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The Booth Cluster Ticket Manager
Booth manages tickets which authorize cluster sites located in
geographically dispersed locations to run resources. It
facilitates support of geographically distributed clustering in
Booth is based on the Raft consensus algorithm. Though the
implementation is not complete (there is no log) and there are a
few additions and modifications, booth guarantees that a ticket
is always available at just one site as long as it has exclusive
control of the tickets.

The git repository is available at github:


github can also track issues or bug reports.

Description of a booth cluster

Booth cluster is a collection of cooperative servers
communicating using the booth protocol. The purpose of the booth
cluster is to manage cluster tickets. The booth cluster consists
of at least three servers.

A booth server can be either a site or an arbitrator. Arbitrators
take part in elections and so help resolve ties, but cannot hold

The basic unit in the booth cluster is a ticket. Every
non-granted ticket is in the initial state on all servers. For
granted tickets, the server holding the ticket is the leader and
other servers are followers. The leader issues heartbeats and
ticket updates to the followers. The followers are required to
obey the leader.

Booth startup

On startup, the booth process first loads tickets, if available,
from the CIB. Afterwards, it broadcasts a query to get tickets'
status from other servers. In-memory copies are updated from
the replies if they contain newer ticket data.

If the server discovers that itself is the ticket leader, it
tries to establish its authority again by broadcasting heartbeat.
If it succeeds, it continues as the leader for this ticket. The
other booth servers become followers. This procedure is possible
only immediately after the booth startup. It also serves as a
configuration reload.

Grant and revoke operations

A ticket first has to be granted using the 'booth client grant'

Obviously, it is not possible to grant a ticket which is
currently granted.

Ticket revoke is the operation which is the opposite of grant.
An administrative revoke may be started at any server, but the
operation itself happens only at the leader. If the leader is
unreachable, the ticket cannot be revoked. The user will need to
wait until the ticket expires.

A ticket grant may be delayed if not all sites are reachable.
The delay is the ticket expiry time extended by acquire-after, if
set. This is to ensure that the unreachable site relinquished the
ticket it may have been holding and stopped the corresponding
cluster resources.

If the user is absolutely sure that the unreachable site does not
hold the ticket, the delay may be skipped by using the '-F'
option of the 'booth grant' command.

If in effect, the grant delay time is shown in the 'booth list'
command output.

Ticket management and server operation

A granted ticket is managed by the booth servers so that its
availability is maximized without breaking the basic guarantee
that the ticket is granted to one site only.

The server where the ticket is granted is the leader, the other
servers are followers. The leader occasionally sends heartbeats,
once every half ticket expiry under normal circumstances.

If a follower doesn't hear from the leader longer than the ticket
expiry time, it will consider the ticket lost, and try to acquire
it by starting new elections.

A server starts elections by broadcasting the REQ_VOTE RPC.
Other servers reply with the VOTE_FOR RPC, in which they record
its vote. Normally, the sender of the first REQ_VOTE gets the
vote of the receiver. Whichever server gets a majority of votes
wins the elections. On ties, elections are restarted. To
decrease chance of elections ending in a tie, a server waits for a
short random period before sending out the REQ_VOTE packets.
Everything else being equal, the server which sends REQ_VOTE
first gets elected.

Elections are described in more detail in the raft paper at

Ticket renewal (or update) is a two-step process. Before actually
writing the ticket to the CIB, the server holding the ticket
first tries to establish that it still has the majority for that
ticket. That is done by broadcasting a heartbeat. If the server
receives enough acknowledgements, it then stores the ticket to
the CIB and broadcasts the UPDATE RPC with updated ticket expiry
time so that the followers can update local ticket copies. Ticket
renewals are configurable and by default set to half ticket
expire time.

Before ticket renewal, the leader runs one or more external
programs if such are set in 'before-acquire-handler'. This can
point either to a file or a directory. In the former case, that
file is the program, but in the latter there could be a number of
programs in the specified directory. All files which have the
executable bit set and whose names don't start with a '.' are
run sequentially. This program or programs should ensure that the
cluster managed service which is protected by this ticket can run
at this site. If any of them fails, the leader relinquishes the
ticket. It announces its intention to step down by broadcasting
an unsolicited VOTE_FOR with an empty vote. On receiving such RPC
other servers start new elections to elect a new leader.

Split brain

On split brains two possible issues arise: leader in minority and
follower disconnected from the leader.

Let's take a look at the first one. The leader in minority
eventually expires the ticket because it cannot receieve majority
of acknowledgements in reply to its heartbeats. The other
partition runs elections (at about the same time, as they find
the ticket lost after its expiry) and, if it can get the
majority, the elections winner becomes a new leader for the
ticket. After split brain gets resolved, the old leader will
become follower as soon as it receives heartbeat from the new
leader. Note the timing: the old leader releases the ticket at
around the same time as when new elections in the other partition
are held. This is because the leader ensures that the ticket
expire time is always the same on all servers in the booth

The second situation, where a follower is disconnected from the
leader, is a bit more difficult to handle. After the ticket
expiry time, the follower will consider the ticket lost and start
new elections. The elections repeatedly get restarted until the
split brain is resolved. Then, the rest of the cluster send
rejects in reply to REQ_VOTE RPC because the ticket is still
valid and therefore couldn't have been lost. They know that
because the reason for elections is included with every REQ_VOTE.

Short intermittent split brains are handled well because the
leader keeps resending heartbeats until it gets replies from all
servers serving sites.


In order to prevent malicious parties from affecting booth
operation, booth server can authenticate both clients (connecting
over TCP) and other booth servers (connecting over UDP). The
authentication is based on SHA1 HMAC (Keyed-Hashing Message
Authentication) and shared key. The HMAC implementation is
provided by the libgcrypt or mhash library.

Message encryption is not included as the information exchanged
between various booth parties does not seem to justify that.

Every message (packet) contains a hash code computed from the
combination of payload and the secret key. Whoever has the secret
key can then verify that the message is authentic.

The shared key is used by both the booth client and the booth
server, hence it needs to be copied to all nodes at each site and
all arbitrators. Of course, a secure channel is required for key
transfer. It is recommended to use csync2 or ssh.

Timestamps are included and verified to fend against replay
attacks. Certain time skew, 10 minutes by default, is tolerated.
Packets either not older than that or with a timestamp more
recent than the previous one from the same peer are accepted. The
time skew can be configured in the booth configuration file.

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