Monday, 17 July 2017

Conflict Management and Partition Handling

In Infinispan 9.1.0.Final we have overhauled the behaviour and configuration of partition handling in distributed and replicated caches.  Partition handling is no longer simply enabled/disabled, instead a partition strategy is configured. This allows for more fine-grained control of a cache's behaviour when a split brain occurs. Furthermore, we have created the ConflictManager component so that conflicts on cache entries can be automatically resolved on-demand by users and/or automatically during partition merges .

Conflict Manager

During a cache's lifecycle it is possible for inconsistencies to appear between replicas of a cache entry  due to a variety of reasons (e.g replication failures, incorrect use of flags etc).  The conflict manager is a tool that allows users to retrieve all stored replica values for a cache entry. In addition to allowing users to process a stream of cache entries whose stored replicas have conflicting values. Furthermore, by utilising implementations of the EntryMergePolicy interface it is possible for said conflicts to be resolved deterministically.


In the event of conflicts arising between one or more replicas of a given CacheEntry, it is necessary for a conflict resolution algorithm to be defined, therefore we provide the EntryMergePolicy interface. This interface consists of a single method, "merge", whose output is utilised as the "resolved" CacheEntry for a given key. A non-null return value is put to all replicas of the CacheEntry in question, whereas a null return value results in all replicas being removed from the cache.

The merge method takes two parameters: the "preferredEntry" and "otherEntries". In the context of a partition merge, the preferredEntry is the CacheEntry associated with the partition whose coordinator is conducting the merge (or if multiple entries exist in this partition, it’s the primary replica). However, in all other contexts, the preferredEntry is simply the primary replica. The second parameter, "otherEntries" is simply a list of all other entries associated with the key for which a conflict was detected.

Currently Infinispan provides the following implementations of EntryMergePolicy:

Policy Description
MergePolicies.PREFERRED_ALWAYS Always utilise the "preferredEntry".
MergePolicies.PREFERRED_NON_NULL Utilise the "preferredEntry" if it is non-null, otherwise utilise the first entry from "otherEntries".
MergePolicies.REMOVE_ALL Always remove a key from the cache when a conflict is detected.

Application Usage

For conflict resolution during partition merges, once an EntryMergePolicy has been configured for the cache, no additional actions are required by the user.  However, if an Infinispan user would like to utilise the ConflictManager explicitly in their application, it should be retrieved by passing an AdvancedCache instance to the ConflictManagerFactory

Note, that depending on the number of entries in the cache, the getConflicts and resolveConflict methods are expensive operations, as they both depend on a spliterator which lazily loads cache entries on a per segment basis. Consequently, when operating in distributed mode, if many conflicts exist, it is possible for an OutOfMemoryException to occur on the node searching for conflicts.

Partition Handling Strategies

In 9.1.0.Final the partition handling enabled/disabled option has been deprecated and users must now configure an appropriate PartitionHandling strategy for their application. A partition handling strategy determines what operations can be performed on a cache when a split brain event has occurred. Ultimately, in terms of Brewer’s CAP theorem, the configured strategy determines whether the cache's availability or consistency is sacrificed in the presence of partition(s). Below is a table of the provided strategies and their characteristics:

Strategy Description CAP
DENY_READ_WRITES If the partition does not have all owners for a given segment, both reads and writes are denied for all keys in that segment.

This is equivalent to setting partition handling to true in Infinispan 9.0.
ALLOW_READS Allows reads for a given key if it exists in this partition, but only allows writes if this partition contains all owners of a segment. Availability
ALLOW_READ_WRITES Allow entries on each partition to diverge, with conflicts resolved during merge.

This is equivalent to setting partition handling to false in Infinispan 9.0.

Conflict Resolution on Partition Merge

When utilising the ALLOW_READ_WRITES partition strategy it is possible for the values of cache entries to diverge between competing partitions. Therefore, when the two partitions merge, it is necessary for these conflicts to be resolved. Internally Infinispan utilises a cache's ConflictManager to search for cache entry conflicts and then applies the configured EntryMergePolicy to automatically resolve said conflicts before rebalancing the cache. This conflict resolution is completely automatic and does not require any additional code or input from Infinispan users.

Note, that if you do not want conflicts to be resolved automatically during a partition merge, i.e. the behaviour before 9.1.x, you can set the merge-policy to null (or NONE in xml). 





Partition handling has been overhauled in Infinispan 9.1.0.Final to allow for increased control over a cache's behaviour. We have introduced the ConflictManager which enables users to inspect and manage the consistency of their cache entries via custom and provided merge policies.

If you have any feedback on the partition handling changes, or would like to request some new features/optimisations, let us know via the forumissue tracker or the #infinispan channel on Freenode.

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