Gregory Trubetskoy

Notes to self.

Tgres Status - July 4th 2017

| Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve written on Tgres, here’s a little update, Independence Day edition.

Current Status

The current status is that Tgres is looking more and more like a finished product. It still needs time and especially user testing (the ball is in your court, dear reader), because only time reveals the weirdest of bugs and validates stability. I would not ditch your current stack just yet, but at this point you’d be remiss not having given Tgres a spin.

Recently I had an opportunity to test Tgres as a mirror replica of a sizable Graphite/Statsd/Grafana set up receiving approximately 10K data points per second across more than 200K series, and the results were inspiring. Tgres handled the incoming data without breaking a sweat on “hardware” (ec2 instances, rather) that was a fraction of the Graphite machines while still outperforming it in most respects.

I’d say the biggest problem (and not really a Tgres one) is that mirroring Graphite functionality exactly is next to impossible. Or, rather, it is possible, but it would imply purposely introducing inaccuracies and complexities. Because of this Tgres can never be a “drop in” replacement for Graphite. Tgres can provide results that are close but not identical, and dashboards and how the data is interpreted would require some rethinking.

What’s new?

Data Point Versioning

In a round-robin database slot values are overwritten as time moves forward and the archive comes full-circle. Whenever a value is not overwritten for whatever reason, a stale value from an obsolete iteration erroneously becomes the value for the current iteration.

One solution is to be diligent and always make sure that values are overwritten. This solution can be excessively I/O intensive for sparse series. If a series is sparse, then more I/O resources are spent blanking out non-data (by setting the value to NaN or whatever) than storing actual data points.

A much more efficient approach is to store a version number along with the datapoint. Every time the archive comes full-circle, version is incremented. With versions there is no need to nullify slots, they become obsoleted by virtue of the data point version not matching the current version.

Under the hood Tgres does this by keeping a separate array in the ts table which contains a smallint (2 bytes) for every data point. The tv view is aware of it and considers versions without exposing any details, in other words everything works as before, only Tgres is a lot more efficient and executes a lot less SQL statements.

Zero Heartbeat Series

Tgres always strives to connect the data points. If two data points arrive more than a step apart, the slots in between are filled in to provide continuity. A special parameter called Heartbeat controls the maximum time between data points. A gap greater than the Heartbeat is considered unknown or NaN.

This was a deliberate design decision from the beginning, and it is not changing. Some tools choose to store data points as is, deferring any normalization to the query time. Graphite is kind of in the middle: it doesn’t store the data points as is, yet it does not attempt to do any normalization either, which ultimately leads to inaccuracies which I describe in another post.

The concept of Heartbeat should be familiar to those experienced with RRDTool, but it is unknown to Graphite users which has no such parameter. This “disconnected” behavior is often taken advantage of to track things that aren’t continuous but are event occurrences which can still benefit from being observed as a time series. Tracking application deploys, where each deploy is a data value of 1 is one such example.

Tgres now supports this behavior when the the Heartbeat is set to 0. Incoming data points are simply stored in the best matching slot and no attempt is made to fill in the gap in between with data.

Tgres Listens to DELETE Events

This means that to delete a DS all you need to do is run DELETE FROM ds WHERE ... and you’re done. All the corresponding table rows will be deleted by Postgres because of the foreign key constraints, and the DS will be cleared from the Tgres cache at the same time.

This is possible thanks to the Postgres excellent LISTEN/NOTIFY capability.

In-Memory Series for Faster Querying

A subset of series can be kept entirely in memory. The recent testing has shown that people take query performance very seriously, and dashboards with refresh rates of 5s or even 1s are not unheard of. When you have to go to the database to answer every query, and if the dashboard touches a hundred series, this does not work too well.

To address this, Tgres now keeps an in-memory cache of queried series. The cache is an LRU and its size is configurable. On restart Tgres saves cache keys and loads the series back to keep the cache “warm”.

Requests for some cached queries can now be served in literally microseconds, which makes for some pretty amazing user experience.

DS and RRA State is an Array

One problem with the Tgres table layout was that DS and RRA tables contained frequently updated columns such as lastupdate, value and duration The initial strategy was that these could be updated periodically in a lzay fashion, but it became apparent that it was not practical for any substantial number of series.

To address this all frequently mutable attributes are now stored in arrays, same way as data points and therefore can be updated 200 (or whatever segment width is configured) at a time.

To simplify querying DSs and RRAs two new views (dsv and rrav) were created which abstract away the array value lookup.

Whisper Data Migration

The whisper_import tool has been pretty much rewritten and has better instructions. It’s been tested extensively, though admittedly on one particular set up, your mileage may vary.

Graphite DSL

Lots and lots of fixes and additions to the Graphite DSL implementation. Tgres still does not support all of the functions, but that was never the plan to begin with.


Here’s some ideas I might tackle in the near future. If you are interested in contributing, do not be shy, pull requests, issues and any questions or comments are welcome. (Probably best to keep development discussion in Github).

  • Get rid of the config file

Tgres doesn’t really need a config file - the few options that are required for running should be command line args, the rest, such as new series specs should be in the database.

  • A user interface

Not terribly high on the priority list, since the main UI is psql for low level stuff and Grafana for visualization, but something to list series and tweak config options might come in handy.

  • Track Usage

It would be interesting to know how many bytes exactly a series occupies, how often it is updated and queried, and what is the resource cost for maintaining it.

  • Better code organization

For example vcache could be a separate package.

  • Rethink the DSL

There should be a DSL version 2, which is not based on the Graphite unwieldiness. It should be very simple and versatile and not have hundreds of functions.

  • Authentication and encryption

No concrete ideas here, but it would be nice to have a plan.

  • Clustering needs to be re-considered

The current clustering strategy is flawed. It might work with the current plan, but some serious brainstorming needs to happen here. Perhaps it should just be removed in favor of delegating horizontal scaling to the database layer.