Bolt-on Causal Consistency
Eventual consistency forces complexity onto an application. Consider a comments system on a blog site where users are discussing with each other. What every user would like to see is “causal consistency” whereby they don’t see a comment until they can also see all the comments that it is “in reply-to”.
In the general case an eventually consistent data store (ECDS) like Cassandra won’t give causual consistency: you can see a comment before you see what the user is replying to. The Morning Paper has an excellent discussion of a paper that shows how 2k lines of code can layer Causual Consistency over the top of Cassandra using a separate local data store at each node and a vector clocks to track ordering.
Bolt-on Causal Consistency – Bailis et al. 2013
“It’ll probably be OK” seems to reflect the prevailing application developer’s attitude to working with eventually consistent stores. Thanks to the work of Bailis et al. on PBS, we can now quantify that ‘probably.’ And it looks pretty good at first glance, with 99+% probabilities achievable after a pretty short window. The greater the volume of transactions you’re processing though, the more this bites you: (a) the window between transactions is shorter, increasing the probability of staleness, and (b) you’re taking a percentage of a bigger absolute number. Let’s say 1M transactions per day, and 99.99% probability of recency under normal conditions – that’s 100 stale reads a day. Is that ok? It depends on your application semantics of course. After a year of operation you’ll have 36,500 stale reads – it’ll probably be ok?!
Presumably you’re using an eventually consistent…
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