Erlang distributed registration and load balancing
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README.md

Introduction

NkDIST is an library to manage Erlang processes evenly distributed in a riak_core cluster. When you add or remove nodes from the cluster, NkDIST-based processes automatically move to another node to rebalance the cluster.

Before starting processes, you must supply one or several callback modules, using the nkdist_proc behaviour. You must implement the following callbacks:

Name Desc
start/2 Called when the start of a new process has been requested for this node. You must start a new Erlang process and return its pid().
start_and_join/2 Called when an existing process must be moved from an old node to a new node. You receive the pid() of the old (still running) process and must start a new process and recover its state from the old one.
join/2 Called when an existing process must be moved from an old node to a new node, but the process already exists in the new node. You must join them.

This would be a very simple example of a callback module. See the included nkdist_proc_sample.erl for a more complete version:

-module(sample).
-behaviour(gen_server).
-behaviour(nkdist_proc).

-export([start/2, start_and_join/2, join/2]).
-export([init/1, terminate/2, code_change/3, handle_call/3,   
         handle_cast/2, handle_info/2]).


%% nkdist_proc behaviour

start(ProcId, Args) ->
    gen_server:start_link(?MODULE, {proc_id, ProcId, Args}, []).

start_and_join(ProcId, OldPid) ->
    gen_server:start_link(?MODULE, {join, ProcId, OldPid}, []).

join(Pid, OldPid) ->
    gen_server:call(Pid, {join, OldPid}).


%% gen_server behaviour

init({proc_id, _ProcId, Data}) ->
    {ok, Data};
init({join, _ProcId, OldPid}) ->
    case gen_server:call(OldPid, freeze) of
        {ok, Data} -> 
            {ok, Data}
        _ ->
            {stop, could_not_start}
    end.

handle_call(freeze, _From, Data) ->
    {stop, normal, {ok, Data}, State};

handle_call({join, OldPid}, _From, Data) ->
    case gen_server:call(OldPid, freeze) of
        {ok, OldData} ->
            {reply, ok, max(OldData, Data)};	
        _ ->
            {reply, {error, could_not_join}, State}
    end.

handle_cast(_Msg, Data) ->
    {noreply, Data}.
    
handle_info(_Msg, State) ->
    {noreply, State}.

code_change(_OldVsn, State, _Extra) ->
    {ok, State}.

terminate(_Reason, _State) ->
    ok.

Now, you can go to any node of the riak_core cluster and start an instance of our process:

> nkdist:start_proc(proc1, sample, 0)
{ok, <...>}

NkDIST will find the corresponding vnode index for this process (using consistent hashing over the proc_id(), proc1 in this example) and will send a request to that vnode to start the process. The function sample:start/2 will be called, and the returned pid() is replied to the caller and stored in a map in the vnode. If the process dies, it is removed from the vnode store.

Later on, you can find the pid() for the process calling nkdist:find_proc(proc1). Once a pid() is returned, it is cached at each node in a local ETS table.

When you add or remove nodes to the riak_core cluster, the handoff process starts and some vnodes must move from the old node to a new node. Each moving vnode will look at its managed processes, and will call sample:start_and_join/2 at the new node, with the pid() of the old process. The callback function must start a new process, get any state from the old process and stop it as soon as possible.

In some rare circumstances (like a network split) it can happen that a process with an specific proc_id() is started at two or more nodes at the same time. NkDIST is an eventually consistent system, so, once the network is reconnected, handoffs will occur, and, if a node having a process with an specific proc_id() receives the handoff from another with the same id, the callback sample:join/2 would be called. The surviving process receiving the join call must get any state from the old node and reconcile it with its own state, and stop the old node as soon as possible.

Faillure of nodes

If a node fails, all processes started at that node will be lost. You must save any important state in an external system (like NkBASE).

Until the moment where the faillure is detected by the Erlang distributed system, requests for any vnode index assigned to that node will fail. Once it is detected, a secondary vnode will be created at another node. New processes assigned to this vnode index will be started at the new, temporary node. When the failed node comes back (or it is removed from the cluster), started processes will be moved or joined at the new, primary vnode.

Master management

NkDIST has support for (eventually consistent) master election. You can use nkdist:register/1 to register a process, belonging to a class of processes. For each class, a master will be elected, and the message {nkcluster, Class, MasterPid} will be sent to all registered processes.

When calling nkdist:register/1 you get the pid() of the corresponding vnode so that you can monitor it, and re-register if it fails.

NkDIST gen_master behaviour

NkDIST includes a gen_server-like behaviour, nkdist_gen_server. It is very similar to a standard OTP gen_server, but it elects a master among all started processes in the cluster with the same callback module.

A new callback must be implemented, handle_master/2. It is called everytime a new (or the same) master is elected, with the pid() of the master, or undefined if no master is currently available (because of the temporary failure of the vnode).