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We found many pieces of documentation out there, but nothing that gives a full setup of a sandbox with instructions on getting each piece working, what to expect, and how to break things. This demo attempts to help you learn how SmartStack works with a handson tutorial - you should be done within a couple of hours! We will, with the walkthrough, do some demos and expected results when each piece of the infrastructure breaks on us.


This project stands up vm machines to act as each of he necessary components of smartstack. More information on smartstack can be found here

Step 1 - Bring up the VM machines

First, we need to install our machines. Under the root directory, if you do

    vagrant status

you will see six boxes listed. Each of these is defined in the VagrantFile. Go ahead and bring each one up and running by opening up the six terminal windows and running

    vagrant up {vm_name}


    vagrant up service_a_node_1


The zookeeper machines represent a zookeeper cluster, although we will initially start with just one in this setup.


There are two service_a nodes. This represents two machines running the same service. We will want to first see a zookeeper instance interact with these two nodes and see how routing and registration/ deregistration behaves when one service goes down. Each service_a node will have a nerve and a synapse running on it, as well as a simple http service.


This is a machine representing a service different from service_a nodes. We have this to see the interaction of one service calling another. Eventually, we will want service_b to call service_a and we will want to see what that interaction looks like.

Step 2 - Install all needed components on each of the machines

This part will end up in the lifesum-cli deployment scripts so it is a manual step for now without much structure. Bear with us.


Let's go ahead and install zookeeper on each of the zookeeper machines

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install zookeeperd

Then, let's see if zookeper is okay and if the installation worked. This part is cute. Are you ready? We are about to ask zookeeper if it's okay. First run this:

telnet localhost 2181

Then, ask the question:


When the command is run, zookeeper should respond with a 'iamok', but they forgot to add a newline in the response so you'll have to really look for it as it appears right before the next command line.

It'll look something like this:

vagrant@zookeeper1:~$ telnet localhost 2181
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
imokConnection closed by foreign host.

Go ahead and install and check the status on each of the zookeeper machines.

Nerve And Synapse

Next, let's isntall nerve and synapse on each of the three service machines.

Rails Virtual Envrionment

Download the rvm:

curl -sSL https://get.rvm.io | bash

Source and install the rvm:

source /home/vagrant/.rvm/scripts/rvm
rvm install 2.3

Get The Gems

Get Nerve and Synapse gems:

gem install nerve
gem install synapse


On each of the service machines, also go ahead and install HAProxy. The load balancing is actually done on each of the machines/clients, and NOT on the zookeeper machines. More on the overall explanation later.

sudo apt-get install haproxy

Step 3 - Let's Do a Simple Setup Run : 1 zookeper, 1 service


Next, bring zookeeper up ONLY on the zookeeper1 machine. We will do this as well with the other machines later, but for now let's just work with one machine. After the installation, zookeeper should auto start, but in case you need to start it , do:

sudo service zookeeper start

By default, zookeeper starts in this single mode. See Step 5 for clustering.

Check that it is running:

vagrant@zookeeper1:~$ sudo service zookeeper status
zookeeper start/running, process 8355

And this let's you know it's a 'standalone' instead of in a 'cluster'. We use this later to check for leadership status in clusters:

vagrant@zookeeper1:~$ /usr/share/zookeeper/bin/zkServer.sh status
JMX enabled by default
Using config: /etc/zookeeper/conf/zoo.cfg
Mode: standalone

Use the zookeeper cli to look inside of zookeeper:

/usr/share/zookeeper/bin/zkCli.sh -server

This will get you into zookeeper and it'll look like this:

vagrant@zookeeper1:~$ /usr/share/zookeeper/bin/zkCli.sh -server
Connecting to
Welcome to ZooKeeper!
JLine support is enabled


WatchedEvent state:SyncConnected type:None path:null
[zk: 0]

Note that you can now list everything in zookeeper using ls /:

[zk: 3] ls /

Nerve is not registered here yet.

Nerve, Synapse, HAProxy, and The Service

That's a mouthful of a title. There's a lot going on here - Zookeeper doesn't actually do much at all - it is just a simple store of values. All of the magic happens on each of the machines hosting the services which also have Nerve and Synapse and HAProxy running on it. Each machine is responsible for various things and here's a summary of how it works:

*  Nerve runs a health check on our service. Nerve updates zookeeper with the service information.
*  ZooKeeper takes its recently updated information from nerve and updates Synapse.
* Synapse gets all services available information from Zookeeper and updates HAProxy
*  Our service is running on a machine that also has Nerve and Synapse and HAProxy which work as documented above. Our service can make requests to other services via HAProxy, whose configuraiton is continually updated by Synapse. HAProxy takes care of laod balancing the request to the external hosts.

Do the next few steps ONLY on service_a_node_1


Synapse depends on a single config file in JSON format; it's usually called synapse.conf.json. The file has three main sections.

* services: lists the services you'd like to connect.
* haproxy: specifies how to configure and interact with HAProxy.
* file_output (optional): specifies where to write service state to on the filesystem.

Go ahead and copy the syapse_service.conf contents from here into /etc/synapse.conf.json

and run synapse :

synapse -c /etc/synapse.conf.json

This is also going to show the log output.


In another terminal window, let's run Nerve. Again, copy the nerve conf contents from here to /etc/nerve.conf.json

give the nerve log file permissions:

sudo touch /var/log/nerve
sudo chown vagrant:vagrant /var/log/nerve

and run nerve in the background:

nerve -c /etc/nerve.conf.json > /var/log/nerve 2>&1 &

This will again take up this terminal window with the output of nerve. It will tell you that it's up and running and then it will proceed to complain that it can't connect to zookeeper. That's okay. Leave it as is.

Status Check In

So far, we have

* zookeeper1 running zookeeper,
* service_a_node_1 running
    - Synapse
    - Node

If you run 'ls /' back in Zookeeper's cli you will still only see Zookeeper. Registration happens only when a healthy service is up and running so let's get that going.

The next step is to get HAProxy and a simple HTTP Service on service_a_node_1


Extras/ Debugging

If you ever need to check the configuration:

cat /etc/default/haproxy

If you need to relaod HAProxy:

service haproxy reload

Simple Service

Python allows you to do something super quick to get a service up and running. Let's get into the tmp folder so we don't pollute our machine root dir too much:

cd /tmp/

Then, if you spin up a service, you should see failures:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8000

The failures are there because the nerve is configured to do a health check. They look like this: - - [22/Jun/2016 09:10:42] code 404, message File not found - - [22/Jun/2016 09:10:42] "GET /health HTTP/1.1" 404 -

If you open up the nerve config again, you will see under 'checks' it is attempting to serve a 'uri' under '/health'. Our service currently knows nothing about health, so we can qucikly hack fix this by just creating a file named 'health' in service_a_node_1. Stop the service from running (ctrl+c) and :

touch health

Start up the service again and you should now see it reporting that it is healthy:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8000

Status Check - Again

A lot of things all of a sudden startd working. We now have a zookeeper with a service host that is running synapse, a nerve, and a service. Here's what should have happened in each of the 4 terminal windows:

The Service

You'll see successful gets for health in the service terminal window.


Back, in the 'Nerve' terminal window, you will see an update. It stops complaining and let's us know the servic eis actually up:

[2016-06-22T09:11:14.175835 #32025]  INFO -- Nerve::ServiceCheck::HttpServiceCheck: nerve: service check http- transitions to up after 3 successes
I, [2016-06-22T09:11:14.198057 #32025]  INFO -- Nerve::ServiceWatcher: nerve: service simple_http_service is now up

Synapse shows that it's starting. ZooKeeper watcher is starting on ''' simple_http_service @ hosts:, path: /nerve/services/simple_http_service/services ''' We then see

* the Zookeeper Watcher connects to the service
* it creates a pool connection
* it tells us a successful connection was then made
* lets us know it's discovering backends for simple_http_service
* Synapse configures HAProxy
* We keep trying to discover backends and at some point one (our lone service) is discoevred:
    - ` discovered 1 backends for service simple_http_service `
    - After discovery, it configures HAProxy again

Back in zookeeper1, if we look at cli and do 'ls /' again, we will now see Nerve registered again:

[zk: 13] ls /
[nerve, zookeeper]

Furthermore, if you iterate through the Nerve directory, you will find the service actually registered:

[zk: 15] ls /nerve/services/simple_http_service/services

Step 4 - Debugging

At this point, we have the minimal components all up and running.

Service Crashed

Just stop the service with 'ctrl + c'


Well.. it's down. Nothing to see here. You'll be back at the /tmp folder.


If the service crashes, 'Nerve' will let us know it received an error from our service. We configured the nerve to see our service as unhealthy after 3 errors, so after it tells us it's getting the errors 3 times, we will get a connection failure message every 2 seconds or so.


Interestingly, Synapse reports with a warning that there are no backends for our service now and it'll just use the last known backend. TODO - does this mean that if service_b_node_1 tried to ping servoce , it will still think it is healthy?

WARN -- Synapse::ServiceWatcher::ZookeeperWatcher: synapse: no backends for service simple_http_service and no default servers for service simple_http_service; using previous backends: [{"name"=>"service_a_node_1", "host"=>"", "port"=>8000, "id"=>1, "weight"=>nil, "haproxy_server_options"=>nil, "labels"=>nil}]


The nerve will have deregistered the service:

[zk: 16] ls /nerve/services/simple_http_service/services


spin up the service again and Nerve will say happily it is now healthy and up after three successful health checks. Synapse again discovers backends and reconfigures the HAProxy config. The service terminal window will keep getting a 200. Checking zookeeper1's cli paths will list nerve again.

Zookeeper Crashed

Stop ZooKeeper with:

sudo service zookeeper stop


Synapse is the only thing that responds to zookeeper1 crashing. It also crashes with a message saying that the watcher is unable to ping:

/home/vagrant/.rvm/gems/ruby-2.3.1/gems/synapse-0.13.5/lib/synapse.rb:54:in `block (2 levels) in run': synapse: service watcher simple_http_service failed ping! (RuntimeError)


Starting Zookeeper1 alone does NOT bring synapse back up. You will need to spin up synapse as well on service_a_node_1. Once that is done, all will be happily working again.

NOTE: While zookeeper on zookeeper1 and synapse on service_a_node_1 are down, the actual service on service_a_node_1 would STILL be able to make external calls to other services using the last known HAProxy configuration. However, because the configuration wouldn't be updating, we might potentially be making a call to a service that is no longer alive and we would also not be aware of any new services.

Synapse Crashed

None of the terminal windows display anything, BUT if synapse is down the service host will not have an HAProxy configuration with newest services in it nor will it have deregistered services that are no longer healthy/alive.


Zookeeper still has the nerve path with the service registered :)


Bringing Synapse back up shows that it reconfigures and joins our ecosystem. Just as before, Synapse tells us it has started the zookeeper watcher and that it found one backend for our service.

Nerve Crashed

Make sure your nerve is running:

ps aux | grep nerve

Kill it:

kill -9 {process_id}


When doing a shutdown (not a crash) It tells us that

* Nerve - reaping all watchers
* ServiceWatcher - it's ending service watch simple_http_service
* Reporter:Zookeeper - it's removing zk node at /nerve/services/simple_http_service/services/service_a_node_1_0000000002
* Reporter:Zookeeper - it's closing the connection


Synapse uses the last known backend and understands it's not getting a report from Nerve anymore. The same thign happened when Nerve was up but the service crashed.

Synapse::ServiceWatcher::ZookeeperWatcher: synapse: no backends for service simple_http_service and no default servers for service simple_http_service; using previous backends: [{"name"=>"service_a_node_1", "host"=>"", "port"=>8000, "id"=>2, "weight"=>nil, "haproxy_server_options"=>nil, "labels"=>nil}]


If the nerve ends nicely, it deregisters the path in Zookeeper. If it REALLY crashes, it won't have a chance to deregister. This is not too big of a deal because the registry in zookeeper has a ttl, so it'll be auto removed after not being updated for a time. This takes a few seconds.

NOTE: When HAProxy tries to connect to a node that is now down, it will not be able to reach it so we will get a timeour.

The Service

Still running happily, but with 200 health checks halted. With Nerve down, nothing is requesting the health check from our service.


Nerve comes up, let's us know the initial healtch check returned true, and starts reporting that our service is healthy as it keeps pinging it. The service now starts spitting 200s back on the screen and Synapse rediscovered our sole backend and updated the HAProxy config.

Step 5 - Clustering Zookeeper


You need to change the config to point all three zookeepers to the hosts.

sudo nano /etc/zookeeper/conf/zoo.cfg

Uncomment each of the three lines so you get:

# specify all zookeeper servers
# The fist port is used by followers to connect to the leader
# The second one is used for leader election

Also be sure to change myid file to each instance's id. So in zookeeper1:

sudo nano /etc/zookeeper/conf/myid

and replace all contents of file to hold only 1, like so:


Bring up the zookeeper services and you can check the status now by providing the hostname instead of the IP

/usr/share/zookeeper/bin/zkCli.sh -server zookeeper1

ZooKeeper1 crashed, others are still up

Nerve and Synapse will keep talking to the other two and updating the other two. When Zookeeper1 comes back up online, its registry gets refreshed from other zookeepers. If you have any doubts of this, you can point a Nerve's configuration to only one zookeeper and then kill the zookeeper it does NOT point to. If you bring it back up, its registry will have been repopulated even though a Nerve is not directly talking to it.

What's cool? Since zookeeper starts as a service, doing a kill -9 on it to crash it not so gracefully, it will actually try to restart itself because of the upstart config.

Step 6 - Running many services within a clustered zookeeper ecosystem

When you bring up service_a_node_2 and service_b_node_1, be sure that the nerve and synapse configurations reflect the names of the actual vm host names. Also make sure the zookeepers these point to are all of what is running in the cluster.

Step 7 - Running Synapse and Nerve as a Service - TODO