One SMF to Rule Them All 27 Nov 2013

Over the past few years I've become a big fan of SmartOS, a distribution of Illumos built specifically with cloud IaaS in mind. One of the features it inherits from Solaris is the Service Management Facility, SMF. For various reasons, SMF is my service management framework of choice—one reason we prefer deployment on SmartOS at Wanelo is the feature-richness and stability of daemon management under SMF.

One complaint that we had was the management of service families, however. Recently, we started using service dependencies to help manage groups of services, particularly in emergency situations when we need to stop or restart many services at once.

Some backstory

We use Sidekiq to process tasks spawned from our various applications in an asynchronous manner. Sidekiq works like Resque, except for the fact that it uses the Celluloid gem to process multiple jobs concurrently using threads. Early on, we discovered that this concurrency model works great for workloads that block on I/O, such as external API calls or network calls, but that non-blocking ruby jobs perform better with multiple processes. We use MRI ruby, which still suffers from a global interpreter lock (GIL) on threads and thus only runs one thread at a time. (See: Threads in a GIL)

Over time as our site has grown in features and in traffic, our Sidekiq deployment has grown more complex. Multiple groups of processes are managed by different SMF services, each tasked with processing specific queues. Some services are configured with higher thread counts. Others are configured to have higher process counts. By this method, we're able to tune multiple variables per queue. Some we want to process as quickly as possible. Some jobs with expensive queries we allow to queue up during high traffic spikes, knowing that they will eventually catch up without overwhelming our databases.

Now, with ten SMF services per server controlling all of our sidekiq jobs, what happens if we need all of them to stop at once? Let's say we just deployed new code that includes many non-performant database queries in our workers, and we're seeing active connections piling up on our master databases. Let's say we've just updated a gem related to database sharding or read/write splitting, and we just noticed that thousands of queued jobs in different workers are about to do terrible, terribly wrong things. Let's say that an external service used by many of our workers just went down, and we're seeing errors spiking across the Sidekiq cluster. We need to disable all of our sidekiq jobs, and we need to do so now.

The first time something like this happened, I logged onto each box and manually disabled each sidekiq SMF service, one at a time. We had a capistrano task for this, but it had been two months since I'd had to use it and in the heat of the moment I couldn't remember the exact command. It seemed more expedient at the time to run forty manual commands in a minute than to spend several minutes searching our code base for the correct capistrano command.

Enter SMF dependencies

After one particular meeting at Joyent, Konstantin returned with good news. He'd talked with Bryan Cantrill about this problem, and discovered that SMF dependencies could be used for this purpose.

SMF allows for explicit dependency management within a configured service. If your service needs the network stack in order to run, you can explicitly depend on the services that manage the network stack. If your service depends on a local install of PostgreSQL, you can explicitly depend on postgres. If a dependency is not enabled, SMF sends your service into the offline state when you try to enable it, instead of just carrying on. It allows SMF to start processes in the proper order on reboot, removing the possibility that processes will start out of order and crash on an unmet dependency.

For our purposes, we created a dependency on a noop sidekiq service.

Our chef code looks something like this:

service 'sidekiq' do
  supports :restart => true, :reload => true, :enable => true, :disable => true

smf 'sidekiq' do
  user 'deploy'
  start_command 'true'
  stop_command 'true'
  duration 'transient'
  manifest_type 'management'

  notifies :enable, 'service[sidekiq]'

service 'sidekiq-notifications' do
  supports :enable => true, :disable => true, :restart => true, :reload => true

sidekiq 'notifications' do
  user 'deploy'
  stop_timeout 200
  restart_timeout 200
  sidekiq_timeout 150
  concurrency 10
  processes 2
  queues %w(emails push_notifications)

  dependencies [
      {'name' => 'sidekiq', 'fmris' => ['svc:/wanelo/management/sidekiq'],
       'grouping' => 'require_all', 'restart_on' => 'restart', 'type' => 'service'}

  environment 'RAILS_ENV' => node['rails_env'],
              'BUNDLE_GEMFILE' => '/home/deploy/app/current/Gemfile'

  notifies :restart, "service[sidekiq-notifications]"

Now in an emergency, all we have to do on a host is run svcadm disable sidekiq and all sidekiq processes will be stopped.

If you're using Chef and Sidekiq on an Illumos- or Solaris-based system, take a look at the cookbooks and providers we use here:

Many thanks to Bryan for the suggestion!