Month: January 2018

Apache Kafka on Kubernetes and OpenShift : Barnabas is died … long life to Strimzi !

Almost one year and half ago, I started my journey about running Apache Kafka on Kubernetes and OpenShift. At that time, these containers orchestration platforms were focused on “stateless” (micro)services so there wasn’t a real support for a technology like Apache Kafka which is “stateful” by definition.

I wrote this blog post about my “investigation”, highlighting the problems to address in order to have Apache Kafka running on such a platforms. The solution was trying to “mimic” something that would have been added in the following months : the PetSets (then renamed in StatefulSets).

I created a new project named “Barnabas” (the name came from a character in a Franz Kafka novel; he was a messenger) with the objective to help developers on having resources (i.e. all needed YAML files) for deploying Apache Kafka on Kubernetes and OpenShift.

I got few people using “Barnabas” for their demos and proofs of concept receiving feedback and improvements; for example the Debezium team started to use it for deploying Apache Kafka with their supported Kafka Connect connectors; some people from the Aerogear project used it for some POCs as well.

Barnabas is died … long life to Strimzi !

Today … “Barnabas” isn’t here anymore 😦

It’s sad but it’s not so true ! It just has a new name which is Strimzi !

strimzi

The objective here is always the same : providing a way to run an Apache Kafka cluster on Kubernetes and OpenShift. Of course, the project is open source and I hope that a new community can be born and grow around it : today I’m not the only one contributor and that’s great !

The current first early release (the 0.1.0) provides all the YAML resources needed for deploying the Apache Kafka cluster in terms of StatefulSets (used for the broker and Zookeeper nodes), Services (for having the nodes able to communicate each other and reachable by the clients), Persistent Volume Claims (for storing Kafka logs other then supporting “ephemeral” storage with emptyDir) and finally metrics support in order to get metrics data from the cluster through Prometheus and showing them in a Grafana dashboard.

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Other than that, Strimzi provides a way for deploying Kafka Connect as well alongside a Kafka cluster. In order to simplify the addition of new connectors when running on OpenShift, the deployment leverage some unique OpenShift features like “Builds” and “S2I” images.

The future … is bright

While the current release already provides a simple way to deploy the Apache Kafka cluster (“templates” are also provided in the OpenShift use case) the future is rich of improvements and features we’d like to add.

First of all, we are working on not having these YAML resources anymore but using the “operator” approach (well known in the Kubernetes world).

Two main components will be part of such an approach in a short time : a cluster controller and a topic controller.

The cluster controller, running on Kubernetes (OpenShift), is in charge to deploy an Apache Kafka cluster based on the configuration provided by the user through a “cluster” ConfigMap resource. Its main work is to watch for a ConfigMap which contains the cluster configuration (i.e. number of broker nodes, number of Zookeeper nodes, healthcheck information, broker configuration properties, metrics configuration and so on) and then deploying the cluster based on such information. During its life, the cluster controller is also in charge to check updates on the ConfigMap and reflecting the changes on the already deployed cluster (i.e. the user increase the number of broker nodes in order to scale up the cluster or change some metrics parameters and so on).

The topic controller, always running on Kubernetes (OpenShift), provides a way to manage the Kafka topics without interacting with the Kafka brokers directly but using a ConfigMap approach. In the same way as the cluster controller, the topic controller is in charge to watch for specific ConfigMap resources which describe topics : this mean that a user can create a new ConfigMap containing topic information (i.e. name, number of partitions, replication factor and so on) and the topic controller will create the topic in the cluster. As already happens with the cluster controller, the topic controller is also in charge to check updates on the “topic” ConfigMap reflecting its changes to the cluster as well. Finally, this component is also able to handle scenarios where topics changes don’t happen on the ConfigMap(s) only but even directly into the Kafka cluster. It’s able to run a “3-way reconciliation” process in order to align topic information from these different sources.

Conclusion

Having these two components will be the next step for Strimzi in the short term but more improvements will come related to security, authentication/authorization and automatic cluster balancing where, thanks to the metrics, a cluster balancer will be able to balance the load across the different nodes in the cluster re-assign partitions when needed.

If you want to know more about the Strimzi project, you can engage with us in different ways, from IRC to the mailing list and starting following the official Twitter account. Thanks to its open source nature you can easily jump into the project providing feedback or opening issues and/or PRs … becoming a new contributor !

Looking forward to hear from you ! 😉

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Reactive streams ? AMQP 1.0 is a really good “reactive” protocol !

Header

During the just passed Christmas holidays, I decided to spend the spare time for digging into the reactive programming paradigm, the “Reactive streams” manifesto and the related ReactiveX implementation (more specifically on the RxJava one).

This blog post doesn’t mean to be a discussion about what reactive streams are or what reactive programming is just because you can find a lot of really useful resources on these arguments on the Internet but, because I’m a messaging and IoT guy, during this article I’ll try to describe some (really trivial) thoughts I had “discovering” the reactive streams API  and comparing them to the AMQP 1.0 protocol.

On December 30th, I tweeted …

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As you can see, I defined AMQP 1.0 as a “reactive” protocol because I really found all the semantics and the related definitions from the reactive streams API in the AMQP 1.0 specification.

What I’m going to describe is a mapping at 20,000 feet without digging into all the possible problems we can encounter doing that, just because it seemed rather trivial to me; I’d like to open a discussion on it or giving inputs to the other people for thinking about that.

It could be useful when it comes to use a reactive programming model in a microservices based system where a “good” messaging protocol for supporting such a model is needed.

The Reactive Streams API

We know that AMQP 1.0 is really a peer-to-peer protocol so we can establish a communication between two clients directly or using an intermediary (one or more) such as a broker (for allowing store-and-forward) or a router (providing direct-messaging as well). In all these use cases, it’s always about having a “sender” and a “receiver” which can be just mapped to a “publisher” and a “subscriber” in reactive streams API terms (if you think about ReactiveX, then you know them as “observable” and “observer”).

The reactive streams API are defined with four main interfaces with some methods which can be mapped in terms of specific AMQP 1.0 “performatives”.

public interface Processor<T, R> extends Subscriber<T>, Publisher<R> {}

public interface Publisher<T> {
    public void subscribe(Subscriber<? super T> s);
}

public interface Subscriber<T> {
    public void onSubscribe(Subscription s);
    public void onNext(T t);
    public void onError(Throwable t);
    public void onComplete();
}

public interface Subscription {
    public void request(long n);
    public void cancel();
}

The above interfaces describes how a “subscriber” can subscribe in order to receive stream of events published by a “publisher” and how this one “pushes” events to the subscriber. The API also defines how it’s possible to for the subscriber to avoid being overwhelmed by events if it’s slower than the publisher, using a “request for events” mechanism on the subscription. Finally, the subscriber can be notified when the stream is completed (if it’s not infinite) or if an error occurred.

During this post I won’t consider the Processor interface which enables an entity to be both a “publisher” and “subscriber” and it’s mainly used for implementing “operators” in the stream processing chain.

Attaching as … subscribing

The Publisher interface provides a subscribe method which is called by the subscriber when it wants to start receiving all the published events on the related stream (in a “push” fashion).

If we assign a name to the stream which could be an “address” in AMQP terms, then such an operation could be an “attach” performative sent by the subscriber which acts as a receiver on the established link. In the opposite direction, the publisher can reply with an “attach” performative (on the same address) acting as a sender and this operation could be mapped as the onSubscribe method call on the Subscriber interface.

FIG1

FIG.1 – attach as Publisher.subscribe, Subscriber.onSubscribe

Credits based flow control and transfer … for back-pressure and pushing events

One of the main reactive streams concepts which convinced me that AMQP is really a “reactive” protocol was the back-pressure. It provides a way for handling scenarios where a subscriber is slower than the publisher avoiding to be overwhelmed by a lot of events it can’t handle (losing them); the subscriber can notify to the publisher the maximum number of events it can receive. In my mind it’s something that AMQP provides out-of-box with the credits based flow control (something that it’s not available with the MQTT 3.1.1 protocol for example).

In terms of reactive streams API, such a feature is provided by the Subscription interface with the request method; calling this method, the subscriber says the maximum number of events to the publisher. In AMQP terms, it means that the receiver sends a “flow” performative specifying the credits number as the maximum number of messages it can handle in a specific moment in time.

At this point, the publisher can start to push events to the subscriber and it’s available through the onNext method call on the Subscriber interface. Even in this case, in AMQP terms, the sender starts to send one or more “transfer” performatives to the receiver with the message payload (representing the event).

FIG2

FIG.2 – flow as Subscription.request(n) and transfer as Subscriber.onNext

Detaching … for cancelling, completed streams or errors

In order to complete this 20,000 feet mapping, there are few other methods provided by the reactive streams API I haven’t covered yet.

First of all, the subscriber can decide to not receiving events anymore calling the cancel method on the Subscription interface which in AMQP terms could be a simple “detach” performative sent by the receiver during the “normal” messages (events) exchanges.

FIG3

FIG.3 – detach from receiver as Subscription.cancel

Finally, it’s important to remember that the reactive streams API takes into account finite streams of events and errors as well.

Regarding finite streams of events, the Subscriber interface exposes the onComplete method which is called when the publisher hasn’t no more events to push anymore so the streams is completed. In AMQP, it could mean a “detach” performative sent by the sender without any error conditions.

FIG4

FIG.4 – detach from sender as Subscriber.onComplete

At same time, the reactive streams API defines a way to handle errors without catching exceptions but handling them as a special events. The Susbcriber interface provides the onError method which is called when an error happens and the subscriber is notified about that (in any case such an error is represented by a Throwable specific implementation). In AMQP, it could mean a “detach” performative sent by the sender (as it happens for a completed stream) but, this time, with an error condition providing specific error information.

FIG5

FIG.5 – detach from sender as Subscriber.onError

Conclusion

Maybe you could have a different opinion (and I’d like to hear about that) but, at a first glance, it seemed to me that AMQP 1.0 is really THE protocol suited for implementing the reactive streams API and the related reactive programming paradigm when it comes to microservices in a distributed system and how to design their communication in a reactive way. It provides the main communication patters (request/reply but mainly publish/subscribe for this specific use case), it provides flow-control for the back pressure as well. It’s a really “push” oriented protocol compared to the “pull” HTTP nature for example. MQTT could be another protocol used in a reactive fashion but it lacks of flow-control (at least in the current 3.1.1 specification).