Asynchronous computing at Meta: Overview and learnings

  • We’ve made structure modifications to Meta’s occasion pushed asynchronous computing platform which have  enabled simple integration with a number of event-sources. 
  • We’re sharing our learnings from dealing with varied workloads and easy methods to deal with commerce offs made with sure design decisions in constructing the platform.

Asynchronous computing is a paradigm the place the consumer doesn’t count on a workload to be executed instantly; as an alternative, it will get scheduled for execution someday within the close to future with out blocking the latency-critical path of the applying. At Meta, we’ve constructed a platform for serverless asynchronous computing that’s supplied as a service for different engineering groups. They register asynchronous features on the platform after which submit workloads for execution by way of our SDK. The platform executes these workloads within the background on a big fleet of staff and gives extra capabilities equivalent to load balancing, fee limiting, quota administration, downstream safety and lots of others. We confer with this infrastructure internally as “Async tier.” 

At the moment we help myriad totally different buyer use circumstances which end in multi-trillion workloads being executed every day.

There may be already an incredible article from 2020 that dives into the small print of the structure of Async tier, the options it supplied, and the way these options might be utilized at scale. Within the following materials we’ll focus extra on design and implementation elements and clarify how we re-architected the platform to allow five-fold development over the previous two years.

Common high-level structure

Any asynchronous computing platform consists of the next constructing blocks:

  1. Ingestion and storage
  2. Transport and routing
  3. Computation

Asynchronous computation

Ingestion and storage

Our platform is accountable for accepting the workloads and storing them for execution. Right here, each latency and reliability are vital: This layer should settle for the workload and reply again ASAP, and it should retailer the workload reliably all the best way to profitable execution. 

Transport and routing

This offers with transferring the satisfactory variety of workloads from storage into the computation layer, the place they are going to be executed. Sending insufficient numbers will underutilize the computation layer and trigger an pointless processing delay, whereas sending too many will overwhelm the machines accountable for the computation and might trigger failures. Thus, we outline sending the right quantity as “flow-control.”

This layer can be accountable for sustaining the optimum utilization of sources within the computation layer in addition to extra options equivalent to cross-regional load balancing, quota administration, fee limiting, downstream safety, backoff and retry capabilities, and lots of others.


This normally refers to particular employee runtime the place the precise operate execution takes place.

Again in 2020

Prior to now, Meta constructed its personal distributed precedence queue, equal to a few of the queuing options supplied by public cloud suppliers. It’s known as the Fb Ordered Queuing Service (because it was constructed when the corporate was known as Fb), and has a well-known acronym: FOQS. FOQS is vital to our story, as a result of it comprised the core of the ingestion and storage elements.

Fb Ordered Queuing Service (FOQS)

FOQS, our in-house distributed precedence queuing service, was developed on high of MySQL and gives the power to place gadgets within the queue with a timestamp, after which they need to be obtainable for consumption as an enqueue operation. The obtainable gadgets will be consumed later with a dequeue operation. Whereas dequeuing, the buyer holds a lease on an merchandise, and as soon as the merchandise is processed efficiently, they “ACK” (acknowledge) it again to FOQS. In any other case, they “NACK” (NACK means detrimental acknowledgement) the merchandise and it turns into obtainable instantly for another person to dequeue. The lease can even expire earlier than both of those actions takes place, and the merchandise will get auto-NACKed owing to a lease timeout. Additionally, that is non-blocking, which means that clients can take a lease on subsequently enqueued, obtainable gadgets despite the fact that the oldest merchandise was neither ACKed nor NACKed. There’s already an incredible article on the topic in case you are all in favour of diving deeply into how we scaled FOQS.

Async tier leveraged FOQS by introducing a light-weight service, known as “Submitter,” that clients might use to submit their workloads to the queue. Submitter would do fundamental validation / overload safety and enqueue these things into FOQS. The transport layer consisted of a element known as “Dispatcher.” This pulled gadgets from FOQS and despatched them to the computation layer for execution.

Asynchronous computation


Growing complexity of the system

Over time we began to see that the dispatcher was taking an increasing number of accountability, rising in dimension, and turning into virtually a single place for all the brand new options and logic that the workforce is engaged on. It was:

  • Consuming gadgets from FOQS, managing their lifecycle.
  • Defending FOQS from overload by adaptively adjusting dequeue charges.
  • Offering all common options equivalent to fee limiting, quota administration, workload prioritization, downstream safety.
  • Sending workloads to a number of employee runtimes for execution and managing job lifecycle.
  • Offering each native and cross-regional load balancing and stream management.

Consolidating a big quantity of logic in a single element finally made it onerous for us to work on new capabilities in parallel and scale the workforce operationally.

Exterior knowledge sources

On the identical time we began to see an increasing number of requests from clients who need to execute their workloads based mostly on knowledge that’s already saved in different techniques, equivalent to stream, knowledge warehouse, blob storage, pub sub queues, or many others. Though it was attainable to do within the present system, it was coming together with sure downsides.

Asynchronous computation

The restrictions within the above structure are:

  1. Prospects needed to write their very own options to learn knowledge from the unique storage and submit it to our platform by way of Submitter API. It was inflicting recurrent duplicate work throughout a number of totally different use circumstances.
  2. Information at all times needed to be copied to FOQS, inflicting main inefficiency when occurring at scale. As well as, some storages had been extra appropriate for explicit sorts of knowledge and cargo patterns than others. For instance, the price of storing knowledge from high-traffic streams or massive knowledge warehouse tables within the queue will be considerably increased than retaining it within the unique storage.


To resolve the above issues, we needed to break down the system into extra granular elements with clear obligations and add first-class help for exterior knowledge sources.

Our re-imagined model of Async tier would appear like this:

Asynchronous computation

Generic transport layer

Within the previous system, our transport layer consisted of the dispatcher, which pulled workloads from FOQS. As step one on the trail of multi-source help, we decoupled the storage studying logic from the transport layer and moved it upstream. This left the transport layer as a data-source-agnostic element accountable for managing the execution and offering a compute-related set of capabilities equivalent to fee limiting, quota administration, load balancing, and so forth. We name this “scheduler”—an unbiased service with a generic API.

Studying workloads

Each knowledge supply will be totally different—for instance, immutable vs. mutable, or fast-moving vs large-batch—and finally requires some particular code and settings to learn from it. We created adapters to accommodate these “learn logic”–the varied mechanisms for studying totally different knowledge sources. These adapters act just like the UNIX tail command, tailing the information supply for brand new workloads—so we name these “tailers.” In the course of the onboarding, for every knowledge supply that the client makes use of, the platform launches corresponding tailer situations for studying that knowledge. 

With these modifications in place, our structure appears to be like like this:

Asynchronous computation

Push versus pull and penalties

To facilitate these modifications, the tailers had been now “push”-ing knowledge to the transport layer (the scheduler) as an alternative of the transport “pull”-ing it. 

The advantage of this transformation was the power to offer a generic scheduler API and make it data-source agnostic. In push-mode, tailers would ship the workloads as RPC to the scheduler and didn’t have to attend for ACK/NACK or lease timeout to know in the event that they had been profitable or failed.

Asynchronous computation

Cross-regional load balancing additionally turned extra correct with this transformation, since they’d be managed centrally from the tailer as an alternative of every area pulling independently.

Asynchronous computation

These modifications collectively improved the cross-region load distribution and the end-to-end latency of our platform, along with eliminating knowledge duplication (owing to buffering in FOQS) and treating all knowledge sources as first-class residents on our platform. 

Nonetheless, there have been a few drawbacks to those modifications as nicely. As push mode is basically an RPC, it’s not an incredible match for long-running workloads. It requires each consumer and server to allocate sources for the connection and maintain them throughout your entire operate working time, which may turn out to be a big downside at scale. Additionally, synchronous workloads that run for some time have an elevated probability of failure as a result of transient errors that can make them begin over once more utterly. Based mostly on the utilization statistics of our platform, the vast majority of the workloads had been ending inside seconds, so it was not a blocker, however it’s necessary to think about this limitation if a big a part of your features are taking a number of minutes and even tens of minutes to complete.

Re-architecture: Outcomes

Let’s rapidly have a look at the principle advantages we achieved from re-architecture:

  • Workloads are now not getting copied in FOQS for the only real objective of buffering.
  • Prospects don’t want to speculate further effort in constructing their very own options.
  • We managed to interrupt down the system into granular elements with a clear contract, which makes it simpler to scale our operations and work on new options in parallel.
  • Transferring to push mode improved our e2e latency and cross-regional load distribution.

By enabling first-class help for varied knowledge sources, we’ve created an area for additional effectivity wins because of the skill to decide on essentially the most environment friendly storage for every particular person use case. Over time we seen two fashionable choices that clients select: queue (FOQS) and stream (Scribe). Since we’ve sufficient operational expertise with each of them, we’re presently ready to check the 2 situations and perceive the tradeoffs of utilizing every for powering asynchronous computations.

Queues versus streams

With queue as the selection of storage, clients have full flexibility in relation to retry insurance policies, granular per-item entry, and variadic operate working time, primarily because of the idea of lease and arbitrary ordering help. If computation was unsuccessful for some workloads, they might be granularly retried by NACKing the merchandise again to the queue with arbitrary delay. Nonetheless, the idea of lease comes at the price of an inner merchandise lifecycle administration system. In the identical manner, priority-based ordering comes at the price of the secondary index on gadgets. These made queues an incredible common alternative with plenty of flexibility, at a average price.

Streams are much less versatile, since they supply immutable knowledge in batches and can’t help granular retries or random entry per merchandise. Nonetheless, they’re extra environment friendly if the client wants solely quick sequential entry to a big quantity of incoming site visitors. So, in comparison with queues, streams present decrease price at scale by buying and selling off flexibility.

The issue of retries in streams

Clogged stream

Whereas we defined above that granular message-level retries weren’t attainable in stream, we couldn’t compromise on the At-Least-As soon as supply assure that we had been offering to our clients. This meant we needed to construct the aptitude of offering source-agnostic retries for failed workloads.

Asynchronous computation

For streams, the tailers would learn workloads in batches and advance a checkpoint for demarcating how far down the stream the learn had progressed. These batches can be despatched for computation, and the tailer would learn the following batch and advance the checkpoint additional as soon as all gadgets had been processed. As this continued, if even one of many gadgets within the final batch failed, the system wouldn’t have the ability to make ahead progress till, after just a few retries, it’s processed efficiently. For a heavy-traffic stream, this is able to construct up important lag forward of the checkpoint, and the platform would finally wrestle to catch up. The opposite possibility was to drop the failed workload and never block the stream, which might violate the At-Least-As soon as (ALO) assure.

Delay service

Asynchronous computation

To resolve this downside, we’ve created one other service that may retailer gadgets and retry them after arbitrary delay with out blocking your entire stream. This service will settle for the workloads together with their meant delay intervals (exponential backoff retry intervals can be utilized right here), and upon completion of this delay interval, it is going to ship the gadgets to computation. We name this the controlled-delay service. 

We’ve explored two attainable methods to supply this functionality:

  1. Use precedence queue as intermediate storage and depend on the idea that a lot of the site visitors will undergo the principle stream and we’ll solely must take care of a small fraction of outliers. In that case, it’s necessary to guarantee that throughout a large enhance in errors (for instance, when 100% of jobs are failing), we’ll clog the stream utterly as an alternative of copying it into Delay service.
  2. Create a number of predefined delay-streams which can be blocked by a hard and fast period of time (for instance, 30s, 1 minute, 5 minutes, half-hour) such that each merchandise coming into them will get delayed by this period of time earlier than being learn. Then we are able to mix the obtainable delay-streams to attain the quantity of delay time required by a particular workload earlier than sending it again. Because it’s utilizing solely sequential entry streams below the hood, this method can doubtlessly permit Delay service to run at a much bigger scale with decrease price.

Observations and learnings

The principle takeaway from our observations is that there isn’t any one-size-fits-all answer in relation to working async computation at scale. You’ll have to continuously consider tradeoffs and select an method based mostly on the specifics of your explicit use circumstances. We famous that streams with RPC are greatest suited to help high-traffic, short-running workloads, whereas lengthy execution time or granular retries shall be supported nicely by queues at the price of sustaining the ordering and lease administration system. Additionally, if strict supply assure is essential for a stream-based structure with a excessive ingestion fee, investing in a separate service to deal with the retriable workloads will be helpful.