The Ceph Blog

Ceph blog stories provide high-level spotlights on our customers all over the world

November 5th, 2013

First Impressions Through Fscache and Ceph

It’s always great when we can single out the development efforts of our community (there are so many good ones!). But it’s even better when the developers of our community feel brave enough to share their hard work with the community directly. Recently Milosz Tanski has been putting in some hard work to combine the magic of Ceph and fscache to help CephFS along the path to success. The result is some great work on both projects, and a far better cache than even a squirrel could come up with, read on for details!

When I came upon Ceph I immediately though I would have a use for it.
Here at Adfin we’ve developed a distributed relational (like) database
explicitly for storing large amounts of time series data about our
industry (advertising). The original database stored data locally and
balanced it between nodes, but using Ceph would give us an ability to
separate data storage capacity from the computational capacity. Before
we hadn’t really considered using a network filesystem, since many
either had lack-luster performance or SPOF (single point of failure).
The way Ceph deals with storing and striping data solved both
throughput and durability requirements for us.

Having CephFS be part of the kernel has a lot of advantages. The page
cache and a high optimized IO system alone have years of effort put
into them, and it would be a big undertaking to try to replicate them using
something like libcephfs. The motivation for adding fscache support
was solving one of trades we would have to make if we switched to Ceph;
latency. Since now our IO path wouldn’t be hitting local
disk, but instead going over network many smaller.

With the help of Sage guiding me through the details of MDS
and CephFS metadata inner workings, I was able to get up and running
pretty quickly with the initial implementation. A big chunk of time
was spent reading NFS and CIFS code bases to see how they were using
fscache. It took me about a month but I was able to run some simple
tests on trivial workloads.

My biggest challenges came from more complicated workloads, and
most of that boiled down to concurrency in a kernel. There are a lot of
things going on in the kernel and Ceph at the same time like
concurrent opens / closes, MDS messages (that revoke
our CACHE capability), writing and reading from fscache backends and
revoking of cached pages. What makes it worse is that concurrency bugs
only rear their ugly head in some workloads, sometimes after running
for days, and they are hard to reproduce. And when things go bad…
your nodes oops, or worse, busy hang. Ultimately I was able to work
through these problems, but it took much longer then getting to the
initial implementation (3 times longer). Ultimately, I was able to
build a mental model of what was going on. It took a lot of reading
the kernel locking documentation, reading the code, bugging people
(Sage, David, Yan), and beating my head against the wall.

The fscache addition to Cephfs helped us regain most of the losses by
taming the latency through a local cache. A nice side effect that I
didn’t consider in the beginning was the reduction of network traffic
going to the OSDs. When your clients only have a 1 gigabit connection
it’s easy to saturate their network connection.

This has been the first significant change I’ve made to the kernel.
And, since my changes touched a few places (cephfs, fscache and
cachesfilesd) a big chunk of my work towards the end was actually
coordinating the changes between the different trees for finally
getting it upstream into mainline. This isn’t a gripe, and really has
more to do with what I was working on. In the end this gave me am
appreciation for the kernel development process.

I think the fscache subsystem also benefited from the process of doing
this work. David Howells, who maintains fscache, solved numerous
problems as a result of my bug reports, testing and some patches.
All the filesystems that support fscache (9p, nfs, samba) have
benefited from that work and are much more solid in highly concurrent

It’s always great to hear from our users about the cool projects they are working on. If you have some Ceph-related development, a real-world implementation, or anything else that might be tangentially-related to Ceph, we’d love to hear from you too! Please drop a line to our Community Team and fill us in. Thanks to Milosz, and all the rest of our Ceph developers.

scuttlemonkey out