Hadoop Ecosystem: Zookeeper – The distributed coordination server

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“ ZooKeeper is a centralized service for maintaining configuration information, naming, providing distributed synchronization, and providing group services. All of these kinds of services are used in some form or another by distributed applications. Each time they are implemented there is a lot of work that goes into fixing the bugs and race conditions that are inevitable. Because of the difficulty of implementing these kinds of services, applications initially usually skimp on them ,which make them brittle in the presence of change and difficult to manage. Even when done correctly, different implementations of these services lead to management complexity when the applications are deployed. “ [1]

At first it is hard to visualize the role of Zookeeper as a component in the Hadoop ecosystem so let’s examine a couple of the services and constructs that it provides to distributed computing applications:

  • Locks: Zookeeper provides mechanisms to create an maintain globally distributed lock mechanisms, this allows applications to maintain transaction atomicity for any kind of object by ensuring that at any point in time no two clients or transactions can hold a lock on the same resource.
  • Queues:  Zookeeper allows distributed applications to maintain regular FIFO and priority-based queues where a list of messages or objects is held by  a Zookeeper node that clients connect to to submit new queue member as well as to request  a list of the members pending processing. This allows applications to implement asynchronous processes where a unit of processing is placed on a queue and processed whenever the next worker process is available to take on the work.
  • Two-Phased Commit Coordination: Zookeeper allows applications that need to commit or abort a transaction across multiple processing nodes to coordinate the two phase commit pattern through its infrastructure. Each client will apply the transaction tentatively on the first commit phase and notify the coordination node that will then let all parties involved know whether or not the transaction was globally successful or not.
  • Barriers: Zookeeper supports the creation of synchronization points called Barriers. This is useful when multiple asynchronous processes need to converge on a common synchronization point  once all worker processes have executed their independent units of work.
  • Leader Election: Zookeeper allows distributed applications to automate leader election across a list of available nodes, this helps applications running on a cluster optimize for locality and load balancing.

As you can see Zookeeper play a  vital role as foundation service for distributed applications that need to coordinate independent, asynchronous processes across large computing nodes on a cluster environment.


[1] Zookeeper Websitehttp://zookeeper.apache.org/

[2] Zookeeper Recipes, http://zookeeper.apache.org/doc/trunk/recipes.html