I’ve updated Buckytools, my suite for managing at scale consistent
hashing Graphite clusters, with a few minor changes.
Sparse File Support
The buckyd daemon now supports working with sparse Whisper DB files on disk.
In this case its assumed that you have carbon-cache.py daemons running with:
WHISPER_SPARSE_CREATE = True
Any new Whisper files that buckyd copies into place will also be checked,
in 4KiB blocks, for areas that can be made sparse. Therefore, when running
bucky rebalance files that were sparse on one server can be moved to a new
server and recreated as sparse files.
Using bucky tar works as before but the generated archives do not have the GNU
sparse types set and if expanded by hand will not automatically result in
The bucky du command works as before and reports the apparent size of the
Whisper files on disk. Similar to:
du -hs --apparent-size
Restoring tarballs with bucky restore attempts to create sparse files in
To enable support for sparse Whisper DB files run the daemon with the
description "Buckyd, the Buckytools daemon"
author "Jack Neely <[email protected]>"
start on startup
stop on shutdown
exec /usr/bin/buckyd --sparse \
Bucky Restore Bug Fixes
I can tell that we restore tarballs a lot using these tools. Oops! I’ve
corrected bucky restore to properly ignore directories in the tarballs
rather than create 0 length Whisper DBs in the cluster.
This tool that listens for Graphite’s Pickle Protocol and emits Graphite’s
text protocol has had some more verbose debugging added. This tool is
on my short list to work on some improvements to, such as not storing things
in memory as strings. Go’s UTF8 strings are very resource and memory
I’ve been researching quite a few algorithms for my client, Bruce, as I
continue to scale out certain systems. I thought that getting them on my
blog would be very useful for a future version of myself and many others. I
suspect, and hope, that most folks that work in Systems Administration /
Operations will find these at least familiar.
Flap detection is the ability to determine rapid state changes so that one can
take corrective action. The text book example is BGP route flapping where a
new route is advertised and then withdrawn (a flap) multiple times in a short
period. In general, this “scores” an event with higher scores the more
frequent the event.
For each event, a “penalty” $P$, “timestamp” $t$, and a boolean
“isFlapping” variable is stored. $P$ is the current “score” for this event
and is $0$ for an event that has not happened. $t$ is the timestamp, usually
Unix Epoch time, of the last event.
Each time an event occurs we add a penalty value to the current
penalty. The penalty value decays exponentially over time. A suppress
limit is known which defines if the event is flapping when the event’s
penalty is greater than the suppress limit. A lower reuse limit is known
when the event is considered no longer flapping once the penalty value is
less than the reuse limit.
f(x) = 2.71828 ** (-x*log(2) / 60)
set ylabel "Penalty"
set xlabel "Time"
set key off
set terminal png size 800,600
set output 'output.png'
set label "Reuse Limit" at 40,11
set label "Suppress Limit" at 100,26
plot [0:240] x < 10 ? f(x) : x < 20 ? f(x-10)*10 : x < 30 ? f(x-20)*20 : f(x-30)*30, 10 with dots, 25 with dots
This is a update of an old post so its back at the top of the blog.
Original posting was 2015-08-19.
I’m considering swapping out Statsd with Bitly’s statsdaemon for
better performance. But, because Bitly’s version only accepts integer
data I wanted to analyze our Statsd traffic. I figured I’d use my friend
tcpdump to capture some trafic samples and replay them through a test
box for analysis. Also, figuring out what are our hot metrics is very
# tcpdump -s0 -w /tmp/statsd.pcap udp port 9125
Wireshark confirmed that this was the traffic I was looking for. A spot
check looks like I have good integer data. How to dump out the traffic
data so I can at least run grep and other common unix tools on the text
The Tcpreplay tools look very powerful. However, it can’t replay TCP
traffic at a server daemon because it cannot synchronize the SYN/ACK numbers
with the real client. But this is UDP taffic! UDP does provide checksums
for data integrity so after changing the IP and MAC address via tcprewrite
I had packets that my Linux box dropped because the checksum didn’t match.
Back to my friend Wireshark:
$ tshark -r /tmp/statsd.pcap -T fields -e data > data
This dumps out newline separated dump of the data field of each packet which
is exactly what I need. Just not as hexadecimal encoded binary data.
importbinasciiimportsysfor s inopen(sys.argv, "r").readlines():
Finally, I have newline separated list of the Statsd metrics in the pcap data
and can finally run grep!
Life is busy around the holidays with much family and new family additions.
If there is one thing I wish I could remind the world it is that Christmas
does last 12 days from Christmas Day until January 6th. So, Merry Christmas
and a Happy 2016 to all! Here are some updates in no particular order.
Google Jump Hash Support in Buckytools
It looks like my Graphite cluster will be used for long term storage as we
migrate toward Prometheus – which means I get no relief in my ever-scaling
cluster. So, I’m adding Google’s Jump Hash to Buckytools. With this
hashing algorithm you cannot remove a node in the middle of the hash ring
without affecting all nodes afterwards in the ring so full support of
Graphite’s replication factor will find its way into Buckytools as well.
If I’ve not merged yet, take a look at the jump branch. The plan here
is to be directly compatible with the FNV1a-Jump hashing now implemented
New Graphite Storage Backend
To support my Graphite work I’m moving toward a new storage backend that
uses a Ceres-like approach. One or multiple files per metric using a columnar
data format so the files grow based on the number of data points stored.
Implementing this in Go will give incredible performance improvements and
the new file format will give a marked reduction in storage space used.
Some code for this is in my new Journal project.
Also, key to this project is being able to regularly compress older data.
There are some interesting choices here that aught to help a lot with my
storage requirements, but they make the archives not randomly accessible.
Doing this for data past a certain age probably makes since.
This is probably the most challenging aspect of my plans for better Graphite
scaling. Will I get the time? Will a better solution present itself? Will
a entirely different method of handling telemetry that will get in the way
of my plans of using Prometheus for our operational telemetry?
Graphite Metric Generator
Quick and dirty scaling tests for Graphite. This small tool will generate
random metrics with random data, or just random data for a known list of
metric names. The gentestmetricscommand is part of Buckytools.
Usage of ./gentestmetrics:
Copyright 2015 42 Lines, Inc.
Original Author: Jack Neely
Number of random metrics to generate. (default 1000)
Use metric names found in this file. Overrides -c.
Seconds between each timestamp/value pair per metric. (default 60)
Upper limit to randomly generated integer values. (default 100)
Prefix prepended to each metric name. (default "test.")
Time stamp to start -- iterations go BACKWARDS from here (default now)
Use the given value rather than a random integer.
How many timestamp/value pairs for each generated metric name. (default 1)
Metrics are printed to STDOUT. The most interesting usage is generating data
for a list of known metrics delimited by newlines in a text file. Say with
a 1 minute interval and 5 data points each:
./gentestmetrics -f metrics.txt -i 60 -x 5
The generated metrics are output in chronological order. However, the
timestamp given via -s dictates the timestamp of the last data point rather
than the first.
Is There Anyone Not Podcasting?
A few friends and I started the Practical Operations Podcast. We talk
about the practical side of operations work in small to large scale
environments and the not so obvious implications of various tools and how
you might use them in real world conditions. Check us out!
I’ve been thinking about the “future” and how I can move my metrics system from
what I have now to what I’d like to have. I run a large Graphite cluster.
In the 26 million metrics per minute range with a quarter petabyte of
provisioned storage. I integrate with a Naemon (Nagios
fork) and Merlin setup for alerting.
I’ve been following Prometheus for a year and wondering about what
the future might be like. Turns out, my fellow Operations team members and the
Developers are also highly interested in Prometheus or a tool that offers
Prometheus-like features. Specifically:
Support ephemeral hosts: Be smarter about how metrics are managed so that
each host adds metric data without polluting the namespace with thousands
of host entries.
Scale storage: No more Whisper files, storage needs to scale based on
the timestamp/value pairs we store rather than a pre-allocated chunk
of disk space.
Scale to a multi- data center environment: Graphite isn’t designed to
make multiple clusters in different data centers of regions work well
together. Although, modern versions of Grafana can really help
there. Prometheus handles this style of sharding natively.
Ability to tag or label metrics: This makes ephemeral hosts work well
combined with storage allocated as needed (rather than allocating all
possible storage at once).
Support advanced metric based alerting: A strength of Prometheus and we
can funnel through our Nagios-based monitoring to deal with pager groups
So, how does one get from a monolithic Graphite setup to something like
the above? A good question that I’m still trying to work out. Here’s
what I’m thinking.
Keep our Nagios based alerting system. It routes alerts, handles paging
time periods, and, most importantly, handles alerts from many different
sources via checks. Uses PagerDuty, email, etc. as appropriate.
Keep the current check_graphite code we are using to do metric based
alerting. It enables us to transition when we can and roll back if needed.
Setup a Prometheus / AlertManager instance for any global aggregation and
handle routing of alerts from Prometheus metric based checks to Nagios.
Upgrade Grafana to 2.5 (or better) to be the global user interface to
metrics and be able to pull data from many different sources: Graphite,
Prometheus, and Elasticsearch.
Scale Graphite storage with some form of black magic.
Sharded Systems: These systems are the infrastructure setup as part of each
data center or region.
A Prometheus server to scrape metrics from local systems and services.
Each Prometheus server maps and forwards data points to Graphite. Perhaps
an identical second server for redundancy. Alerts and aggregate metrics
flow upward toward the global Prometheus service.
A local Graphite/Statsd ingestion service found by service discovery to
handle and route old school metrics.
The design of this gives me a Prometheus system we can used for advanced
alerting and short term monitoring of metrics with great support for ephemeral
hosts and labeling. Graphite still collects unconverted metrics and holds
our historical or long term data. Graphite also serves as a long term
storage option for Prometheus. (See this patch.)
What’s left unsolved? The hard parts:
Long term metric storage must scale and Whisper files isn’t cutting it.
I need to spend some time with alternate Graphite backends or in writing
one. Many of the existing options bring along their own challenges. I
am required to keep full resolution data for years.
I have some ideas here. I had hopes for InfluxDB but it does not appear
stable. But, I’m thinking something far simpler. More to come here.
Will this work? Will this scale to 20 million metrics or more? Perhaps
its worth finding out.
If you run Graphite at scale you are interested in applying
I was tracing performance issues in my Graphite cluster and saw that for some
queries the backend storage nodes were sending abnormally large pickle
objects back to the Graphite web frontends. Python’s httplib was taking
several minutes to download the pickle objects causing query times to
Testing against my backend storage nodes I found that with carefully crafted
time ranges the whisper.py code would adjust the from and until times so
that they were equal. This case was not detected and resulted in a
read of the entire Whisper database. Only one valid point was returned and
a list of many, many None values. Example:
The query (identifying bits removed) I was testing with was returning pickle
object that were just shy of 50MiB with an M. With the above patch those
pickle objects shrink down to about 40KiB. This matched the size of the pickle
objects generated with time ranges that included only 1 data point and did
not cause the above bug.
These long queries were affecting response times for other queries as well.
The following graph shows the difference in performance the patch achieved.
The scale on the left is time to retrieve pickle objects from the backend
storage nodes in seconds. The scale on the right is the number of retrievals
The most difficult bit about running a Graphite cluster is handling queries or
graph rendering during a cluster rebalance. Or after a partitioning event when
you use replication in your consistent hashing cluster. Suddenly, graphs under
report, have partial data, or might even be completely different when you
reload the graph. Generally, your Graphite cluster becomes useless until
sanity is restored.
I upgraded my Graphite setup in May to Graphite 0.9.13-ish. Its very close to
the top of the 0.9.x branch of the Git repo. This has a bulk-fetch patch
that drastically speeds up queries and rendering. It also changes how the
webapp decides which metric TimeSeries to use if it gets more than one.
Getting more than one answer for a specific metric is what causes all the pain.
This is caused by duplicate Whisper files for the same metric that do not have
identical data in them. Exactly what happens during a rebalance. It also
happens with replication set higher than 1, but without an outage the Whisper
DBs are identical.
In these cases, instead of choosing the “most complete” TimeSeries to use
(which causes partial results or under reported results) why not merge
them together? Why hasn’t this been done before?
I patched the bulk-fetch CRDT query resolver to do just this. Now I
wonder if I can continue to scale Graphite into the petabytes without
having to replace the backend with a Cassandra or Riak database?
This was written on request of one of my clients in June.
We use Graphite, Grafana, and Statsd extensively.
We monitor everything from basic server health, detailed MySQL debugging
information, web application transactions, and statistics about the
communication of users’ devices. The number of metrics we generate has grown
exponentially – and sometimes beyond our capacity to plan for them.
In The Beginning
Early on we had a Graphite cluster that grew from an initial machine to a
handful. Many had different attached storage sizes and we used Graphite’s
relay-rules.conf to setup regular expressions matching specific groups of
metrics to a storage location. We grew the cluster by adding “sub-clusters” of
2 or more machines that would use Graphite’s consistent hashing to essentially
build a storage pool. With all the differences, even though we built the entire
system with Puppet, it was difficult to get right.
Our initial problems included bad entries in the CLUSTER_SERVERS setting in the
Graphite web application. Graphs took forever to render as the webapp had to
time out on non-existent Graphite servers. We constantly did battle with which
server would fill up next and how to further break down the metrics into more
groups and add storage and hardware.
Let’s not forget our UDP friend, Statsd. We were receiving upwards of 700,000
UDP packets per second at the one Statsd daemon on the main Graphite relay,
while the Node.js daemon only handled about 40,000 packets per second. The
other 640,000 metrics per second were bring dropped. Testing further showed
that the Node.js code would drop a significant number of metrics as the rate
neared 40,000 packets per second. We knew that Statsd was under-reporting but
we didn’t know how badly until we broke out our network best-friends: wireshark
The requirements of other components of our systems work best on bare metal,
and our hosting provider excels at bare metal as a service. The load balancers
available were hardware solutions and charged by the connection – which just
wasn’t an option for Graphite and Statsd TCP and UDP streams. I also had to be
able to load balance Statsd UDP traffic. That removed HAProxy which is one of
our primary load balancing tools.
However, I have worked with LVS/IPVS load balancing setups for years and I knew
it had the horse power for the job, even on reasonably priced hardware. Of
course, if I send the same Statsd metric to multiple daemons via a simple
round-robin load balancing algorithm, all the daemons will in turn report that
metric to Graphite. With Graphite, when you send duplicate timestamps for the
same metric, the last write wins – which makes your Statsd data useless. Like
carbon-relay.py I needed a Statsd proxy that could run a consistent hash
algorithm on the metric and always direct it to the right Statsd daemon.
I used a tiered load balancing approach to solve these problems. I load
balanced across proxies which, in turn, knew the right host to send data
toward by application specific inspection. This worked out well, because
the proxies couldn’t handle on their own the full traffic load, and the end
points that stored the data turned out to have other limiting issues on their
rate of ingestion.
Uh, what Statsd proxy? The Statsd team had begun to work on a proxy.js to do
just this. Great! However, testing showed the same Node.js limitations with a
maximum of 40,000 packets per second. Scaling to 200,000 packets per second
consumed 8 cores and 8G of RAM and continued to drop packets. A lot of packets.
This was not going to scale.
I have found Go to be a really fantastic language for dealing with operations
tasks. Type safety does wonders to keep bugs out of the code, its nearly as
fast as C, and makes very efficient programs. Scaling isn’t about just
the horizontal or vertical – you also need efficiency.
I created the StatsRelay project to fill this need. Written in Go it is
benchmarked at consuming 250,000 UDP packets per second, no packet drop,
using 10MiB of RAM and about half a CPU core. To help make the underlying
Statsd daemons handle more metrics with less packet loss StatsRelay sends
multiple metrics per packet. String operations are always cheaper than
making system calls. Now this we can work with.
This graph shows the processed Statsd metrics per second flat lined at the
beginning. The green is the rate handled by StatsRelay and shows that
we’ve scaled quite a bit from the capabilities of a single Statsd daemon.
It also helped that we shut down an unintentionally metric heavy source that
wasn’t providing a lot of value.
Graphite Migration #1
When looking at our historical storage consumption, I calculated that we would
continue to grow at about 1.5x that rate. With this information I built a cluster
using these techniques that I estimated would last 2 years. This was October
and November of 2014. Find that on the metric ingestion graph above for the
full humor value. I build some Fabric tasks to use a set of tools called
Carbonate to migrate the data over. Things went smoothly and successfully.
By the end of January the new “two-year” cluster was full. I had roughly some
30 TiB of Whisper files.
Graphite Migration #2
There’s no problem that scaling horizontal wont solve! (You know, the
complete anti-theme of this article.) We ordered more servers. Got them
configured and prepared for the cluster expansion. I tuned my Fabric tasks
to run the Carbonate tools with as much parallelism as I could. (There was
one lunch I remember coming back from to find one of our admin hosts nearly
dead from a test run of the Fabric task.) Tests worked in about 2 days.
Finally, I ran the full rebalancing.
The cluster rebalance took more than 7 days during which query results were
mostly useless. I knew query results would be “weird” until the rebalance
completed – but 7 days was much longer than my worst case time expectations.
My tests had purposely left the new nodes populated. This had the permissions
set correctly and was an attempt to lessen the amount of query weirdness. The
Python implementation of whisper-fill.py took much longer than simply
rsync’ing the data over. 2 to 3 seconds per metric times roughly 2 million
metrics in flight with 4 machines running in parallel is 11 to 17 days. Oops!
Available Whisper storage: 60TiB.
I was having other issues with my Fabric tasks. Wrapping everything in shell
and piping through SSH was starting to break down. The Python implementation
of the fill algorithm was way too slow. The local disk space requirements
to move around metrics were becoming painful. I needed an efficient client /
server API with a high degree of concurrency. Sounds like Go.
I began work on a new project called Buckytools. The server end is a REST
API that can lay down new Whisper files, retrieve Whisper files, run the
fill operation on an existing Whisper file with new data, list metrics on disk,
and be knowledgeable of the consistent hash ring. The client compares hash
rings to make sure they are identical, creates tar archives, restores tar
archives, finds metrics in the wrong locations, and rebalances the cluster.
Also, lots of other administrative tasks for working with a large consistent
hashing Graphite cluster.
There are two key pieces to this project. First, it implements the Graphite
consistent hashing algorithm in Go. Secondly, it also implements the fill
algorithm in Go. With good use of go routines and Go’s amazing net/http
library this turned out to be significantly faster that previous tools.
Graphite Migration #3
Its May, 2015. A new tier of application servers has pushed the cluster into
the red for storage space. Instead of working toward a Summer over-haul,
I needed more space. This was the moment I had been prepping for with
Buckytools. Similar to migration #2, I added another 4 storage nodes and
needed to rebalance about 2.3 million metrics. Also, learning from that
migration I sure sure to clear off any data on the new nodes from my tests.
GOMAXPROCS=4 bucky rebalance -w 100
Speed. 2.3 million metrics in 21 hours. The balance process removed old
metrics on a successful heal resulting in much less query weirdness with
partial data. The migration was going wonderfully well…
Until carbon-cache.py daemons starting crashing due to ever increasing
memory usage. Once I restarted them all I realized that much of the data
received during the 21 hour window had vanished. I examined metric after
metric to see large gaps with the occasional string of data points for this
time window. I was…let’s say I was upset.
Available Whisper storage: 88TiB.
You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry
This smelled familiar. We’ve encountered this bug before on the Graphite
cluster and chalked it up to a fluke. This time it manifested in every
carbon-cache.py daemon on the new data nodes. Future migrations would
come, so this bug had to go.
Turns out whisper.py that manages the Whisper files on disk doesn’t ensure
that files will be closed. (Versions 0.9.12 and 0.9.13.) We also have
Graphite configured to lock files via a flock() call. When an exception
occurred in whisper.update_many() (called from carbon-cache.py’s
writer thread) the Whisper file would not be closed and in most cases the
Python garbage collector would come along and close the out of scope file
descriptor and unlock the file. However, with enough pressure on the
carbon-cache.py daemon I hit the condition where an exception occurred
but the file descriptor had not been garbage collected before
carbon-cache.py needed to write to that metric again. At this point the
daemon attempted to obtain an exclusive lock on the file and the writer
thread deadlocked. The thread had two open file descriptors to the same
This is fixed in the master branch of the Whisper project and I’m working on
a backport to 0.9.x. After we’ve stress tested a new Graphite cluster setup
I’ll get this in a pull request.
Our Graphite cluster is growing very quickly and we know that adding 4 nodes at
a time every couple months wont scale for long. I’m planning to rebuild the
cluster to scale past the holiday shopping season which is our busiest time of
the year. So, besides just adding more machines, what are we looking at doing?
Statsd: Pull this off the Graphite storage nodes so it can be scaled
independently. We’re running almost 30 daemons to keep up with load and
due to consistent hash ring unevenness and Node.js being what it is there
is still packet loss. Use a more efficient implementation of Statsd. Bitly’s
Statsdaemon looks very promising.
Dedicated Query/Render machines: The user experience has different
scaling requirements that the rest of the cluster. Especially caching.
Evaluate carbon-c-relay: A much more efficient consistent hashing metric
router. Pull all metric routing off of storage nodes. This allows me
to not have storage nodes on the LVS/IPVS subnets since I’m going to have
more nodes than IPs there.
Alternate consistent hashing algorithms: A feature of carbon-c-relay as
I’ve noticed we have quite a few collisions in the hash ring. Graphite’s
consistent hash ring implementation only has 64k slots.
That’s some of our thoughts for the immediate future. There is lots of room
to grow and scale and more challenges and bugs to come. At some point we will
need to consider alternate technologies for storing time series data and how
to port all of our existing line and pickle protocol based tools. Currently,
the Graphite ecosystem is very popular here and gives us much value. We also
think that, with our data patterns, Whisper is a fairly efficient data store
for us. We expect to be scaling Graphite into the future, and writing a few
more articles about it.
The Graphite cluster I’m working on with Bruce grows almost faster than I can
keep up. One of the tools I’ve been transitioning to is carbon-c-relay
to do consistent hashing and full metric routing in C. It works very, very
However, most of the data Bruce tosses at me utilizes Graphite’s Pickle
protocol which carbon-c-relay doesn’t support. I needed an efficient and
very fast daemon that could decode Graphite’s Pickle protocol and pass it
A new tool in the Buckytools project has been born! bucky-pickle-relay
listens for Graphite’s Pickle protocol, decodes it using the og-rek
Go library and retransmits it to a target relay.
An Upstart configuration for it:
description "bucky-picle-relay accepts Graphite pickle data and outputs text data."
author "Jack Neely"
start on started carbon-c-relay
stop on stopping carbon-c-relay
limit nofile 32768 32768
exec /usr/bin/bucky-pickle-relay -b 0.0.0.0:2004 localhost:2003
Comments and patches (especially patches) welcome.