Stream Architecture

How can we build a persistent message queue that scales to millions of messages/second?

For example, today’s cars are equipped with a data storage device, the EDR (event data recorder), which stores all the sensor data for the vehicle. Such data could be used for routing, dashboard analytics, or mechanical operation (cruise control, lane correction, auto parking, etc). This is just one of many use cases in the IoT universe, all requiring connectivity to control centers and real-time processing of data streams. In many real-world use cases, batch processing does not effectively match reality, and real-time processing is required, with a new data maxim, “use it and lose it”.

How do we architect such a system? The answer proposed by Dunning & Friedman’s book Streaming Architecture is that we use data streams throughout our entire architecture. We can refer to this as Universal Stream-based Architecture. In this structure data is used immediately upon ingestion, but we still need durability in case processess downstream aren’t ready to process the stream (the data should persist in some way, and be processed when the stream is flowing again). Another key idea of this architecture is to decouple data sources from data consumers. Data may flow to an archive, to an aggregator in a batch process, and towards stream processing. The point is, each of these consumers can perform their respective tasks, although their needs from the data are different. This design is flexible. Features can be added as they emerge in business development, without disrupting other existing processes.

  • producer/publisher: The data source that sends data to the messaging system.
  • consumer/subscriber: The processes that use the data provided by the producer.

Here are some essential characteristics we will expect from our messaging system:

  • Fuller independence of the producer and consumer
  • Persistence (as mentioned above, we need to be prepared for a hold up in the stream)
  • High rates of messages/second
  • Naming of topics (so consumers can subscribe to what they need)
  • A replayable sequence with strong ordering (useful for picking up the stream and replaying at any point)
  • Fault tolerance
  • Geo-distributed replication (if your service needs to work on all regions, this is required)

Messaging services like Kafka and Map R persist all messages while still handling over 1GB of message traffic per second per server.

Distributed system guarentees:

  • at-least-once: Every record is processed, but some may be processed more than once.
  • at-most-once: No record will be processed more than once, but some records may be lost.
  • exactly-once: Every record will be processed exactly once.

Apache Storm

  • real-time processing of unbounded streams
  • represented by Java objects that are constructed as messages are read
  • excels as low-latency, real-time analytics
  • the first on the scene, so longer history of documentation
  • does not support windowing (time period over which aggregations are made in stream processing)

Apache Spark Streaming

  • relies on Resilient Distributed Dataset (RDD), where if jobs are too big for in-memory, Spark spills to disk
  • requires a distributed storage system (like Cassandra)
  • works with Java, Python, and Scala
  • low latency streaming, as well as batch
  • treats all batches as a special case of streaming
  • like Spark or Storm, requires a distributed storage system

Kafka transport

  • asynchronous, message-based, and persistant
  • decouple the producer from the consumer
  • require all messages to be acknowledged in order
  • sets up oersistence that can last for days or weeks (“surely they’re done with that message by now”)
  • producers send messages to a Kafka broker, which stores and forward messages for many topics
  • persistence of messages is unconditional
  • offers compaction (retain a message if no later message has been received with the same key), otherwise deleted

Apache Apex

  • both batch and low-latency processing
  • runs as a YARN as a application (Yet Another Resource Negotiator — the resource management layer of the Hadoop ecosystem)

Lambda Architecture

Blends the best of batch processing with stream processing to balance latency, throughput, and fault-tolerance. This structure requires an append-long, immutable data source. Every record is timestamped and is true (as it indeed records what entered at that point in time). There’s a whole tangent conversation regarding human error in such a system, and yet the persistence of the data source provides a record that can be navigated in the event of error detection and diagnosis.

Three layers:

  • batch processing: generate views based on all available data in a read-only database, where updates completely replace existing precomputed views (e.g. Hadoop).
  • real-time(speed) processing: provides views based on the most recent data, filling in the gaps in the batch processing views. May not be as accurate or complete as batch layer, but available in real-time (e.g. Storm).
  • serving layer (respond to queries): build views from the processed data (e.g. data stores like Cassandra or MongoDB, or Elasticsearch for querying output).