Session Management with Viam's Client SDKs

When you connect to a machine using an SDK, the SDK connects to the machine’s viam-server instance as a client. The period of time during which a client is connected to a machine is called a session.

Session management is a safety precaution that allows you to manage the clients that are authenticated and communicating with a machine’s viam-server instance. The default session management configuration checks for presence to ensures that a machine only moves when a client is actively connected and stops any components that remain running when a client disconnects. This is especially important for machines that physically move. For example, imagine a wheeled rover gets a SetPower() command as the last input from a client before the connection to the machine is interrupted. Without session management, the API request from the client would cause the rover’s motors to move, causing the machine to continue driving forever and potentially colliding with objects and people.

For more information, see Client Sessions and Machine Network Connectivity.

If you want to manage operations differently, you can manage your machine’s client sessions yourself. The Session Management API provides functionality for:

  • clients to notify to the machine that the client is actively authenticated and connected
  • the machine to stop moving components when a session ends

The SessionsClient

A client of a Viam machine can be a program using an SDK to control the machine, or all the different resources on the machine, including all parts and sub-parts, like an input controller and a base, communicating.

For example, if you use Viam’s module registry to add modular resources to your machine, the clients of your machine will include the model servers you instantiate on your machine for individual resources, as well as the SDKs you are using to program the modular resources.

Viam’s session management API’s SessionsClient is a built-in solution that manages the connection between your machine’s clients and your machine. If you connect to your machine using one of Viam’s SDKs, the resulting client will automatically maintain the session by sending a heartbeat notifying the machine’s viam-server instance of its continued presence. The SessionsClient on the machine maintains an overview of all sessions based on the clients’ heartbeat messages.

If the machine does not receive a signal from the client in the expected interval, the machine ends the session and stop all resources that are marked for safety monitoring and have been last used by that session. That means if a client sends a command to a machine to move the motors and then loses the connection, the machine will stop moving.

A disconnected client will attempt to establish a new session immediately prior to the next operation it performs.

Heartbeats

A heartbeat is a signal that indicates machine connectivity. Essentially, heartbeats are a client’s way of letting a machine know that they are still connected.

Heartbeats are sent automatically from Viam’s SDKs unless you disable them with the session management API or session management is not implemented by the server in question. Heartbeats are automatically sent at an interval that is one fifth of the heartbeat window. For example, if the heartbeat window is 5 seconds, clients will each send a heartbeat every 1 second.

You can adjust the heartbeat window in the configuration of your machine:

On your Auth/Network tab, set the Heartbeat Window:

Heartbeat window configuration screen

Add the following heartbeat_window configuration to your network.sessions object:

  ... // components {...}, services {...},
  "network": {
    "sessions": {
      "heartbeat_window": "30s" // Changes heartbeat window to 30 seconds
    }
  },
  ...

The default heartbeat window is 2 seconds if this configuration is omitted.

If you manually manage sessions, each client must send at least one heartbeat within the window you set.

Manage sessions with the session management API

The Session Management API is not currently provided in the Python or TypeScript SDKs. Use the Go Client SDK instead.

To manage your session with the session management API:

  1. Disable default session management
  2. Use the session management API to manually manage sessions

Disable default session management

The SessionsClient that serves the session management API is automatically enabled on your machine. It is instantiated as part of your RobotClient instance (client of the Robot API). If you want to disable it, you can pass the option to your machine, as demonstrated in the following code snippets:

async def main():
    opts = RobotClient.Options(disable_sessions=True)
    await RobotClient.at_address("my-machine-address", opts)
    robot = await connect()
robot, err := client.New(ctx, "my-machine-address", logger, client.WithDisableSessions(), ...)
const robot = await VIAM.createRobotClient({
  // ...
  disableSessions: true,
  // ...
});

This option allows you to have full control over sessions management. After disabling the client, you must now manage each of your sessions manually with the session management API. You can do this with Viam’s client SDKs.

Use the session management API to manually manage sessions

Use your RobotClient() instance to access the SessionsClient within your client SDK program. This is a gRPC client that viam-server instantiates at robot runtime. Then, define your own SessionsClient.



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