
    wg := &sync.WaitGroup{}
    go produce(in)

    //for i:=0; i<runtime.NumCPU();i++ {
    for i:=0; i<20; i++ {
        go consume(in, out, wg)
    go stop (out, wg)
  • So, in short. You build two string channels and a WaitGroup.
  • You can then fire up goroutines to produce your passwords in parallel, along the in channel.
  • You can spawn a separate set of goroutines, to consume this in channel.
  • The WaitGroup is used to sync this job.
  • If the hash is cracked, the successful result is passed along to the out channel.
  • Function stop waits until all consumers are finished, and then closes that chanel, to signal that there was nothing found. Otherwise, the program would be blocked forever from reading the out channel.

Test it yourself!

A more bare-bones implementation that you can compile right away and start picking apart, is the one below. (HINT : You will need to add a WaitGroup at some point. Can you guess when?)

package main

import "fmt" 

var fin = make(chan bool)
var stream = make(chan int)

func produce() {
    for i := 0; i < 100000; i++ {
        stream <- i
    fin <- true

func consume() {
    for {
        data := <-stream

func main() {
    go produce()
    go consume()

Thanks for your time, and keep on tinkering!





Some nice resources :

Written on November 24, 2018