Asynchronous computing at Meta: Overview and learnings

  • We’ve made structure modifications to Meta’s occasion pushed asynchronous computing platform which have  enabled straightforward integration with a number of event-sources. 
  • We’re sharing our learnings from dealing with numerous workloads and the best way 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 anticipate a workload to be executed instantly; as a substitute, it will get scheduled for execution someday within the close to future with out blocking the latency-critical path of the appliance. At Meta, we’ve constructed a platform for serverless asynchronous computing that’s offered as a service for different engineering groups. They register asynchronous capabilities on the platform after which submit workloads for execution through our SDK. The platform executes these workloads within the background on a big fleet of employees and offers extra capabilities resembling load balancing, price limiting, quota administration, downstream safety and lots of others. We check with this infrastructure internally as “Async tier.” 

At present we help myriad totally different buyer use circumstances which lead to multi-trillion workloads being executed every day.

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

Basic 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 liable for accepting the workloads and storing them for execution. Right here, each latency and reliability are crucial: This layer should settle for the workload and reply again ASAP, and it should retailer the workload reliably all the way in which to profitable execution. 

Transport and routing

This offers with transferring the sufficient 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 liable for the computation and may trigger failures. Thus, we outline sending the proper quantity as “flow-control.”

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


This often refers to particular employee runtime the place the precise perform execution takes place.

Again in 2020

Up to now, Meta constructed its personal distributed precedence queue, equal to a number of the queuing options offered 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 crucial 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 prime of MySQL and offers the power to place objects within the queue with a timestamp, after which they need to be out there for consumption as an enqueue operation. The out there objects could 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 out there 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, that means that clients can take a lease on subsequently enqueued, out there objects although the oldest merchandise was neither ACKed nor NACKed. There’s already an amazing article on the topic in case you are eager about diving deeply into how we scaled FOQS.

Async tier leveraged FOQS by introducing a light-weight service, known as “Submitter,” that clients may use to submit their workloads to the queue. Submitter would do primary validation / overload safety and enqueue these things into FOQS. The transport layer consisted of a part known as “Dispatcher.” This pulled objects 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 duty, rising in dimension, and changing into nearly a single place for all the brand new options and logic that the staff is engaged on. It was:

  • Consuming objects from FOQS, managing their lifecycle.
  • Defending FOQS from overload by adaptively adjusting dequeue charges.
  • Offering all common options resembling price 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 move management.

Consolidating a major quantity of logic in a single part finally made it exhausting for us to work on new capabilities in parallel and scale the staff operationally.

Exterior information sources

On the identical time we began to see an increasing number of requests from clients who wish to execute their workloads primarily based on information that’s already saved in different programs, resembling stream, information warehouse, blob storage, pub sub queues, or many others. Though it was potential to do within the current system, it was coming together with sure downsides.

Asynchronous computation

The constraints within the above structure are:

  1. Prospects needed to write their very own options to learn information from the unique storage and submit it to our platform through Submitter API. It was inflicting recurrent duplicate work throughout a number of totally different use circumstances.
  2. Knowledge 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 specific kinds of information and cargo patterns than others. For instance, the price of storing information from high-traffic streams or giant information warehouse tables within the queue could be considerably larger than preserving it within the authentic storage.


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

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

Asynchronous computation

Generic transport layer

Within the outdated 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 part liable for managing the execution and offering a compute-related set of capabilities resembling price limiting, quota administration, load balancing, and many others. We name this “scheduler”—an impartial service with a generic API.

Studying workloads

Each information supply could 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 deal with these “learn logic”–the assorted mechanisms for studying totally different information sources. These adapters act just like the UNIX tail command, tailing the information supply for brand new workloads—so we name these “tailers.” Through the onboarding, for every information supply that the client makes use of, the platform launches corresponding tailer situations for studying that information. 

With these modifications in place, our structure seems like this:

Asynchronous computation

Push versus pull and penalties

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

The advantage of this modification 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 grew to become extra correct with this modification, since they’d be managed centrally from the tailer as a substitute 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 information duplication (owing to buffering in FOQS) and treating all information sources as first-class residents on our platform. 

Nevertheless, there have been a few drawbacks to those modifications as nicely. As push mode is actually an RPC, it’s not an amazing match for long-running workloads. It requires each consumer and server to allocate sources for the connection and maintain them throughout the complete perform operating time, which might change into a major downside at scale. Additionally, synchronous workloads that run for some time have an elevated probability of failure as a result of transient errors that may make them begin over once more fully. 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, but it surely’s essential to contemplate this limitation if a major a part of your capabilities 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 not getting copied in FOQS for the only real function of buffering.
  • Prospects don’t want to take a position additional 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 numerous information sources, we’ve created an area for additional effectivity wins because of the capability to decide on probably the most environment friendly storage for every particular person use case. Over time we observed two common choices that clients select: queue (FOQS) and stream (Scribe). Since we’ve sufficient operational expertise with each of them, we’re presently ready to match 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 on the subject of retry insurance policies, granular per-item entry, and variadic perform operating time, primarily because of the idea of lease and arbitrary ordering help. If computation was unsuccessful for some workloads, they could possibly be granularly retried by NACKing the merchandise again to the queue with arbitrary delay. Nevertheless, the idea of lease comes at the price of an inside merchandise lifecycle administration system. In the identical approach, priority-based ordering comes at the price of the secondary index on objects. These made queues an amazing common alternative with a variety of flexibility, at a reasonable price.

Streams are much less versatile, since they supply immutable information in batches and can’t help granular retries or random entry per merchandise. Nevertheless, 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 potential 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 potential 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 could be despatched for computation, and the tailer would learn the following batch and advance the checkpoint additional as soon as all objects had been processed. As this continued, if even one of many objects within the final batch failed, the system wouldn’t have the ability to make ahead progress till, after a couple of retries, it’s processed efficiently. For a high traffic stream, this might construct up important lag forward of the checkpoint, and the platform would finally battle to catch up. The opposite choice 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 objects and retry them after arbitrary delay with out blocking the complete stream. This service will settle for the workloads together with their supposed delay intervals (exponential backoff retry intervals can be utilized right here), and upon completion of this delay interval, it’s going to ship the objects to computation. We name this the controlled-delay service. 

We now have explored two potential 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 have to cope with a small fraction of outliers. In that case, it’s essential to make it possible for throughout a large improve in errors (for instance, when 100% of jobs are failing), we’ll clog the stream fully as a substitute of copying it into Delay service.
  2. Create a number of predefined delay-streams which are blocked by a set 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 out there delay-streams to realize 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 probably permit Delay service to run at an even bigger scale with decrease price.

Observations and learnings

The primary takeaway from our observations is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all resolution on the subject of operating async computation at scale. You’ll have to always consider tradeoffs and select an method primarily based on the specifics of your specific use circumstances. We famous that streams with RPC are finest suited to help high-traffic, short-running workloads, whereas lengthy execution time or granular retries will likely 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 price, investing in a separate service to deal with the retriable workloads could be helpful.