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Workers scaling


This research is about scaling worker(s) that do short-running tasks to improve Packit Service event processing.


Once upon a time there were more (two?) workers who were not picky and took whatever task they find in the (only) queue. To not waste time they always assigned more (4) tasks at a time to themselves before starting to work on a task. It could then happen that one worker processed a copr_build_finished event sooner than the other worker processed a corresponding copr_build_started event, and then it looked like that the copr build never finished.

For example, if you have 2 workers and a task queue like

build1_start | build2_start | build3_start | build1_end | build2_end | build3_end

and each worker takes 4 tasks, then the first worker takes

build1_start | build2_start | build3_start | build1_end

and the second is left with

build2_end | build3_end

and by the time the first worker starts processing build2_start, the second has already processed build2_end so it looks like the build2 never ended.

This has been fixed by making sure that the workers are not so greedy and reserve only one task ahead (--prefetch-multiplier=1, default is 4).

Later, we also set up 2 Celery queues, for long and short running tasks because that's what Celery User Guide suggests.

worker --concurrency

The same commit that set --prefetch-multiplier=1 also set --concurrency=1 (number of concurrent worker processes/threads executing tasks) even it's probably had no effect because the default is "number of CPUs/cores on the host" and the workers have no more than one core. We definitely don't want to change the prefetch multiplier because that might cause p-s#375 for no significant benefit, but having more concurrent worker threads should hopefully be safe.

Whether it's really safe depends on how Celery fetches messages for the worker's threads. If it waits for all threads to finish their tasks before fetching a new batch of messages (times prefetch-multiplier) for all threads then we might still hit p-s#375 if we have more workers serving the short-running-tasks queue. But if Celery fetches a new message(s) for a thread once it finishes a task without waiting for other threads then we should be fine (as long as prefetch-multiplier=1). I checked the Celery source code but couldn't find an answer for how/when it fetches messages for the threads (whether individually or for all at once). Someone's up for a challenge?;) But if we had only one worker (with more threads) serving the short-running-tasks queue then we should be fine anyway.

Processes vs. threads aka. Celery execution pool

  • Processes (prefork pool) - are good when tasks are CPU bound. The number of processes should not exceed the number of CPUs on host.
  • Threads (eventlet/gevent pool) - when tasks are I/O or network bound. The number of greenlets (green threads) is unrelated to the number of CPUs on host and can go even to thousands.

worker --autoscale

Regarding the --concurrency value, we even don't have to set a static number if we use worker --autoscale which dynamically resizes the pool based on load (number of requests in the message queue, not a CPU load).

Kubernetes/Openshift Horizontal Pod Autoscaling

The horizontal pod autoscaler (HPA) can be used to specify how should K8s/Openshift scale a StatefulSet based on metrics collected from the pods. The supported metrics are CPU and/or memory utilization.

For example: You say that you want to have 1 to 5 workers with average CPU utilization around 50% (of their cpu resource request). The HPA controller then periodically checks the cpu metrics and scales the pods up/down based on the CPU consumption.

The memory utilization of short-running workers is constant so that's off the table. CPU utilization doesn't quite follow the load (of tasks in queue) because the tasks are mostly network bound. For example at times when there's not much to do a short-running worker consumes about 2 millicores, while when there's a lots of tasks the utilization jumps between 2 and 20 millicores, so it's hard to decide on a desired average utilization.

The ideal metric for us would be a number of outstanding tasks in a queue, however external metrics are not clearly described how to achieve.

We'd also need to return readiness probes to make the HPA work.

Compared to worker --autoscale the HPA looks like:

  • less reliable (if we used the CPU metrics)
  • more work to set up (if we used custom/external metrics - queue size)
  • slower - starting a pod is way slower than adding a thread
  • more resource hungry - running 4 pods eats much more memory than running 1 pod with 4 threads