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Databases at 14.4Mhz (foundationdb.com)
297 points by chton on Dec 10, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

This is Foundation DB's announcement they are doing full ACID databases with a 14.4M writes per second capability. That is insanely fast in the data base world. Running in AWS with 32 c3.8xlarge configured machines. So basically NSA level data base capability for $150/hr. But perhaps more interesting is that those same machines on the open market are about $225,000. That's two rack, one switch and a transaction rate that lets you watch every purchase made at every Walmart store in the US, in real time. That is assuming the stats are correct[1], and it wouldn't even be sweating (14M customers a day vs 14M transactions per second). Insanely fast.

I wish I was an investor in them.

[1] http://www.statisticbrain.com/wal-mart-company-statistics/

Not all ACID transactions are equal. This is just a key-value store-like test. It shows the potential to scale, yet nothing regarding performance in real word.

32 c3.2xlarge instances have 1920GB memory. Given 1 billion 16B+ 8..100B values the whole dataset fits just into memory.

The Cassandra test mentioned [1] sustained loss of 1/3 instances. That's very impressive! Would love to see how F-DB handles this type of real-life situation (hint hint for follow up blog post).

[1] http://googlecloudplatform.blogspot.cz/2014/03/cassandra-hit...

They do seem to talk about writes per second. That means you must flush to disk, not read from cache.

[Edit, more info] They seem to run with multiple clients which also stresses the system. From their explanation * The clients simulate 320,000 concurrent sessions

This is very impressive, however...

See this tweet by @aphyr: https://twitter.com/aphyr/status/542755074380791809

(All credit for the idea in this comment is due to @aphyr)

Basically because the transactions modified keys selected from a uniform distribution, the probability of contention was extremely low. AKA this workload is basically a data-parallel problem, somewhat lessening the impressiveness of the high throughput. Would be interesting to see it with a Zipfian distribution (or even better, a Biebermark [0])

[0] - http://smalldatum.blogspot.co.il/2014/04/biebermarks.html

Actually, @aphyr's analysis is wrong. In fact it's actually worse that he says. There is an exactly 0% chance of conflicts between two transactions that each only write 20 random keys (as they do in this test). This is perhaps counterintuitive, but, because there are no reads, any serialization order is possible and therefore there is no chance of conflict.

Equally wrong is his assumption that this has any bearing on the performance of FoundationDB. In fact FoundationDB will perform the same whether the conflict rate is high or low. This isn't to say that FoundationDB somehow cheats the laws of transaction conflicts, just that it has to do all the work in either case. There is no trick or cheat on this test--this same performance will hold on a variety of workloads with varying conflict rates as well as those including reads.

Your definition of performance is a little weird.

Presumably you will want to retry conflicting transactions, so you generally would not count them towards your throughput.

For example if I commit 100 transactions per second, and 90% of them return conflicts, I am only successfully committing 10 transactions per second.

That's true: a large conflict rate would eat into your budget because clients would be retrying.

Of course most real world workloads are (hopefully!) no where near 90% conflicts. If you had a 90% transaction conflict rate you could expect FoundationDB performance to drop by about 30-60% due to retries (and, worse news, you would need to rethink your architecture).

I'm not an expert in this, but:

because there are no reads, any serialization order is possible and therefore there is no chance of conflict

I don't understand how this is the case. If clients A and B try to write to the same key, it can be serialized as {A,B} or {B,A}, but in either case, there is some kind of conflict... no?

Nope. Not unless someone actually read that same key in their transaction. Then, with optimistic concurrency at least, you might get a conflict at commit time that basically says "Hey, someone changed that key you read in the meantime so your write might not be correct anymore".

Ah – I see what you mean now! If they are blind writes, not some kind of CAS operation (reading from and modifying the same key), then there is no conflict.

I thought you meant that clients A and B do their writes, and only if someone at a later time were to observe the value at that key, a conflict would be caused (Heisenberg-style).

Thanks for clarifying!

Just to further clarify, the transactions (and therefore transaction conflict detection) are more flexible than simple CAS operations. If transaction A reads key K1, and then writes to key K2, it will be rejected as conflicting if transaction B writes to key K1 and is serialized as happening before transaction K1 is committed (even though no other transaction wrote to key K2).

Every transaction in FoundationDB is submitted as a collection of writes/mutations, but also contains records of all keys read (and the consistent version at which they were read). In this test, the transactions all have empty conflict ranges, and thus cannot conflict with other transactions (but we still have to check!).

DBs that are consistent until you observe them, a funny thought. In some parallel universe, the DB is still consistent; one could argue.

Heh, this is exactly why I could not understand what was being said.


all your wishes are granted: https://github.com/aphyr

To be sure, he revels in the discomfort of others too much. But he's a young kid just finding his voice, and his contributions to practical distributed database discussions are pretty much without parallel. Just ignore the bluster and you'll learn something new from kyle every day, even if it's about his buttcheeks.

Unfortunately this problem isn't specific to FoundationDB; the old "industry-standard" TPC-C benchmark has a similar low-contention design which has led to years of unrepresentative performance tuning and benchmarketing.

How is it unrepresentative? TPC-C involves several queries simulating new orders being entered, being updated, filled, paid, etc. It is very representative of the workload it is simulating. If you want to simulate a different workload, pick one of the other benchmarks instead of C.

Absolutely. Choosing the proper data model based on your access patterns is one of the best ways of keeping FDB performance high by reducing the likelihood of contention.

Yeah, this would have been more interesting if they could tell us what the throughput is given various levels of contention.

We've been using FoundationDB in production for about 10 months now. It's really been a game changer for us.

We continue to use it for more and more data access patterns which require strong consistency guarantees.

We currently store ~2 terabytes of data in a 12 node FDB cluster. It's rock solid and comes out of the box with great tooling.

Excited about this release! My only regret is I didn't find it sooner :)

Why do you need a 12 node cluster for 2 TB of data?

With a replication factor of 2 (for fault tolerance), it's ~4.5 TB.

FoundationDB requires SSD drives, which the best we can get efficiently in our data center is ~670 GB of usable space (3x480GB raided).

12x670 = 8040 GB

We try to keep extra space available for node failures (FDB will immediately start replicating addition data if it notices data with less than the configured number of replicas).

Our dataset currently grows at a decent pace, so we over provision a bit as well.

Why do you use RAID on your nodes if you have an RF==2?

A few reasons off the top of my head:

1) We're still interested in the nodes being as reliable as they can be. With RAID 5, we need two simultaneous disk failures to brick a node. With RAID 0 (to increase usable disk space), any of the 3 disks can brick the node.

Even with 12 nodes and RF of 2, an order of magnitude more node failures would be more likely to disrupt our service. Perhaps this makes more sense in a larger cluster with a higher RF factor?

2) We're using commodity hardware from a dedicated server provider, which uses RAID 1 or 5 configurations exclusively by default. We haven't reached the point where we felt that was enough of an issue or gain to investigate changing it.

3) Having more CPUs/disks in the cluster (12 nodes rather than cramming all data on 6) can be a good thing... as FDB scales fairly linearly.

I think you misinterpreted what I said. I explained it more clearly below. I suggested using the same 12 nodes but putting each one as a RAID 0, which would get you more reliability and more storage for the same cost. In your current config, two dead disks possibly bricks the system -- in the config I propose, you'd need four dead disks before anyone noticed.

What I'm suggesting is that you think of the cluster more holistically, since I assume your goal is a reliable cluster, not reliable nodes. As a nice bonus you get more "free" disk space.

That was my interpretation of your comment, but I'm still not sure I follow. In my understanding, by using RAID 0, any single disk failure will brick a node. Each node would then have 3 disks that are ticking time bombs (multiplying the failure rate by 3). How is that more reliable?

In RAID 5, I can have 1 disk failure on a node with no problem. 2 disk failures on the same node, and I only lose 1 node of my 12 node cluster (I.E. cluster is fine). I can also theoretically lose 12 (1 on each node) + 2*(RF-1) disks, and gracefully repair the situation with 0 interruption.

What's the benefit of RAID 0 other than increased usable disk space and perhaps write performance? It seems you're decreasing reliability significantly for those gains.

Perhaps to be able to recover without stressing other nodes? If a disk fails, your reads suddenly all go to 1 node in the replicaset. If then that same node also has to supply the data for the fresh harddrive, it might interfere with the read-performance and/or take a long time to restore full redundancy.

Also, in theory the raid 5 configuration would have faster reads.

But then you might as well just use an RF of 3. You get all the benefits you listed above, plus more storage (5.7TB vs 4.5TB), and less configuration hassle. And greater horizontal scalability.

And a RAID 5 will never be faster than a RAID 0 or a JBOD. :)

FDB has a substantial per-node license cost. It makes sense to beef up the hardware on individual nodes as much as possible first, then scale out to more nodes.


It would be unfortunate if their pricing model drove poor architectural decisions, but in this case that doesn't apply.

I suggested getting more storage by using the same number of nodes differently.

Ah, I mis-read your post, and was thinking you were suggesting more nodes rather than more disks. Sorry for that.

At any rate, I have quite a distaste for RAID-5, so I agree that it would be preferable to go with the higher RF instead.

Even more preferable to me would be to not use RAID-0, if FDB can just use multiple drive partitions as storage directly.

Yeah, JBOD is preferable to RAID if your workload supports it. Less overhead and less things to break.

Just watched the linked presentation about "flow" here : https://foundationdb.com/videos/testing-distributed-systems-...

Is it really the first Distributed DB project to have built a simulator ?

Because frankly, if that's the case, it seems revolutionary to me. Intuitively, it seems like bringing the same kind of quality improvement as unit testing did to regular software development.

PS : i should add that this talk is one of the best i've seen this year. The guy is extremely smart, passionate, and clear. (i just loved the The Hurst exponent part).

At Couchbase we have a plethora of simulators. Simulations of cluster topology changes, simulations of failure scenarios, simulations of workloads to estimate requried cluster sizes, etc. Here's one: https://github.com/couchbaselabs/cbfg

I think the difference is that FoundationDB has only one, and it's not an external simulation. The actual code that runs in production can also deterministically simulate a cluster of itself.

I do believe this is unique among publically-available distributed databases.

Why is it a good thing that it's not an external simulation?

I'll give you some brief thoughts from my experience working at FoundationDB, but if you really want the in-depth answer to what makes our simulation framework an enabling technology for everything we do, you should take a look at the talk my colleague Will Wilson gave at Strange Loop [0].

Everything in our core is written in Flow, our asynchronous programming environment. The architecture of our server is essentially single threaded, with (pseudo-)concurrent actors allowing a single process to satisfy multiple roles at once.

The interfaces that these actors use to communicate -- with the disk, over the network, with the OS in general -- are abstracted and implemented in Flow as well. Each of these interfaces not only has at least one "real" implementation, but at least one, and sometimes more, simulated implementations.

Since we run multiple actors in a single process all the time, running yet more actors, pretending to be different machines, all still in the same process, was an obvious step. These workers communicate with each other via the _same_ network interfaces that real-world workers do in real clusters.

In the end we are able to become our own adversaries, pushing the limits of the system in ways that just don't happen often enough in the real world to test and debug in the wild. Our simulated implementations are allowed to present any behavior that can be observed in the real world, or justified by the spec, or implied by the contract. And they can do so much more frequently.

But most importantly -- as in, without this our system would never have been developed -- we can simulate these pathological behaviors in a completely deterministic fashion. Having the power to run a million tests, simulating multi-machine clusters trying to complete workloads while suffering from the most unbelievable combination of network partitions, dropped packets, failed disks, etc. etc., all while knowing that any error can be replayed, stepped through in a debugger, in a single process on a single machine... without this capability, we would never have had the confidence to build our product or evolve it as aggressively as we have.

tl;dr: We're not making simulations _of_ the system, we're running the system _in_ simulation, and that makes all the difference.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fFDFbi3toc

It makes everything completely determistic.

I'm only familiar with other key-value storage engines, not FoundationDB, but it seems like the goals are: "distributed key-value database, read latencies below 500 microseconds, ACID, scalability".

I remember evaluating a few low latency key-value storage solutions, and one of these was Stanford's RAMCloud, which is supposed to give 4-5 microseconds reads, 15 microseconds writes, scale up to 10,000 boxes and provide data durability. https://ramcloud.atlassian.net/wiki/display/RAM/RAMCloud Seems like, that would be "Databases at 2000Mhz".

I've actually studied the code that was handling the network and it had been written pretty nicely, and as far as I know, it should work both over 10Gbe and Infiniband with similar latencies. And I'm not at all surprised, they could get pretty clean looking 4-5us latency distribution, with the code like that.

How does it compare with FoundationDB? Is it completely different technology?

Don't know much about RAMCloud, but from the description:

"Many more issues remain, such as whether we can provide higher-level features such as secondary indexes and multiple-object transactions without sacrificing the latency or scalability of the system. We are currently exploring several of these issues."

Sounds it doesn't provide multi-key ACID transactions at the very least.

Yes, It looks like it doesn't support multi-key ACID transactions. As per:


> If your application requires the higher-level data model features of a relational database, such as secondary indexes and transactions spanning multiple objects, then it may be difficult to get that application running on RAMCloud. The current RAMCloud data model is a key-value store with a few extension (such as conditional writes, table enumeration, and multi-read/multi-write operations); it does not yet support secondary indexes and multi-object transactions. Most of these operations can be implemented on top of the existing RAMCloud features, but it will take extra work and these operations will not run as fast as the built-in RAMCloud operations. We are currently working on adding higher-level features to RAMCloud.

Still. Aside from that, it is free, and open source and gives hundred times better latency?

> Still. Aside from that, it is free, and open source and gives hundred times better latency?

It doesn't have the same guarantees. If you need those guarantees, then there's no comparison and it doesn't make sense to compare latencies.

I'm not so sure. Have the latencies claimed by FoundationDB been measured on multi-key transactions?

And if you need these guaranties, it seems like "Most of these operations can be implemented on top of the existing RAMCloud features". I would expect it to be possible to implement that and stay well withing the latency budget, provided that a single-key durable write is 100 times faster.

All of the transactions in the test noted in the blog are multi-key transactions. (20 key updates)

When claiming the 14.4MHz number, is that per 20-key update? Or a single key update in the 20-key update? And what's the latency on the 20-key update?

The writes we are measuring are individual keys, modified atomically in transactions of 20 keys at a time. So this test is doing 14 million writes per second as 720 thousand transactions per second.

Multi-key transactions means coordination. Coordination is not cheap. You'll be paying a hefty cost somewhere.

But it doesn't store the data on disk.

It should be compared to Memcached, not to a real storage engine.

Unlike Memcached or Redis, RAMCloud provides durability:

  * Automatic replication, crash recovery, and fail-over 
    (no loss of availability if a server fails)
  * Durability guarantee: data is always replicated 
    and durable before operations return, without
    significant performance hit (subject to the 
    requirement for persistent buffers on backups).

You can't make a durable write to disk in 15us. SSDs are around 2 orders of magnitude slower than that. 15us is about right for in memory on two nodes in a single data center though. Most people wouldn't consider that durable though.

So? Power goes out in your data center, all the data is lost.

Nothing stops you from replicating memcached.

This looks very interesting and congratulations to the FoundationDB crew on some pretty amazing performance numbers.

One of the links leads to an interesting C++ actor preprocessor called 'Flow'. In that table, it lists the performance result of sending a message around a ring for a certain number of processes and a certain number of messages, in which Flow appears to be fastest with 0.075 sec in the case of N=1000 and M=1000, compared with, e.g. erlang @ 1.09 seconds.

My curiosity was piqued, so I threw together a quick microbenchmark in erlang. On a moderately loaded 2013 macbook air (2-core i7) and erlang 17.1, with 1000 iterations of M=1000 and N=1000, it averaged 34 microseconds per run, which compares pretty favorably with Flow's claimed 75000 microseconds. The Flow paper appears to maybe be from 2010, so it would be interesting to know how it's doing in 2014.

There's got to be some mistake there somewhere - on your part, or on theirs - because there's no way erlag improved from 1.09 seconds to 34 microseconds on pretty much any benchmark between 2010 and 2014. Even the factor 1000 (the message count) isn't enough to account for that difference - something's fishy.

1M messages passes in 34 microseconds would be ~0.1 CPU clocks per message pass. Maybe an optimizer is stepping in and short-circuiting?

heh, not only that, but my fingers accidentally made my test massively concurrent! Such are the perils of erlang. When I defeat the optimizer and also force message passing to be serialized both inside and outside a trial, I get an average of 525000 microseconds, which is more in line with the other results.

As someone who has no idea about the cost of high-scale computing like this, is $150/hr reasonable? It seems like an amount that's hard to sustain to me, but I have no idea if that's a steady, all the time rate, or a burst rate, or what. Or if it's a set up you'd actually ever even need -- seems like from the examples they mention (like the Tweets), they're above the need by a fair amount. Anyone else in this sort of situation care to chip in on that?

Per the article, it's about 1/20th the cost that Google would charge you for the same number of writes.

I had seen that as well, actually. Is this the kind of data or transaction level that might only be expected for a Google level throughput?

Well, do you do 14.4 million serializable writes per second or anything close to that?

Note my original comment -- nope. I haven't worked on anything that would have a need anywhere near that amount of throughput.

There are literally thousands of companies that each hand over millions of dollars to Oracle on a semi-regular basis, for enormous server setups to store enormous data sets. This is a major improvement.

I thought it was DB connections over radio waves just above 20 meters. Also, it's MHz, not Mhz.

This sounds great compared to my anecdotal experience with DB write performance; but is there a collection of database performance benchmarks that this can be easily compared to?

The best source for DB benchmarking I know of is http://www.tpc.org/. The methodology is more complicated there, but the top results are around 8 million transactions per minute on $5 million systems. This FoundationDB result is more like 900 million transactions per minute on a system that costs $1.5 million a year to rent (so, approx $5 million to buy?).

The USD/transactions-per-minute metric is clear, but without a standard test suite (schema, queries, client count, etc.), comparing claims of database performance makes my head hurt.

I think you mean "900 million transactions per minute". Of course that overstates things since each TPC-C transaction entails a lot more than one write. TPC-C is about 2/3 read and 1/3 write, and each TPC transaction might do 20 low-level read+write operations (I'm actually not sure, but I think that's in the ballpark.)

In the NoSQL world many people have converged on a workload of 90% reads/10% writes to individual keys. We show 90/10 results on our performance page [1] but in this test we do 100% writes to stress the "transaction engine", which processes writes.

Since we have our SQL Layer [2] as well, we will run some more-comparable SQL tests in the future.

[1] https://foundationdb.com/key-value-store/performance

[2] https://foundationdb.com/layers/sql

(Ah, yes, thank you, 900 million per minute. I typo'd.)

Nice performance page. It pre-answers my follow up question, which was how linear is scaling with more cores? Looks solid.


However I think there's still plenty of room to grow.

320,000 concurrent sessions isn't that much by modern standards. You can get 12 million concurrent connections on one linux machine, and push 1gigabit of data.

Also, 167 megabytes per second (116B * 14.4 million) is not pushing the limits of what one machine can do. I've been able to process 680 megabytes per second of data into a custom video database, plus write it to disk on one 2010 machine. That's doing heavy processing at the same time on the video with plenty of CPU to spare.

PCIe over fibre can do many transactions messages per second. You can fit 2TB memory machines in 1U (and more).

Since this is a memory + eventually dump to disk database, I think there is still a lot of room to grow.

MHz not Mhz.

I wish I would work with such great professionals as a Junior for 10years, right after school!!!

Any chance of an open source release for the database core? :)

"Or, as I like to say, 14.4Mhz."

Sorry, I don't like that at all.

Inclined to agree. Title made me think it was a retro-computing analysis of running dBASE II on an IBM PC/AT or some such.

I would agree. While 14.4 million writes per second is impressive, it definitely doesn't fit the definition of the Hz unit (cycles per second).

"Hertz" just means "per second". It can be anything per second, there are no units in the numerator. It just a measure of frequency, anything per second.


If anything you are counting is happening 14.4 million times a second, then that thing is happening at 14 megahertz. It's just a unit. If there are 14.4 million writes per second, then the writes are occuring at 14.4 mega hertz. That's just the definition of hertz.

Haha, Google agrees, check it out: https://www.google.com/?q=4+per+second#q=4+per+second

"Hertz" just means "cycles per second".

The reference is to frequency, not average or typical rate; there's a difference between a tone and pink noise.

And in their test, they made writes at that frequency, right?

It is, however, commonly used for average frequency rates too, not just measurements of constant frequency. "Frequency" the word means how frequent something happens, right?

I don't know what the 'something' to measure frequency of in pink noise would be, but if there is something to count over time, you can measure it's frequency.

"Frequency is the number of occurences of a repeating event per unit time" says wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frequency

However, it is true that "In some fields, especially where frequency-domain analysis is used, the concept of frequency is applied only to sinusoidal phenomena, since in linear systems more complex periodic and nonperiodic phonomena are most easily analyzed in terms of sums of sinusoids of different frequencies." In some fields.

I have no idea why we're arguing about this except that we like arguing on the internet though.

I have no idea why we're arguing about this except that we like arguing on the internet though.


Right, because a database write is not generally a periodic event. The unit they want is the becquerel - 14.4MBq might even sound more impressive because not so many people are familiar with that unit!

I agree that Hz seems to imply a periodic event.

But I disagree that the Bq is appropriate for this example; the becquerel quantifies radioactivity:

> The becquerel (symbol Bq) (pronounced: 'be-kə-rel) is the SI derived unit of radioactivity. One Bq is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becquerel)

It can be a bandwidth. Setting up the application and/or bogons as a carrier of some scheme or other is up to the writer. Echo cancellation fun, cross-modulation, gain masking; hey, do it in A/B testing.

I am still trying to push, pull or twist my concept of an ultralow-power mcu that runs 14.4MHz (or at nearly 14mA drain, 32MHz) in order to have it not only perform its optimal max of 1 I/O per cycle but do a simultaneous random read and write. Values are 1kb and keys 16 bytes, though... (As opposed to using the 1000 Amazon vCPUs each ~1.0 Xeon core with 4 hyperthreads (see http://www.pythian.com/blog/virtual-cpus-with-amazon-web-ser... )) That would be a pretty fat memory model (or HMC controller) for a micro...

Why the deliberately misleading comparisons? If you are doing something genuinely impressive, then you should be able to be honest about it and have it still seem impressive. One tweet is not one write. Comparing tweets per second to writes per second is complete nonsense. How many writes a tweet causes depends on how many followers the person who is tweeting has. The 100 writes per second nonsense is even worse. Do you just think nobody is old enough to have used a database 15 years ago? 10,000 writes per second was no big deal on of the shelf hardware of the day, nevermind on an actual server.

it's just a comparison to give you a sense of what those numbers look like, order of magnitude comparisons. I didn't find it misleading, and didn't think it meant that you'd be able to run twitter on their db on one commodity server. But it's an order of magnitude estimate to give you a sense of the scale.

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