Robert Scoble in an often poignant FriendFeed thread commiserating PodTech's unfortunate end, shared what he learned about creating a successful startup. Here's a summary of a Robert's rules and why Machiavelli just may agree with them:
Jeff Atwood started a barn burner of a conversation in Maybe Normalizing Isn't Normal on how to create a fast scalable tagging system. Jeff eventually asks that terrible question: which is better -- a normalized database, or a denormalized database? And all hell breaks loose. I know, it's hard to imagine database debates becoming contentious, but it does happen :-) It's lucky developers don't have temporal power or rivers of blood would flow. Here are a few of the pithier points (summarized):
ZooKeeper is a high available and reliable coordination system. Distributed applications use ZooKeeper to store and mediate updates key configuration information. ZooKeeper can be used for leader election, group membership, and configuration maintenance. In addition ZooKeeper can be used for event notification, locking, and as a priority queue mechanism. It's a sort of central nervous system for distributed systems where the role of the brain is played by the coordination service, axons are the network, processes are the monitored and controlled body parts, and events are the hormones and neurotransmitters used for messaging. Every complex distributed application needs a coordination and orchestration system of some sort, so the ZooKeeper folks at Yahoo decide to build a good one and open source it for everyone to use. The target market for ZooKeeper are multi-host, multi-process C and Java based systems that operate in a data center. ZooKeeper works using distributed processes to coordinate with each other through a shared hierarchical name space that is modeled after a file system. Data is kept in memory and is backed up to a log for reliability. By using memory ZooKeeper is very fast and can handle the high loads typically seen in chatty coordination protocols across huge numbers of processes. Using a memory based system also mean you are limited to the amount of data that can fit in memory, so it's not useful as a general data store. It's meant to store small bits of configuration information rather than large blobs. Replication is used for scalability and reliability which means it prefers applications that are heavily read based. Typical of hierarchical systems you can add nodes at any point of a tree, get a list of entries in a tree, get the value associated with an entry, and get notification of when an entry changes or goes away. Using these primitives and a little elbow grease you can construct the higher level services mentioned above. Why would you ever need a distribute coordination system? It sounds kind of weird. That's more the question I'll be addressing in this post rather than how it works because the slides and the video do a decent job explaining at a high level what ZooKeeper can do. The low level details could use another paper however. Reportedly it uses a version of the famous Paxos Algorithm to keep replicas consistent in the face of the failures most daunting. What's really missing is a motivation showing how you can use a coordination service in your own system and that's what I hope to provide... Kevin Burton wants to use ZooKeeper to to configure external monitoring systems like Munin and Ganglia for his Spinn3r blog indexing web service. He proposes each service register its presence in a cluster with ZooKeeper under the tree "/services/www." A Munin configuration program will add a ZooKeeper Watch on that node so it will be notified when the list of services under /services/www changes. When the Munin configuration program is notified of a change it reads the service list and automatically regenerates a munin.conf file for the service. Why not simply use a database? Because of the guarantees ZooKeeper makes about its service:
Some Fast Facts
In the more cool stuff I've never heard of before department is something called Self Cleansing Intrusion Tolerance (SCIT). Botnets are created when vulnerable computers live long enough to become infected with the will to do the evil bidding of their evil masters. Security is almost always about removing vulnerabilities (a process which to outside observers often looks like a dog chasing its tail). SCIT takes a different approach, it works on the availability angle. Something I never thought of before, but which makes a great deal of sense once I thought about it. With SCIT you stop and restart VM instances every minute (or whatever depending in your desired window vulnerability).... This short exposure window means worms and viri do not have long enough to fully infect a machine and carry out a coordinated attack. A machine is up for a while. Does work. And then is torn down again only to be reborn as a clean VM with no possibility of infection (unless of course the VM mechanisms become infected). It's like curing cancer by constantly moving your consciousness to new blemish free bodies. Hmmm... SCIT is really a genius approach to scalable (I have to work in scalability somewhere) security and and fits perfectly with cloud computing and swarm (cloud of clouds) computing. Clouds provide plenty of VMs so there is a constant ready supply of new hosts. From a software design perspective EC2 has been training us to expect failures and build Crash Only Software. We've gone stateless where we can so load balancing to a new VM is not problem. Where we can't go stateless we use work queues and clusters so again, reincarnating to new VMs is not a problem. So purposefully restarting VMs to starve zombie networks was born for cloud computing. If a wider move could be made to cloud backed thin clients the internet might be a safer place to live, play, and work. Imagine being free(er) from spam blasts and DDOS attacks. Oh what a wonderful world it would be...
Flickr's lone database guy Dathan Pattishall made his excellent presentation available on how on how Flickr scales its backend to handle tremendous loads. Some of this information is available in Flickr Architecture, but the paper is so good it's worth another read. If you want to see sharding done right, at scale, take a look.
Framework Fixation SolutionsHow can you avoid the framework fixation crash?
Hi, Generating unique ids is a common requirements in many projects. Generally, this responsibility is given to Database layer. By using sequences or some other technique. This is a problem for horizontal scalability. What are the Guid generation schemes used in high scalable web sites generally? I have seen use java's SecureRandom class to generate Guid. What are the other methods generally used? Thanks Unmesh
I've been interested in sharding concepts since first hearing the term "shard" a few years back. My interest had been piqued earlier, the first time I read about Google's original approach to distributed search. It was described as a hashtable-like system in which independent physical machines play the role of the buckets. More recently, I needed the capacity and performance of a Sharded system, but did not find helpful libraries or toolkits which would assist with the configuration for my language of preference these days, which is Python. And, since I had a few weeks on my hands, I decided I would begin the work of creating these tools. The result of my initial work the Pyshards project, a still-incomplete python and MySQL based horizontal partitioning and sharding toolkit. HighScalability.com readers will already know that horizontal partitioning is a data segmenting pattern in which distinct groups of physical row-based datasets are distributed across multiple partitions. When the partitions exist as independent databases and when they exist within a shared-nothing architecture they are known as shards. (Google apparently coined the term shard for such database partitions, and pyshards has adopted it.) The goal is to provide big opportunities for database scalability while maintaining good performance. Sharded datasets can be queried individually (one shard) or collectively (aggregate of all shards). In the spirit of The Zen of Python, Pyshards focuses on one obvious way to accomplish horizontal partitioning, and that is by using a hash/modulo based algorithm. Pyshards provides the ability to reasonably add polynomial capacity (number of original shards squared) without re-balancing (re-sharding). Pyshards is designed with re-sharding in mind (because the time will come when you must re-balance) and provides re-sharding algorithms and tools. Finally, Pyshards aspires to provide a web-based shard monitoring tool so that you can keep an eye on resource capacity. So why publish an incomplete open source project? I'd really prefer to work with others who are interested in this topic instead of working in a vacuum. If you are curious, or think you might want to get involved, come visit the project page, join a mailing list, or add a comment on the WIKI. http://code.google.com/p/pyshards/wiki/Pyshards Devin
Update 2: Hank Williams says iPhone Background Processing: Not Fixed But Halfway There. Excellent analysis of all the reasons you need real background processing. Hey, you can't even build an alarm clock! Hard to believe some commenters say it's not so.. Update: Josh Lowensohn of Webware tells us Why users should be scared of Apple's new notification system. A big item on the iPhone developer iWishlist has been background processing. If you can't write an app to poll for new data in the background how will you keep your even more important non-foreground app in sync? Live from the Apple developer conference we learn the solution is a centralized push based architecture. Here's the relevant MacRumorsLive transcript: