Paper Review: Storm @ Twitter

Paper Review:


Storm is a real-time data process system aimed to handle large-scale streaming data. It offers relatively strong fault-tolerant feature as well as two processing semantic guarantees. It’s now part of the Apache open source project that works well in the Hadoop ecosystem (runs on Mesos and uses ZooKeeper for coordination).

Strong points:

  1. Parallelism is enforced in may layers in the system. There are many worker nodes with one or more worker processes on each of them. For every work process, it runs JVM, carrying one or more executors. And for every executor there could be one or more tasks. So in sum, every machine is divided into multiple services ready for streaming jobs. Although Storm doesn’t optimize the parallelism to the level of machines, this kind of model could still be useful for handling large number of small, streaming process jobs.
  2. This paper doesn’t talk about fault tolerant a lot but it’s easy to see the reason behind. Nimbus and the Supervisor daemons are all stateless, which makes the backup easy to handle. And the snapshot of their memory state is kept locally or in the ZooKeeper. However, the Nimbus failure would block the whole system from topology submissions.
  3. As a real-time streaming process system, Storm has really good average latency. The latency is directly associated with the number of machines during the experiment, which means that the workload is distributed among all the workers nicely. The throughput measurements indicate good scalability as well.

Weak points:

  1. Currently, the programmer has to specify the number of instances for each spout and bolt. I’m not sure if this has already been fixed but if not, the developers could go through a lot of trail and error before they find out the right number for their data stream. I guess Pregel has the same thing with the vertices partitioning. The users have to pre-configure those things before the run and the configuration will be inflexible and inefficient considering what they are doing requires high-level parallelism.
  2. The processing semantics guarantee is weak comparing to Trident/Spark. It’s either at-least-once or at-most-once. Storm doesn’t offer exactly-once guarantee (and i guess that’s one of the reason it has better performance?). Although they have some tricks like the XOR to save memory space and make things look better, lack of stronger guarantee could a disadvantage for some applications.
  3. I guess Storm works well with simple tasks that could fit into bolt but for sophisticated streaming process, it will require a large number of bolt to divide the task into different simple executions and run in parallel, and the overhead for communication and coordination will grow as well. They didn’t compare different streaming process task types in the evaluation so there is no way to find out in the paper, besides the manually configuration for bolts and spouts makes the comparison harder.

Paper Notes:

  1. There are two kinds of vertices. Spouts pull data from the queue like Kafka and bolts process the incoming tuples and pass them down. There could be cycles in the process.
  2. A single master for coordination
  3. Each worker node runs one or more worker processes. Each work process runs a JVM, which runs a or more executors. Each executor is made of one or more tasks. Talking about parallelism.
  4. Summingbird is used for Storm topology generation.
  5. Nimbus and the Supervisors are fail-fast and stateless and all their states are kept in Zookeeper/local disk

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