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Composing multiple nodes in a single process

ROS 1 - Nodes vs. Nodelets

In ROS 1 you can write your code either as a ROS node or as a ROS nodelet. ROS 1 nodes are compiled into executables. ROS 1 nodelets on the other hand are compiled into a shared library which is then loaded at runtime by a container process.

ROS 2 - Unified API

In ROS 2 the recommended way of writing your code is similar to a nodelet - we call it a Component. This makes is easy to add common concepts to existing code, like a life cycle. The biggest drawback of different APIs is avoided in ROS 2 since both approaches use the same API in ROS 2.

Note

It is still possible to use the node-like style of “writing your own main” but for the common case it is not recommended.

By making the process layout a deploy-time decision the user can choose between:

  • running multiple nodes in separate processes with the benefits of process/fault isolation as well as easier debugging of individual nodes and

  • running multiple nodes in a single process with the lower overhead and optionally more efficient communication (see Intra Process Communication).

Additionally ros2 launch can be used to automate these actions through specialized launch actions.

Writing a Component

Since a component is only built into a shared library it doesn’t have a main function (see Talker source code). A component is commonly a subclass of rclcpp::Node. Since it is not in control of the thread it shouldn’t perform any long running or blocking tasks in its constructor. Instead it can use timers to get periodic notification. Additionally it can create publishers, subscribers, servers, and clients.

An important aspect of making such a class a component is that the class registers itself using macros from the package rclcpp_components (see the last line in the source code). This makes the component discoverable when its library is being loaded into a running process - it acts as kind of an entry point.

Additionally, once a component is created, it must be registered with the index to be discoverable by the tooling.

add_library(talker_component SHARED
   src/talker_component.cpp)
rclcpp_components_register_nodes(talker_component "composition::Talker")
# To register multiple components in the same shared library, use multiple calls
# rclcpp_components_register_nodes(talker_component "composition::Talker2")

Note

In order for the component_container to be able to find desired components, it must be executed or launched from a shell that has sourced the corresponding workspace.

Using Components

The composition package contains a couple of different approaches on how to use components. The three most common ones are:

  1. Start a (generic container process) and call the ROS service load_node offered by the container. The ROS service will then load the component specified by the passed package name and library name and start executing it within the running process. Instead of calling the ROS service programmatically you can also use a command line tool to invoke the ROS service with the passed command line arguments

  2. Create a custom executable containing multiple nodes which are known at compile time. This approach requires that each component has a header file (which is not strictly needed for the first case).

  3. Create a launch file and use ros2 launch to create a container process with multiple components loaded.

Run the demos

The demos use executables from rclcpp_components, ros2component, and composition packages, and can be run with the following commands.

Discover available components

To see what components are registered and available in the workspace, execute the following in a shell:

$ ros2 component types
composition
  composition::Talker
  composition::Listener
  composition::Server
  composition::Client

Run-time composition using ROS services (1.) with a publisher and subscriber

In the first shell, start the component container:

ros2 run rclcpp_components component_container

Verify that the container is running via ros2 command line tools:

$ ros2 component list
/ComponentManager

In the second shell (see talker source code). The command will return the unique ID of the loaded component as well as the node name.

$ ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Talker
Loaded component 1 into '/ComponentManager' container node as '/talker'

Now the first shell should show a message that the component was loaded as well as repeated message for publishing a message.

Another command in the second shell (see listener source code):

$ ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Listener
Loaded component 2 into '/ComponentManager' container node as '/listener'

The ros2 command line utility can now be used to inspect the state of the container:

$ ros2 component list
/ComponentManager
   1  /talker
   2  /listener

Now the first shell should show repeated output for each received message.

Run-time composition using ROS services (1.) with a server and client

The example with a server and a client is very similar.

In the first shell:

ros2 run rclcpp_components component_container

In the second shell (see server and client source code):

ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Server
ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Client

In this case the client sends a request to the server, the server processes the request and replies with a response, and the client prints the received response.

Compile-time composition using ROS services (2.)

This demos shows that the same shared libraries can be reused to compile a single executable running multiple components. The executable contains all four components from above: talker and listener as well as server and client.

In the shell call (see source code):

ros2 run composition manual_composition

This should show repeated messages from both pairs, the talker and the listener as well as the server and the client.

Note

Manually-composed components will not be reflected in the ros2 component list command line tool output.

Run-time composition using dlopen

This demo presents an alternative to 1. by creating a generic container process and explicitly passing the libraries to load without using ROS interfaces. The process will open each library and create one instance of each “rclcpp::Node” class in the library source code).

Linux In the shell call:

ros2 run composition dlopen_composition `ros2 pkg prefix composition`/lib/libtalker_component.so `ros2 pkg prefix composition`/lib/liblistener_component.so

OSX In the shell call:

ros2 run composition dlopen_composition `ros2 pkg prefix composition`/lib/libtalker_component.dylib `ros2 pkg prefix composition`/lib/liblistener_component.dylib

Windows In cmd.exe call

ros2 pkg prefix composition

to get the path to where composition is installed. Then call

ros2 run composition dlopen_composition <path_to_composition_install>\bin\talker_component.dll <path_to_composition_install>\bin\listener_component.dll

Now the shell should show repeated output for each sent and received message.

Note

dlopen-composed components will not be reflected in the ros2 component list command line tool output.

Composition using launch actions

While the command line tools are useful for debugging and diagnosing component configurations, it is frequently more convenient to start a set of components at the same time. To automate this action, we can use the functionality in ros2 launch.

ros2 launch composition composition_demo.launch.py

Advanced Topics

Now that we have seen the basic operation of components, we can discuss a few more advanced topics.

Unloading components

In the first shell, start the component container:

ros2 run rclcpp_components component_container

Verify that the container is running via ros2 command line tools:

$ ros2 component list
/ComponentManager

In the second shell (see talker source code). The command will return the unique ID of the loaded component as well as the node name.

$ ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Talker
Loaded component 1 into '/ComponentManager' container node as '/talker'
$ ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Listener
Loaded component 2 into '/ComponentManager' container node as '/listener'

Use the unique ID to unload the node from the component container.

$ ros2 component unload /ComponentManager 1 2
Unloaded component 1 from '/ComponentManager' container
Unloaded component 2 from '/ComponentManager' container

In the first shell, verify that the repeated messages from talker and listener have stopped.

Remapping container name and namespace

The component manager name and namespace can be remapped via standard command line arguments:

ros2 run rclcpp_components component_container __node:=MyContainer __ns:=/ns

In a second shell, components can be loaded by using the updated container name:

ros2 component load /ns/MyContainer composition composition::Listener

Note

Namespace remappings of the container do not affect loaded components.

Remap component names and namespaces

Component names and namespaces may be adjusted via arguments to the load command.

In the first shell, start the component container:

ros2 run rclcpp_components component_container

Some examples of how to remap names and namespaces:

# Remap node name
ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Talker --node-name talker2
# Remap namespace
ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Talker --node-namespace /ns
# Remap both
ros2 component load /ComponentManager composition composition::Talker --node-name talker3 --node-namespace /ns2

The corresponding entries appear in ros2 component list:

$ ros2 component list
/ComponentManager
   1  /talker2
   2  /ns/talker
   3  /ns2/talker3

Note

Namespace remappings of the container do not affect loaded components.