June 24, 2014

Fast Database Restarts at Facebook

ACM Special Interest Group on Management of Data (SIGMOD)

By: Aakash Goel, Bhuwan Chopra, Ciprian Gerea, Dhrúv Mátáni, Josh Metzler, Fahim Ul Haq, Janet Wiener


Facebook engineers query multiple databases to monitor and analyze Facebook products and services. The fastest of these databases is Scuba, which achieves subsecond query response time by storing all of its data in memory across hundreds of servers. We are continually improving the code for Scuba and would like to push new software releases at least once a week. However, restarting a Scuba machine clears its memory. Recovering all of its data from disk — about 120 GB per machine — takes 2.5-3 hours to read and format the data per machine. Even 10 minutes is a long downtime for the critical applications that rely on Scuba, such as detecting user-facing errors. Restarting only 2% of the servers at a time mitigates the amount of unavailable data, but prolongs the restart duration to about 12 hours, during which users see only partial query results and one engineer needs to monitor the servers carefully. We need a faster, less engineer intensive, solution to enable frequent software upgrades.

In this paper, we show that using shared memory provides a simple, effective, fast, solution to upgrading servers. Our key observation is that we can decouple the memory lifetime from the process lifetime. When we shutdown a server for a planned upgrade, we know that the memory state is valid (unlike when a server shuts down unexpectedly). We can therefore use shared memory to preserve memory state from the old server process to the new process. Our solution does not increase the server memory footprint and allows recovery at memory speeds, about 2-3 minutes per server. This solution maximizes uptime and availability, which has led to much faster and more frequent rollouts of new features and improvements. Furthermore, this technique can be applied to the in-memory state of any database, even if the memory contains a cache of a much larger disk-resident data set, as in most databases.