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Designing Highly Available Mesos Frameworks

A Mesos framework manages tasks. For a Mesos framework to be highly available, it must continue to manage tasks correctly in the presence of a variety of failure scenarios. The most common failure conditions that framework authors should consider include:

  • The Mesos master that a framework scheduler is connected to might fail, for example by crashing or by losing network connectivity. If the master has been configured to use high-availability mode, this will result in promoting another Mesos master replica to become the current leader. In this situation, the scheduler should re-register with the new master and ensure that task state is consistent.

  • The host where a framework scheduler is running might fail. To ensure that the framework remains available and can continue to schedule new tasks, framework authors should ensure that multiple copies of the scheduler run on different nodes, and that a backup copy is promoted to become the new leader when the previous leader fails. Mesos itself does not dictate how framework authors should handle this situation, although we provide some suggestions below. It can be useful to deploy multiple copies of your framework scheduler using a long-running task scheduler such as Apache Aurora or Marathon.

  • The host where a task is running might fail. Alternatively, the node itself might not have failed but the Mesos agent on the node might be unable to communicate with the Mesos master, e.g., due to a network partition.

Note that more than one of these failures might occur simultaneously.

Mesos Architecture

Before discussing the specific failure scenarios outlined above, it is worth highlighting some aspects of how Mesos is designed that influence high availability:

  • Mesos provides unreliable messaging between components by default: messages are delivered “at-most-once” (they might be dropped). Framework authors should expect that messages they send might not be received and be prepared to take appropriate corrective action. To detect that a message might be lost, frameworks typically use timeouts. For example, if a framework attempts to launch a task, that message might not be received by the Mesos master (e.g., due to a transient network failure). To address this, the framework scheduler should set a timeout after attempting to launch a new task. If the scheduler hasn’t seen a status update for the new task before the timeout fires, it should take corrective action—for example, by performing task state reconciliation, and then launching a new copy of the task if necessary.

    • In general, distributed systems cannot distinguish between “lost” messages and messages that are merely delayed. In the example above, the scheduler might see a status update for the first task launch attempt immediately after its timeout has fired and it has already begun taking corrective action. Scheduler authors should be aware of this possibility and program accordingly.

    • Mesos actually provides ordered (but unreliable) message delivery between any pair of processes: for example, if a framework sends messages M1 and M2 to the master, the master might receive no messages, just M1, just M2, or M1 followed by M2 – it will not receive M2 followed by M1.

    • As a convenience for framework authors, Mesos provides reliable delivery of task status updates. The agent persists task status updates to disk and then forwards them to the master. The master sends status updates to the appropriate framework scheduler. When a scheduler acknowledges a status update, the master forwards the acknowledgment back to the agent, which allows the stored status update to be garbage collected. If the agent does not receive an acknowledgment for a task status update within a certain amount of time, it will repeatedly resend the status update to the master, which will again forward the update to the scheduler. Hence, task status updates will be delivered “at least once”, assuming that the agent and the scheduler both remain available. To handle the fact that task status updates might be delivered more than once, it can be helpful to make the framework logic that processes them idempotent.

  • The Mesos master stores information about the active tasks and registered frameworks in memory: it does not persist it to disk or attempt to ensure that this information is preserved after a master failover. This helps the Mesos master scale to large clusters with many tasks and frameworks. A downside of this design is that after a failure, more work is required to recover the lost in-memory master state.

  • If all the Mesos masters are unavailable (e.g., crashed or unreachable), the cluster should continue to operate: existing Mesos agents and user tasks should continue running. However, new tasks cannot be scheduled, and frameworks will not receive resource offers or status updates about previously launched tasks.

  • Mesos does not dictate how frameworks should be implemented and does not try to assume responsibility for how frameworks should deal with failures. Instead, Mesos tries to provide framework developers with the tools they need to implement this behavior themselves. Different frameworks might choose to handle failures differently, depending on their exact requirements.

Recommendations for Highly Available Frameworks

Highly available framework designs typically follow a few common patterns:

  1. To tolerate scheduler failures, frameworks run multiple scheduler instances (three instances is typical). At any given time, only one of these scheduler instances is the leader: this instance is connected to the Mesos master, receives resource offers and task status updates, and launches new tasks. The other scheduler replicas are followers: they are used only when the leader fails, in which case one of the followers is chosen to become the new leader.

  2. Schedulers need a mechanism to decide when the current scheduler leader has failed and to elect a new leader. This is typically accomplished using a coordination service like Apache ZooKeeper or etcd. Consult the documentation of the coordination system you are using for more information on how to correctly implement leader election.

  3. After electing a new leading scheduler, the new leader should reconnect to the Mesos master. When registering with the master, the framework should set the id field in its FrameworkInfo to the ID that was assigned to the failed scheduler instance. This ensures that the master will recognize that the connection does not start a new session, but rather continues (and replaces) the session used by the failed scheduler instance.

    NOTE: When the old scheduler leader disconnects from the master, by default the master will immediately kill all the tasks and executors associated with the failed framework. For a typical production framework, this default behavior is very undesirable! To avoid this, highly available frameworks should set the failover_timeout field in their FrameworkInfo to a generous value. To avoid accidental destruction of tasks in production environments, many frameworks use a failover_timeout of 1 week or more.

    • In the current implementation, a framework’s failover_timeout is not preserved during master failover. Hence, if a framework fails but the leading master fails before the failover_timeout is reached, the newly elected leading master won’t know that the framework’s tasks should be killed after a period of time. Hence, if the framework never reregisters, those tasks will continue to run indefinitely but will be orphaned. This behavior will likely be fixed in a future version of Mesos (MESOS-4659).
  4. After connecting to the Mesos master, the new leading scheduler should ensure that its local state is consistent with the current state of the cluster. For example, suppose that the previous leading scheduler attempted to launch a new task and then immediately failed. The task might have launched successfully, at which point the newly elected leader will begin to receive status updates about it. To handle this situation, frameworks typically use a strongly consistent distributed data store to record information about active and pending tasks. In fact, the same coordination service that is used for leader election (such as ZooKeeper or etcd) can often be used for this purpose. Some Mesos frameworks (such as Apache Aurora) use the Mesos replicated log for this purpose.

    • The data store should be used to record the actions that the scheduler intends to take, before it takes them. For example, if a scheduler decides to launch a new task, it first writes this intent to its data store. Then it sends a “launch task” message to the Mesos master. If this instance of the scheduler fails and a new scheduler is promoted to become the leader, the new leader can consult the data store to find all possible tasks that might be running on the cluster. This is an instance of the write-ahead logging pattern often employed by database systems and filesystems to improve reliability. Two aspects of this design are worth emphasizing.

      1. The scheduler must persist its intent before launching the task: if the task is launched first and then the scheduler fails before it can write to the data store, the new leading scheduler won’t know about the new task. If this occurs, the new scheduler instance will begin receiving task status updates for a task that it has no knowledge of; there is often not a good way to recover from this situation.

      2. Second, the scheduler should ensure that its intent has been durably recorded in the data store before continuing to launch the task (for example, it should wait for a quorum of replicas in the data store to have acknowledged receipt of the write operation). For more details on how to do this, consult the documentation for the data store you are using.

The Life Cycle of a Task

A Mesos task transitions through a sequence of states. The authoritative “source of truth” for the current state of a task is the agent on which the task is running. A framework scheduler learns about the current state of a task by communicating with the Mesos master—specifically, by listening for task status updates and by performing task state reconciliation.

Frameworks can represent the state of a task using a state machine, with one initial state and several possible terminal states:

  • A task begins in the TASK_STAGING state. A task is in this state when the master has received the framework’s request to launch the task but the task has not yet started to run. In this state, the task’s dependencies are fetched—for example, using the Mesos fetcher cache.

  • The TASK_STARTING state is optional and intended primarily for use by custom executors. It can be used to describe the fact that a custom executor has learned about the task (and maybe started fetching its dependencies) but has not yet started to run it.

  • A task transitions to the TASK_RUNNING state after it has begun running successfully (if the task fails to start, it transitions to one of the terminal states listed below).

    • If a framework attempts to launch a task but does not receive a status update for it within a timeout, the framework should perform reconciliation. That is, it should ask the master for the current state of the task. The master will reply with TASK_LOST status updates for unknown tasks. The framework can then use this to distinguish between tasks that are slow to launch and tasks that the master has never heard about (e.g., because the task launch message was dropped).

      • Note that the correctness of this technique depends on the fact that messaging between the scheduler and the master is ordered.
  • The TASK_KILLING state is optional and is intended to indicate that the request to kill the task has been received by the executor, but the task has not yet been killed. This is useful for tasks that require some time to terminate gracefully. Executors must not generate this state unless the framework has the TASK_KILLING_STATE framework capability.

  • There are several terminal states:

    • TASK_FINISHED is used when a task completes successfully.
    • TASK_FAILED indicates that a task aborted with an error.
    • TASK_KILLED indicates that a task was killed by the executor.
    • TASK_LOST indicates that the task was running on an agent that has lost contact with the current master (typically due to a network partition or an agent host failure). This case is described further below.
    • TASK_ERROR indicates that a task launch attempt failed because of an error in the task specification.

Note that the same task status can be used in several different (but usually related) situations. For example, TASK_ERROR is used when the framework’s principal is not authorized to launch tasks as a certain user, and also when the task description is syntactically malformed (e.g., the task ID contains an invalid character). The reason field of the TaskStatus message can be used to disambiguate between such situations.

Dealing with Partitioned or Failed Agents

The Mesos master tracks the availability and health of the registered agents using two different mechanisms:

  1. The state of a persistent TCP connection between the master and the agent.

  2. Health checks using periodic ping messages to the agent. The master sends “ping” messages to the agent and expects a “pong” response message within a configurable timeout. The agent is considered to have failed if it does not respond promptly to a certain number of ping messages in a row. This behavior is controlled by the --agent_ping_timeout and --max_agent_ping_timeouts master flags.

If the persistent TCP connection to the agent breaks or the agent fails health checks, the master decides that the agent has failed and takes steps to remove it from the cluster. Specifically:

  • If the TCP connection breaks, the agent is considered disconnected. The semantics when a registered agent gets disconnected are as follows for each framework running on that agent:

    • If the framework is checkpointing: no immediate action is taken. The agent is given a chance to reconnect until health checks time out.

    • If the framework is not checkpointing: all the framework’s tasks and executors are considered lost. The master immediately sends TASK_LOST status updates for the tasks. These updates are not delivered reliably to the scheduler (see NOTE below). The agent is given a chance to reconnect until health checks timeout. If the agent does reconnect, any tasks for which TASK_LOST updates were previously sent will be killed.

      • The rationale for this behavior is that, using typical TCP settings, an error in the persistent TCP connection between the master and the agent is more likely to correspond to an agent error (e.g., the mesos-agent process terminating unexpectedly) than a network partition, because the Mesos health-check timeouts are much smaller than the typical values of the corresponding TCP-level timeouts. Since non-checkpointing frameworks will not survive a restart of the mesos-agent process, the master sends TASK_LOST status updates so that these tasks can be rescheduled promptly. Of course, the heuristic that TCP errors do not correspond to network partitions may not be true in some environments.
  • If the agent fails health checks, it is scheduled for removal. The removals can be rate limited by the master (see --agent_removal_rate_limit master flag) to avoid removing a slew of agents at once (e.g., during a network partition).

  • When it is time to remove an agent, the master removes the agent from the list of registered agents in the master’s durable state (this will survive master failover). The master sends a slaveLost callback to every registered scheduler driver; it also sends TASK_LOST status updates for every task that was running on the removed agent.

    NOTE: Neither the callback nor the task status updates are delivered reliably by the master. For example, if the master or scheduler fails over or there is a network connectivity issue during the delivery of these messages, they will not be resent.

  • Meanwhile, any tasks at the removed agent will continue to run and the agent will repeatedly attempt to reconnect to the master. Once a removed agent is able to reconnect to the master (e.g., because the network partition has healed), the reregistration attempt will be refused and the agent will be asked to shutdown. The agent will then shutdown all running tasks and executors. Persistent volumes and dynamic reservations on the removed agent will be preserved.

    • A removed agent can rejoin the cluster by restarting the mesos-agent process. When a removed agent is shutdown by the master, Mesos ensures that the next time mesos-agent is started (using the same work directory at the same host), the agent will receive a new agent ID; in effect, the agent will be treated as a newly joined agent. The agent will retain any previously created persistent volumes and dynamic reservations, although the agent ID associated with these resources will have changed.

Typically, frameworks respond to failed or partitioned agents by scheduling new copies of the tasks that were running on the lost agent. This should be done with caution, however: it is possible that the lost agent is still alive, but is partitioned from the master and is unable to communicate with it. Depending on the nature of the network partition, tasks on the agent might still be able to communicate with external clients or other hosts in the cluster. Frameworks can take steps to prevent this (e.g., by having tasks connect to ZooKeeper and cease operation if their ZooKeeper session expires), but Mesos leaves such details to framework authors.

Dealing with Partitioned or Failed Masters

The behavior described above does not apply during the period immediately after a new Mesos master is elected. As noted above, most Mesos master state is only kept in memory; hence, when the leading master fails and a new master is elected, the new master will have little knowledge of the current state of the cluster. Instead, it rebuilds this information as the frameworks and agents notice that a new master has been elected and then reregister with it.

Framework Reregistration

When master failover occurs, frameworks that were connected to the previous leading master should reconnect to the new leading master. MesosSchedulerDriver handles most of the details of detecting when the previous leading master has failed and connecting to the new leader; when the framework has successfully reregistered with the new leading master, the reregistered scheduler driver callback will be invoked.

Agent Reregistration

During the period after a new master has been elected but before a given agent has reregistered or the agent_reregister_timeout has fired, attempting to reconcile the state of a task running on that agent will not return any information (because the master cannot accurately determine the state of the task).

If an agent does not reregister with the new master within a timeout (controlled by the --agent_reregister_timeout configuration flag), the master marks the agent as failed and follows the same steps described above. However, there is one difference: by default, agents are allowed to reconnect following master failover, even after the agent_reregister_timeout has fired. This means that frameworks might see a TASK_LOST update for a task but then later discover that the task is running (because the agent where it was running was allowed to reconnect).