Optimizing Waartaa 0.1


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Overview

Waartaa is a realtime web IRC client as a service. Waartaa is powered by:

  • Meteor JS
  • MongoDB
  • node-irc, amongst other cool NPM packages
  • a bunch of meteorite packages from atmospherejs.com

We'd released version 0.1-rc1 a few months back with some basic feature set.

  • Send server, channel, personal messages
  • Support basic IRC commands: join, away, me, whois, msg, part
  • Centralized logging for every user for every channel, server
  • Realtime update across multiple clients
  • Mail notifications on nick mention when the user is away

Issues

  • High storage complexity

    Storing logs per channel per user led to high storage complexity.

  • High CPU usage

    Meteor 0.6 was not optimized to handle heavy writes to a collection which was published in realtime. In our case, the UserChannelLogs collection was the one published in realtime and with heavy writes. Meteor would use to poll the collection to find and push updates on the existing publications. The increased reads led to increased CPU usage and network IO for the MongoDB service. CPU usage would spike to 400%. Also, handling too many user tasks in the application server led to CPU spikes.

  • Slow app performance

    By default, Meteor apps work synchronously, unlinke other typical nodejs apps. However, Meteor being a NodeJS framework itself, it's single threaded and it'd make other requests wait until it's done with processing the current request, which mostly involved waiting of database responses.

  • High RAM usage

    The MongoDB server for https://try.waartaa.com runs on a mere 1 GB memory. With the new users listening to variegated channels, the size of the collection spiked in a few days. Because, the same collection was also the most heavily read collection, this led to increased RAM usage and finally RAM starvation, We started experiencing latencies in write to MongoDB and the realtime app was no longer realtime.

  • Difficult setup

  • Painful to deploy

Working in limited resource sometimes has its benefits. We were forced to optimize Waartaa to make it usable in the real world.

Optimizations & solutions

  • The OPLOG hack

    The meteor community came up with a hack using MongoDB OPLOG to make MongoDB a really live database. Initially it was SmartCollections, then the OPLOG driver in Meteor 0.7 and finally an improved OPLOG driver supporting complex MongoDB queries in Meteor 0.8. OPLOG is a proven technology used by MongoDB to replicate databases. Meteor is now able to check for publication updates just by following MongoDB's OPLOG stream. So, goodbye to polling and high useless reads. With the OPLOG driver, waartaa's MongoDB instance finally became stable and the CPU usage came down to under 5% on an average.

  • Async read/writes to DB

    Meteor comes with an option to do DB read/writes in an asynchronous way. Switching to async DB read and write wherever possible made waartaa more responsive by leaving room for the app to handle new requests while the app is waiting for DB IO.

  • Log once per channel

    Logging once per channel was a challenge for Waartaa as we don't have a single bot to listen to. We worked on a crude algorithm to do this. We pick up a few clients from the pool of available clients listening to a channel that waartaa will monitor for new channel messages. We use CappedArray to keep a track of a limited number of recent channel logs written to the DB and use it to determine if a new channel log from a client should be written or not. Now, we save channel logs in ChannelLogs collection instead of UserChannelLogs.

    This has helped Waartaa reduce the storage complexity for channel logs to O(c), where c is the number of channels Waartaa is listening to.

  • Get MongoDB perform better in less RAM

    Waartaa now stores only a limited number of recent logs per channel in the ChannelLogs collection to keep the size of this collection in check and simultaneously archives older logs. This reduces the size of the working set of data needed for realtime publication and hence, it reduces the memory usage of the MongoDB service.

  • Task queues

    Some operations like joining servers and channels during app restart were very costly operations and would lead to high CPU usage for some time. Hence, the application would become slow during server restart. Similarly, there were instances when there'd be high number of requests for updating data for channel nicks, nicks leaving/joining channels, etc. This would lead to CPU spikes. Implementing in memory task queues helped to rate limit such operations and keep the CPU load in check. In the longer run, we need to consider better task queuing solutions.

  • Easy sandbox setup with Vagrant

  • Automated deployment with Ansible

Below is a snapshot showing the CPU, network load on the app server of https://try.waartaa.com during the initial days of testing our optimizations.

/galleries/waartaa/waartaa_app_optimize_cpu_usage.png

The above steps have enabled us to keep our demo instance running at https://try.waartaa.com using limited resources. The current model of Waartaa works fine as a single standalone instance. It's not that great for horizontal scaling yet. It's in our roadmap to make waartaa scalable.

For now, this is all we have to offer for our upcoming 0.1 release.

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