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Re: Support close of the iterator/iterable created from MapState/SetState

Alternatively to using weak/phantom reference:
* Can you configure RocksDb's memory usage/limits?
* Inside the iterator, periodically close and re-open the RocksDb connection seeking back to where the user was?
* Use the ParDo/DoFn lifecycle and clean up after each processElement/finishBundle call.

On Fri, May 11, 2018 at 9:51 AM Xinyu Liu <xinyuliu.us@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Thanks for drafting the details about the two approaches, Kenn. Now I understand Luke's proposal better. The approach looks neat, but the uncertainty of when GC is going to kick in will make users' life hard. If the user happens to configure a large JVM heap size, and since rocksDb uses off-heap memory, GC might start very late and less frequent than what we want. If we don't have a definitive way to let user close the underlying resources, then there is no good way to handle such failures of a critical application in production.

Having a close method in the iterator might be a little unorthodox :). To some degree, this is actually a resource we are holding underneath, and I think it's pretty common to have close() for a resource in Java, e.g. BufferedReader and BufferedWriter. So I would imagine that we also define a resource for the state iterator and make the interface implements AutoCloseable. Here is my sketch:

// StateResource MUST be closed after use.
try (StateResource<Iterator<SomeType>>> st = bagState.iteratorResource()) {
    Iterator<SomeType> iter = st.iterator();
    while (iter.hasNext() {
       .. do stuff ...
} catch (Exception e) {
    ... user code

The type/method name are just for illustrating here, so please don't laugh at them. Please feel free to comment and let me know if you have thoughts about the programming patterns here.


On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 8:59 PM, Kenneth Knowles <klk@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
It is too soon to argue whether an API is complex or not. There has been no specific API proposed.

I think the problem statement is real - you need to be able to read and write bigger-than-memory state. It seems we have multiple runners that don't support it, perhaps because of our API. You might be able to build something good enough with phantom references, but you might not.

If I understand the idea, it might look something like this:

    new DoFn<>() {
       private final StateSpec<BagState<Whatever>> myBagSpec = ...

       public void proc(@StateId("foo") BagState<Whatever> myBag, ...) {
         CloseableIterator<Whatever> iterator = myBag.get().iterator();
         while(iterator.hasNext() && ... special condition ...) {
           ... do stuff ...

So it has no impact on users who don't choose to close() since they iterate with for ( : ) as usual. And a runner that has the 10x funding to try out a ReferenceQueue can be resilient to users that forget. On the other hand, I haven't seen this pattern much in the wild, so I think it is valuable to discuss other methods.

While Luke's proposal is something like this if I understand his sketch (replacing WeakReference with PhantomReference seems to be what you really want):

    ... in RocksDb state implementation ...
    class RocksDbBagState {
      static ReferenceQueue rocksDbIteratorQueue = new ReferenceQueue();

      class Iterator {
         PhantomReference<RocksDbJniIterator> cIter;
         .next() {
           return cIter.next();

     class Iterable {
        .iterator() {
          return new Iterator(new PhantomReference<>(rocksDbJniIterator, rocksDbIteratorQueue));

    ... on another thread ...
    while(true) {
      RocksDbIterator deadRef = (RocksDbIterator) rocksDbIteratorQueue.remove();

When the iterator is GC'd, the phantom reference will pop onto the queue for being closed. This might not be too bad. You'll have delayed resource release, and potentially masked errors that are hard to debug. It is less error-prone than WeakReference, which is asking for trouble when objects are collected en masse. Anecdotally I have heard that performance of this kind of approach is poor, but I haven't experienced it myself and I can't find good data.


On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 7:41 PM Xinyu Liu <xinyuliu.us@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
If I understand correctly, using weak references will help clean up the Java objects once GC kicks in. In case of kv-store likes rocksDb, the Java iterator is just a JNI interface to the underlying C iterator, so we need to explicitly invoke close to release the in-memory snapshot data, which can be large and accumulated quickly if it's not released when not in use. Maybe I am missing something as you suggested here, but looks to me using weak references might not help in this case.

I understand your concern, and I think you might misunderstood what I meant. I am totally for working hard for best user experience, and I think the current API provides a good example of that. That's also the reason I am implementing a runner here. I am just proposing an extra API to expose an iterator that can be closed when not needed, that way the users can use this feature to iterate through large state that doesn't fit into memory. I believe this is also a pretty general use case and it's better to have support for it. I am actually arguing this will be a better user experience to add this extra API since more users can benefit from it.


On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 5:25 PM, Lukasz Cwik <lcwik@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I don't agree. I believe you can track the iterators/iterables that are created and freed by using weak references and reference queues (or other methods). Having a few people work 10x as hard to provide a good implementation is much better then having 100s or 1000s of users suffering through a more complicated API.

On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 3:44 PM Xinyu Liu <xinyuliu.us@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Load/evict blocks will help reduce the cache memory footprint, but we still won't be able to release the underlying resources. We can add definitely heuristics to help release the resources as you mentioned, but there is no accurate way to track all the iterators/iterables created and free them up once not needed. I think while the API is aimed at nice user experience, we should have the option to let users optimize their performance if they choose to. Do you agree?


On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 3:25 PM, Lukasz Cwik <lcwik@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Users won't reliably close/release the resources and forcing them to will make the user experience worse.
It will make a lot more sense to use a file format which allows random access and use a cache to load/evict blocks of the state from memory.
If that is not possible, use an iterable which frees the resource after a certain amount of inactivity or uses weak references.

On Thu, May 10, 2018 at 3:07 PM Xinyu Liu <xinyuliu.us@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Hi, folks,

I'm in the middle of implementing the MapState and SetState in our Samza runner. We noticed that the state returns the Java Iterable for reading entries, keys, etc. For state backed by file-based kv store like rocksDb, we need to be able to let users explicitly close iterator/iterable to release the resources.Otherwise we have to load the iterable into memory so we can safely close the underlying rocksDb iterator, similar to Flink's implementation. But this won't work for states that don't fit into memory. I chatted with Kenn and he also agrees we need this capability to avoid bulk read/write. This seems to be a general use case and I'm wondering if we can add the support to it? I am happy to contribute to this if needed. Any feedback is highly appreciated.