Dynamo: Amazon’s Highly Available Key-value Store
Giuseppe DeCandia, , , , , , , and
Reliability at massive scale is one of the biggest challenges we face at Amazon.com, one of the largest e-commerce operations in the world; even the slightest outage has significant financial consequences and impacts customer trust. The Amazon.com platform, which provides services for many web sites worldwide, is implemented on top of an infrastructure of tens of thousands of servers and network components located in many datacenters around the world. At this scale, small and large components fail continuously and the way persistent state is managed in the face of these failures drives the reliability and scalability of the software systems.
This paper presents the design and implementation of Dynamo, a highly available key-value storage system that some of Amazon’s core services use to provide an “always-on” experience. To achieve this level of availability, Dynamo sacrifices consistency under certain failure scenarios. It makes extensive use of object versioning and application-assisted conflict resolution in a manner that provides a novel interface for developers to use.
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Categories and Subject Descriptors
D.4.2 [Operating Systems]: Storage Management; D.4.5 [Operating Systems]: Reliability; D.4.2 [Operating Systems]: Performance;
Algorithms, Management, Measurement, Performance, Design, Reliability.
Amazon runs a world-wide e-commerce platform that serves tens of millions customers at peak times using tens of thousands of servers located in many data centers around the world. There are strict operational requirements on Amazon’s platform in terms of performance, reliability and efficiency, and to support continuous growth the platform needs to be highly scalable. Reliability is one of the most important requirements because even the slightest outage has significant financial consequences and impacts customer trust. In addition, to support continuous growth, the platform needs to be highly scalable.
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SOSP’07, October 14–17, 2007, Stevenson, Washington, USA. Copyright 2007 ACM 978-1-59593-591-5/07/0010…$5.00.
One of the lessons our organization has learned from operating Amazon’s platform is that the reliability and scalability of a system is dependent on how its application state is managed. Amazon uses a highly decentralized, loosely coupled, service oriented architecture consisting of hundreds of services. In this environment there is a particular need for storage technologies that are always available. For example, customers should be able to view and add items to their shopping cart even if disks are failing, network routes are flapping, or data centers are being destroyed by tornados. Therefore, the service responsible for managing shopping carts requires that it can always write to and read from its data store, and that its data needs to be available across multiple data centers.
Dealing with failures in an infrastructure comprised of millions of components is our standard mode of operation; there are always a small but significant number of server and network components that are failing at any given time. As such Amazon’s software systems need to be constructed in a manner that treats failure handling as the normal case without impacting availability or performance.
To meet the reliability and scaling needs, Amazon has developed a number of storage technologies, of which the Amazon Simple Storage Service (also available outside of Amazon and known as Amazon S3), is probably the best known. This paper presents the design and implementation of Dynamo, another highly available and scalable distributed data store built for Amazon’s platform. Dynamo is used to manage the state of services that have very high reliability requirements and need tight control over the tradeoffs between availability, consistency, cost-effectiveness and performance. Amazon’s platform has a very diverse set of applications with different storage requirements. A select set of applications requires a storage technology that is flexible enough to let application designers configure their data store appropriately based on these tradeoffs to achieve high availability and guaranteed performance in the most cost effective manner.
There are many services on Amazon’s platform that only need primary-key access to a data store. For many services, such as those that provide best seller lists, shopping carts, customer preferences, session management, sales rank, and product catalog, the common pattern of using a relational database would lead to inefficiencies and limit scale and availability. Dynamo provides a simple primary-key only interface to meet the requirements of these applications.
Dynamo uses a synthesis of well known techniques to achieve scalability and availability: Data is partitioned and replicated using consistent hashing , and consistency is facilitated by object versioning . The consistency among replicas during updates is maintained by a quorum-like technique and a decentralized replica synchronization protocol. Dynamo employs
a gossip based distributed failure detection and membership protocol. Dynamo is a completely decentralized system with minimal need for manual administration. Storage nodes can be added and removed from Dynamo without requiring any manual partitioning or redistribution.
In the past year, Dynamo has been the underlying storage technology for a number of the core services in Amazon’s e- commerce platform. It was able to scale to extreme peak loads efficiently without any downtime during the busy holiday shopping season. For example, the service that maintains shopping cart (Shopping Cart Service) served tens of millions requests that resulted in well over 3 million checkouts in a single day and the service that manages session state handled hundreds of thousands of concurrently active sessions.
The main contribution of this work for the research community is the evaluation of how different techniques can be combined to provide a single highly-available system. It demonstrates that an eventually-consistent storage system can be used in production with demanding applications. It also provides insight into the tuning of these techniques to meet the requirements of production systems with very strict performance demands.
The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 presents the background and Section 3 presents the related work. Section 4 presents the system design and Section 5 describes the implementation. Section 6 details the experiences and insights gained by running Dynamo in production and Section 7 concludes the paper. There are a number of places in this paper where additional information may have been appropriate but where protecting Amazon’s business interests require us to reduce some level of detail. For this reason, the intra- and inter-datacenter latencies in section 6, the absolute request rates in section 6.2 and outage lengths and workloads in section 6.3 are provided through aggregate measures instead of absolute details.
Amazon’s e-commerce platform is composed of hundreds of services that work in concert to deliver functionality ranging from recommendations to order fulfillment to fraud detection. Each service is exposed through a well defined interface and is accessible over the network. These services are hosted in an infrastructure that consists of tens of thousands of servers located across many data centers world-wide. Some of these services are stateless (i.e., services which aggregate responses from other services) and some are stateful (i.e., a service that generates its response by executing business logic on its state stored in persistent store).
Traditionally production systems store their state in relational databases. For many of the more common usage patterns of state persistence, however, a relational database is a solution that is far from ideal. Most of these services only store and retrieve data by primary key and do not require the complex querying and management functionality offered by an RDBMS. This excess functionality requires expensive hardware and highly skilled personnel for its operation, making it a very inefficient solution. In addition, the available replication technologies are limited and typically choose consistency over availability. Although many advances have been made in the recent years, it is still not easy to scale-out databases or use smart partitioning schemes for load balancing.
This paper describes Dynamo, a highly available data storage technology that addresses the needs of these important classes of services. Dynamo has a simple key/value interface, is highly available with a clearly defined consistency window, is efficient in its resource usage, and has a simple scale out scheme to address growth in data set size or request rates. Each service that uses Dynamo runs its own Dynamo instances.
2.1 System Assumptions and Requirements
The storage system for this class of services has the following requirements:
Query Model: simple read and write operations to a data item that is uniquely identified by a key. State is stored as binary objects (i.e., blobs) identified by unique keys. No operations span multiple data items and there is no need for relational schema. This requirement is based on the observation that a significant portion of Amazon’s services can work with this simple query model and do not need any relational schema. Dynamo targets applications that need to store objects that are relatively small (usually less than 1 MB).
ACID Properties: ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) is a set of properties that guarantee that database transactions are processed reliably. In the context of databases, a single logical operation on the data is called a transaction. Experience at Amazon has shown that data stores that provide ACID guarantees tend to have poor availability. This has been widely acknowledged by both the industry and academia . Dynamo targets applications that operate with weaker consistency (the “C” in ACID) if this results in high availability. Dynamo does not provide any isolation guarantees and permits only single key updates.
Efficiency: The system needs to function on a commodity hardware infrastructure. In Amazon’s platform, services have stringent latency requirements which are in general measured at the 99.9th percentile of the distribution. Given that state access plays a crucial role in service operation the storage system must be capable of meeting such stringent SLAs (see Section 2.2 below). Services must be able to configure Dynamo such that they consistently achieve their latency and throughput requirements. The tradeoffs are in performance, cost efficiency, availability, and durability guarantees.
Other Assumptions: Dynamo is used only by Amazon’s internal services. Its operation environment is assumed to be non-hostile and there are no security related requirements such as authentication and authorization. Moreover, since each service uses its distinct instance of Dynamo, its initial design targets a scale of up to hundreds of storage hosts. We will discuss the scalability limitations of Dynamo and possible scalability related extensions in later sections.
2.2 Service Level Agreements (SLA)
To guarantee that the application can deliver its functionality in a bounded time, each and every dependency in the platform needs to deliver its functionality with even tighter bounds. Clients and services engage in a Service Level Agreement (SLA), a formally negotiated contract where a client and a service agree on several system-related characteristics, which most prominently include the client’s expected request rate distribution for a particular API and the expected service latency under those conditions. An example of a simple SLA is a service guaranteeing that it will
Figure 1: Service-oriented architecture of Amazon’s platform
provide a response within 300ms for 99.9% of its requests for a peak client load of 500 requests per second.
In Amazon’s decentralized service oriented infrastructure, SLAs play an important role. For example a page request to one of the e-commerce sites typically requires the rendering engine to construct its response by sending requests to over 150 services. These services often have multiple dependencies, which frequently are other services, and as such it is not uncommon for the call graph of an application to have more than one level. To ensure that the page rendering engine can maintain a clear bound on page delivery each service within the call chain must obey its performance contract.
Figure 1 shows an abstract view of the architecture of Amazon’s platform, where dynamic web content is generated by page rendering components which in turn query many other services. A service can use different data stores to manage its state and these data stores are only accessible within its service boundaries. Some services act as aggregators by using several other services to produce a composite response. Typically, the aggregator services are stateless, although they use extensive caching.
A common approach in the industry for forming a performance oriented SLA is to describe it using average, median and expected variance. At Amazon we have found that these metrics are not good enough if the goal is to build a system where all customers have a good experience, rather than just the majority. For example if extensive personalization techniques are used then customers with longer histories require more processing which impacts performance at the high-end of the distribution. An SLA stated in terms of mean or median response times will not address the performance of this important customer segment. To address this issue, at Amazon, SLAs are expressed and measured at the 99.9th percentile of the distribution. The choice for 99.9% over an even higher percentile has been made based on a cost-benefit analysis which demonstrated a significant increase in cost to improve performance that much. Experiences with Amazon’s
production systems have shown that this approach provides a better overall experience compared to those systems that meet SLAs defined based on the mean or median.
In this paper there are many references to this 99.9th percentile of distributions, which reflects Amazon engineers’ relentless focus on performance from the perspective of the customers’ experience. Many papers report on averages, so these are included where it makes sense for comparison purposes. Nevertheless, Amazon’s engineering and optimization efforts are not focused on averages. Several techniques, such as the load balanced selection of write coordinators, are purely targeted at controlling performance at the 99.9th percentile.
Storage systems often play an important role in establishing a service’s SLA, especially if the business logic is relatively lightweight, as is the case for many Amazon services. State management then becomes the main component of a service’s SLA. One of the main design considerations for Dynamo is to give services control over their system properties, such as durability and consistency, and to let services make their own tradeoffs between functionality, performance and cost- effectiveness.
2.3 Design Considerations
Data replication algorithms used in commercial systems traditionally perform synchronous replica coordination in order to provide a strongly consistent data access interface. To achieve this level of consistency, these algorithms are forced to tradeoff the availability of the data under certain failure scenarios. For instance, rather than dealing with the uncertainty of the correctness of an answer, the data is made unavailable until it is absolutely certain that it is correct. From the very early replicated database works, it is well known that when dealing with the possibility of network failures, strong consistency and high data availability cannot be achieved simultaneously [2, 11]. As such systems and applications need to be aware which properties can be achieved under which conditions.
For systems prone to server and network failures, availability can be increased by using optimistic replication techniques, where changes are allowed to propagate to replicas in the background, and concurrent, disconnected work is tolerated. The challenge with this approach is that it can lead to conflicting changes which must be detected and resolved. This process of conflict resolution introduces two problems: when to resolve them and who resolves them. Dynamo is designed to be an eventually consistent data store; that is all updates reach all replicas eventually.
An important design consideration is to decide when to perform the process of resolving update conflicts, i.e., whether conflicts should be resolved during reads or writes. Many traditional data stores execute conflict resolution during writes and keep the read complexity simple . In such systems, writes may be rejected if the data store cannot reach all (or a majority of) the replicas at a given time. On the other hand, Dynamo targets the design space of an “always writeable” data store (i.e., a data store that is highly available for writes). For a number of Amazon services, rejecting customer updates could result in a poor customer experience. For instance, the shopping cart service must allow customers to add and remove items from their shopping cart even amidst network and server failures. This requirement forces us to push the complexity of conflict resolution to the reads in order to ensure that writes are never rejected.
The next design choice is who performs the process of conflict resolution. This can be done by the data store or the application. If conflict resolution is done by the data store, its choices are rather limited. In such cases, the data store can only use simple policies, such as “last write wins” , to resolve conflicting updates. On the other hand, since the application is aware of the data schema it can decide on the conflict resolution method that is best suited for its client’s experience. For instance, the application that maintains customer shopping carts can choose to “merge” the conflicting versions and return a single unified shopping cart. Despite this flexibility, some application developers may not want to write their own conflict resolution mechanisms and choose to push it down to the data store, which in turn chooses a simple policy such as “last write wins”.
Other key principles embraced in the design are:
Incremental scalability: Dynamo should be able to scale out one storage host (henceforth, referred to as “node”) at a time, with minimal impact on both operators of the system and the system itself.
Symmetry: Every node in Dynamo should have the same set of responsibilities as its peers; there should be no distinguished node or nodes that take special roles or extra set of responsibilities. In our experience, symmetry simplifies the process of system provisioning and maintenance.
Decentralization: An extension of symmetry, the design should favor decentralized peer-to-peer techniques over centralized control. In the past, centralized control has resulted in outages and the goal is to avoid it as much as possible. This leads to a simpler, more scalable, and more
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