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Unfolding streams like a boss (part 2)

Parallelizing resumable bulk consumes with CM-Well & akka-stream

In the previous post we introduced CM-Well’s consume API, and showed how it is tailored to be used with akka-http & akka-stream. This post will get into the gory details of how to squeeze the most out of CM-Well, using the bulk-consume API with akka-http & akka-stream.

The consume API in depth

There are two types of “consumes”, consume & bulk-consume. We will focus on the latter. But a few words on consume to not leave you hanging: consume just wraps a regular search, with a few extra filters. in terms of CM-Well’s qp, it translate to the following:

Given filters qp=$QP and an timestamp index-time=${ITIME:-0}, CM-Well generates the following (loosely) equivalent search parameters:

# set to current time minus 30 seconds
  MILLIS=$(  date +%s%N | cut -b1-13 )
  calc $MILLIS - 30000


It then fetches those (up to) 100 (by default) sorted results, and: if all results has the same index time SOME_ITIME, it will replace the previous op=search with op=stream, and previous qp=system.indexTime>$ITIME,system.indexTime<$NOW,[$QP] with qp=system.indexTime:$SOME_ITIME,[$QP]. else it will have multiple values, all sorted. it will drop all the tailing results with index time = $MAX_ITIME, and return the rest, with a token in the header setting the next $ITIME to be $MAX_ITIME - 1.

These are the basics, the are a few more concerns to take into consideration, and if thats interest you, go ahead and check the source code.

Understanding bulk-consume

In contrast to consume API, bulk-consume tries to be more efficient, and retrieve a lot more infotons per request à la stream style. Under the hood it uses Elasticsearch’s scroll API in a similar way to how we described stream API is made in the previous post. The problem is, that you can’t get sorted results with scroll from Elasticsearch. So, instead of advancing the timeline using sorted search, we filter results in advance.

This means there’s a pre-processing phase where we try to find a from and to timestamps, that are not “too far” apart, in terms of number of results, but enough to stream efficiently. CM-Well does it using a simple binary search to do so, and it tries to return a chunked response with O(1M) results (by default). There are many edge cases covered, like an early cutoff, if the binary search doesn’t converged fast enough, And dealing with near current time results, etc’…

Like consume, bulk-consume returns a position token in headers. In fact, the tokens are interchangeable between the 2 APIs, But those returned from a bulk-consume request, might contain some extra attributes. It turns out, that many pre-processing phases can be avoided if previous request stored an optional next “to” timestamp it might have encounterd during the binary search. So, what’s so great about the bulk-consume API? pipelined parallelization! You see, the next position token is given eagerly in the response headers, and a user can use it right away to fire up the next request. Since it will probably take some time to fetch all those O(1M) results, you could end up with as many parallel streams of data that you can handle.

But, you might ask: “What about failures? retrying?”, the answer is, that bulk consume also let’s you set upper bound timestamp explicitly. If your token was an optimized one, you can reuse it safely. If not, a new binary search might yield different time range, and you could end up with duplicate results, or worse, data gaps. To overcome this, you should supply a timestamp explicitly when retrying. But, what should you supply? Well, there’s another header for that. Other than X-CM-WELL-POSITION header, you also get X-CM-WELL-TO header, and the value is the upper bound timestamp found in the binary search. You should supply this timestamp using to-hint query parameter, and retry the bulk-consume request with it. Note that if the position token is optimized, to-hint will be ignored.

OK, got it. let’s write some code

As implied, we will show how to build an akka-stream Source of data from CM-Well, using unfoldFlow, Retry, and other cool constructs you can find on akka-stream & akka-stream-contrib libs.

The easy part (motivation)

Assuming we can somehow get:

type PositionToken = String
val initialPosition: PositionToken = ???
val consume: Flow[PositionToken,(PositionToken,ByteString),_] = ???

The work left is ridiculously easy thanks to unfoldFlow:


And we’re done! OK… not really… It’s too simplified. unfoldFlow can’t unfold the next element until it gets the previous generated state. This means that all our fancy talk about pipelining parallelization isn’t being taken into consideration here. So let’s try and improve that. How ’bout:

val consume: Flow[PositionToken,(PositionToken,Source[ByteString,_]),_] = ???

This is already much better. Each bulk-consume Source is being queried eagerly. But we still have a downside here… bulks are not evenly sized, and size is counted as the number of infotons in the bulk. Not their actual size… Moreover, we mentioned retries are supported using to-hint with X-CM-WELL-TO header’s value. So, if we are going to retry some streams, this means we need to buffer an entire chunk, and only emit once we know it is complete, so we don’t get duplicate results from retries. This implies a single bulk can get us “stuck” waiting for it. The 2 major problems are: * No matter how high we set up our parallelization factor, we could still end up back-pressuring our slow source (by slow, I mean that whatever the use-case, we must assume a fast consumer. e.g: flush to disk, which is much faster than our network calls). * Having $parallelization-factor × O(1M) all buffer into memory, makes our GC inefficient, due to objects kept in memory for long time. And also we cause our downstream to be in starvation until we “unstuck” the current bulk.

So, since bulk are not sorted according to timeline anyway, then no reason not to use merge instead of concat:


Also, we will try to optimize even further. Our queries to bulk-consume are our “bottle-neck”. So, it is better to not pull in all the data with the bulk. let’s use a thin format, like tsv, which won’t return data itself, only a tuple consisting of infoton’s path, date, uuid, and indexTime. This way, we can at a later stage pull in data of small batches of infotons we got from the bulk consume. So our final higher level stream should either look like:

val consume: Flow[PositionToken,(PositionToken,Source[List[ByteString],_]),_] = ???
val addData: Flow[List[ByteString],ByteString,_] = ???

where addData flow utilizes Balance to fan out and parallelize data fetching job, and then fan back in to construct a Flow shape which takes care of parallelization internally. Another option, is to use a simpler mapAsync(parallelizationFactor)(...) to get an easier way to parallelize the data fetching job. Or, it can look like:

val consume: Flow[PositionToken,(PositionToken,Source[List[ByteString],_]),_] = ???
val addData: Flow[List[ByteString],ByteString,_] = ???

OK, armed with our goal in mind, let’s implement the consume flow: ### The detailed part Let’s try to break down & visualize the stream:

  • Retry:
    • bulk-consume ~> fold results into a single element
    • if #lines != X-CM-WELL-N header or any other failure:
      • retry with to-hint=${X-CM-WELL-TO}
    • else
      • emit results
  • Enrich with data:
    • batch paths
    • Balance vs. mapAsync parallelization of fetching (we’ll introduce both approaches)

Wrapping up

This might be covered in a future post. Currently, It has been sitting untouched for too long, and I’m “flushing” it. For now, implementation details are left as an excersize for the reader ;)

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