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Kafka Summit San Francisco 2018

October 16-17, 2018 | San Francisco

Hardening Kafka Replication

Video & Slides

Kafka has a well-designed replication protocol, but over the years, we have found some extremely subtle edge cases which can, in the worst case, lead to data loss. We fixed the cases we were aware of in version 0.11.0.0, but shortly after that, another edge case popped up and then another. Clearly we needed a better approach to verify the correctness of the protocol. What we found is Leslie Lamport’s specification language TLA+.

In this talk I will discuss how we have stepped up our testing methodology in Apache Kafka to include formal specification and model checking using TLA+. I will cover the following:

  1. How Kafka replication works
  2. What weaknesses we have found over the years
  3. How these problems have been fixed
  4. How we have used TLA+ to verify the fixed protocol.

This talk will give you a deeper understanding of Kafka replication internals and its semantics. The replication protocol is a great case study in the complex behavior of distributed systems. By studying the faults and how they were fixed, you will have more insight into the kinds of problems that may lurk in your own designs. You will also learn a little bit of TLA+ and how it can be used to verify distributed algorithms.


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