Book Image

Apache ZooKeeper Essentials

By : Saurav Haloi
Book Image

Apache ZooKeeper Essentials

By: Saurav Haloi

Overview of this book

Table of Contents (14 chapters)
Apache ZooKeeper Essentials
About the Author
About the Reviewers
Performing Common Distributed System Tasks

Defining a distributed system

A distributed system is defined as a software system that is composed of independent computing entities linked together by a computer network whose components communicate and coordinate with each other to achieve a common goal. An e-mail system such as Gmail or Yahoo! Mail is an example of such a distributed system. A multiplayer online game that has the capability of being played by players located geographically apart is another example of a distributed system.

In order to identify a distributed system, here are the key characteristics that you need to look out for:

  • Resource sharing: This refers to the possibility of using the resources in the system, such as storage space, computing power, data, and services from anywhere, and so on

  • Extendibility: This refers to the possibility of extending and improving the system incrementally, both from hardware and software perspectives

  • Concurrency: This refers to the system's capability to be used by multiple users at the same time to accomplish the same task or different tasks

  • Performance and scalability: This ensures that the response time of the system doesn't degrade as the overall load increases

  • Fault tolerance: This ensures that the system is always available even if some of the components fail or operate in a degraded mode

  • Abstraction through APIs: This ensures that the system's individual components are concealed from the end users, revealing only the end services to them

It is difficult to design a distributed system, and it's even harder when a collection of individual computing entities are programmed to function together. Designers and developers often make some assumptions, which are also known as fallacies of distributed computing. A list of these fallacies was initially coined at Sun Microsystems by engineers while working on the initial design of the Network File System (NFS); you can refer to these in the following table:



The network is reliable

In reality, the network or the interconnection among the components can fail due to internal errors in the system or due to external factors such as power failure.

Latency is zero

Users of a distributed system can connect to it from anywhere in the globe, and it takes time to move data from one place to another. The network's quality of service also influences the latency of an application.

Bandwidth is infinite

Network bandwidth has improved many folds in the recent past, but this is not uniform across the world. Bandwidth depends on the type of the network (T1, LAN, WAN, mobile network, and so on).

The network is secure

The network is never secure. Often, systems face denial of-service attacks for not taking the security aspects of an application seriously during their design.

Topology doesn't change

In reality, the topology is never constant. Components get removed/added with time, and the system should have the ability to tolerate such changes.

There is one administrator

Distributed systems never function in isolation. They interact with other external systems for their functioning; this can be beyond administrative control.

Transport cost is zero

This is far from being true, as there is cost involved everywhere, from setting up the network to sending network packets from source to destination. The cost can be in the form of CPU cycles spent to actual dollars being paid to network service providers.

The network is homogeneous

A network is composed of a plethora of different entities. Thus, for an application to function correctly, it needs to be interoperable with various components, be it the type of network, operating system, or even the implementation languages.

Distributed system designers have to design the system keeping in mind all the preceding points. Beyond this, the next tricky problem to solve is to make the participating computing entities, or independent programs, coordinate their actions. Often, developers and designers get bogged down while implementing this coordination logic; this results in incorrect and inefficient system design. It is with this motive in mind that Apache ZooKeeper is designed and developed; this enables a highly reliable distributed coordination.

Apache ZooKeeper is an effort to develop a highly scalable, reliable, and robust centralized service to implement coordination in distributed systems that developers can straightaway use in their applications through a very simple interface to a centralized coordination service. It enables application developers to concentrate on the core business logic of their applications and rely entirely on the ZooKeeper service to get the coordination part correct and help them get going with their applications. It simplifies the development process, thus making it more nimble.

With ZooKeeper, developers can implement common distributed coordination tasks, such as the following:

  • Configuration management

  • Naming service

  • Distributed synchronization, such as locks and barriers

  • Cluster membership operations, such as detection of node leave/node join

Any distributed application needs these kinds of services one way or another, and implementing them from scratch often leads to bugs that cause the application to behave erratically. Zookeeper mitigates the need to implement coordination and synchronization services in distributed applications from scratch by providing simple and elegant primitives through a rich set of APIs.