Silence is Golden: Coordination-Avoiding Systems Design

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August 21, 2015

Silence is Golden: Coordination-Avoiding Systems Design

MesosCon 2015 Keynote
26 August 2015
Seattle, WA

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Computer networks make it difficult to design scalable, robust distributed systems that exhibit good performance. Networks can be slow, have limited capacity, and are often unreliable. In an ideal world, we'd build systems that don't rely on the network at all. Unfortunately, as a slew of negative results like the CAP Theorem illustrate, this isn't always possible. Traditional systems abstractions like ACID transactions fundamentally require synchronous communication, or coordination, to implement. As a result, coordination-free systems designs often forego many programmer-friendly abstractions. These systems leave the task of reasoning about correctness to the application developer or, worse, to the end user.

In this talk, I'll discuss an alternative: system designs that coordinate only when necessary to guarantee application correctness. This coordination avoidance maximizes scalability and robustness by minimizing reliance on the network. To illustrate the power of coordination-avoiding systems design, I'll present several case studies from our research spanning database isolation guarantees, indexes and constraints, and open source applications. Perhaps surprisingly, even though traditional implementations of these tasks rely on coordination, many of these tasks don't actually require coordination for correctness. The resulting systems are among the fastest prototypes ever built and operated at scale. Based on these case studies, I'll provide concrete and practical design principles for reasoning about and applying coordination avoidance in the wild.



August 21, 2015