Kafka – Insights (Managing under-replicated topic’s alert)

Apache Kafka is a distributed fault tolerant queue based messaging system. It has main component as Producer, consumer, topic, zookeeper, kafka broker. We are going to discuss today with respect to workflow of kafka publish-subscribe system working & some tips & treaks we can configure in order to maintain it very well.

Now lets discuss how kafka works internally

  1. Producers send message to a topic at regular intervals.
  2. Kafka broker stores all messages in the partitions configured for that particular topic. It ensures the messages are equally shared between partitions. If the producer sends two messages and there are two partitions, Kafka will store one message in the first partition and the second message in the second partition.
    Usually we can set partitions & replications factor while declaring kafka topics :
    bin/kafka-topics.sh –create –zookeeper localhost:2181 –replication-factor 1 –partitions 1 –topic topic-name
  3. Consumer subscribes to a specific topic.
  4. Once the consumer subscribes to a topic, Kafka will provide the current offset of the topic to the consumer and also saves the offset in the Zookeeper ensemble.
  5. Consumer will request the Kafka in a regular interval (like 100 Ms) for new messages.
  6. Once Kafka receives the messages from producers, it forwards these messages to the consumers.
  7. Consumer will receive the message and process it.
  8. Once the messages are processed, consumer will send an acknowledgement to the Kafka broker.
  9. Once Kafka receives an acknowledgement, it changes the offset to the new value and updates it in the Zookeeper. Since offsets are maintained in the Zookeeper, the consumer can read next message correctly even during server outrages.
  10. This above flow will repeat until the consumer stops the request.
  11. Consumer has the option to rewind/skip to the desired offset of a topic at any time and read all the subsequent messages.

Now here consider if we have kafka cluster of 4 nodes & replication factor for a topic 3. As we know kafka maintains list of in-sync replicas(ISR) based on 2 configuration

  1. replica.lag.max.messages : This config tells that if a replica is out-of-sync with master for more than N messages than it removes that replica from ISR & creates an alert for a particular topic being under replicated as that replica is out-of-sync for N number of messages.
  2. replica.lag.time.max.ms : This config tells that if a slave (Replica) didn’t send a request to master for a message within configured time than that replica will removed from ISR(In-sync replica) & alert will be pop as under replicated topic.

Sometimes while working on production we face a lots of this kinds of errors which is not a good sign. There are various reasons for a node or replica for being slow or down.
so the ideal practice to minimize the alerts is to only set replica.lag.max.ms & avoid setting replica.lag.max.messages .

Thanks to  Neha nerkhade (https://www.confluent.io/blog/author/neha-narkhede/) for her awesome blog.

Reference :


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