Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Vertica Architecture (Part 2)

This is continued from my previous post.

In review, I spoke with some very smart and experienced Vertica consultants regarding the DR architecture, and found the most obvious solutions all had huge drawbacks.

1. Dual-Load: Double your license costs(?), there's also the potential to have the two clusters out of synch, which means you need to put logic in your loads to handle the possibility that a load succeeds in datacenter 1 and fails in datacenter 2.
2. Periodic Incremental Backups:Need identical standby system (aka, half the capacity and performance of your hardware because the standby is typically idle)
3. Replication solutions provided by storage vendors: The recommended design uses local storage, not storage arrays, so this is difficult to implement, in addition to the expense and the potential of replicating media failures.

At first, here's what we did instead:

Initially (aka don't do this), we set up 2 failgroups, 3 nodes in datacenter 1 and 3 in datacenter 2. Failgroups in Vertica are intended for use where you could have known dependencies that are transparent to Vertica...for example, a server rack.  Both failgroups are in the same cluster, and so data that's entered into nodes 1,2 or 3 get replicated automatically by Vertica to the other failgroup's nodes 4, 5 and 6.

We were trying to protect ourselves from the possibility of a complete datacenter failure, or a WAN failure.  The WAN is a 10Gb, low latency dark fiber link with a ring design, so highly available.  Although the network is HA, the occasional "blip" happens, where a very brief outage causes a disconnection.  Clusters don't like disconnections.

We were very proud of this design until we tested completely failed.  It made sense...although logically we had all the data we needed in a single failgroup, if we simulated a network outage we'd see all 6 nodes go down.  This is actually an intentional outcome, and a good thing.  If you've worked with clusters know its much better to have the cluster go down than to have it stay up in a split brain scenario and corrupt all your data.  If the cluster stays up and becomes out of synch, you have to fix whatever the initial issue was, and you compound the problem with the need to restore all your data.

So...intentionally, if you have half your nodes go down, Vertica causes the whole cluster to go down, even if you have all the data you need to stay up in the surviving nodes.  Oracle RAC uses a disk voting mechanism to decide which part of the cluster stays up, but there's no such mechanism in Vertica.

We were back to the 3 original options...all with their drawbacks.  While pouring over the documentation looking for an out-of-the-box solution, I noticed Vertica 8 introduced a new type of node called an Execute node.  Again...very little documentation on this, but I was told this was a more official way to deal with huge ingest problems like they had at Facebook (35TB/hr).  Instead of using Ephimeral nodes (nodes in transition between being up and being down) like they did, you could create execute nodes that only store the catalog...they store no other data, but only exist for the purpose of ingestion.

Upon testing, we also found Execute nodes "count" as a node in the instead of having 6 nodes-3 nodes in DC1 and 3 in DC2, we'd add a 7th node in a cloud (we chose Oracle's cloud.)  Its a great use case for a cloud server because it has almost no outgoing data, almost no CPU utilization (only enough to maintain the catalog) and the only IO is for the catalog.  So now, if DC1 went down, we had a quorum of 4 surviving nodes (4,5,6,7)...if DC2 went down, we still have 4 surviving nodes (1,2,3,7).  If all the nodes stayed up, but the WAN between DC1 and DC2 stopped functioning, Vertica would kill one of the failgroups and continue to no risk of a split brain.

We're continuing to test, but at this point, its performed perfectly.  This has effectively doubled our performance and capacity because we have a 6 node cluster instead of two 3 node clusters.  Its all real time, and there's no complex dual load logic to program in our application.

Next, I'll talk about Vertica backups.

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