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Developing Applications with Oracle Coherence
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6 Introduction to Coherence Clusters

This chapter describes Coherence clusters and how cluster members use the Tangosol Cluster Management Protocol (TCMP) to communicate with each other. Cluster services are also described and each cluster service is defined.

This chapter includes the following sections:

6.1 Cluster Overview

A Coherence cluster is a network of JVM processes that run Coherence. JVMs automatically join together to form a cluster and are called cluster members or cluster nodes. Cluster members communicate using the Tangosol Cluster Management Protocol (TCMP). Cluster members use TCMP for both multicast communication (broadcast) and unicast communication (point-to-point communication).

A cluster contains services that are shared by all cluster members. The services include connectivity services (such as the Cluster service), cache services (such as the Distributed Cache service), and processing services (such as the invocation service). Each cluster member can provide and consume such services. The first cluster member is referred to as the senior member and typically starts the core services that are required to create the cluster. If the senior member of the cluster is shutdown, another cluster member assumes the senior member role.

6.2 Understanding TCMP

TCMP is an IP-based protocol that is used to discover cluster members, manage the cluster, provision services, and transmit data. TCMP can be configured to use:

  • A combination of UDP/IP multicast and UDP/IP unicast. This is the default configuration.

  • UDP/IP unicast only (that is, no multicast). See "Disabling Multicast Communication". This configuration is used for network environments that do not support multicast or where multicast is not optimally configured.

  • TCP/IP only (no UDP/IP multicast or UDP/IP unicast). See "Using the TCP Socket Provider". This configuration is used for network environments that favor TCP.

  • SDP/IP only (no UDP/IP multicast or UDP/IP unicast). See "Using the SDP Socket Provider". This configuration is used for network environments that favor SDP.

  • SSL over TCP/IP or SDP/IP. See "Using the SSL Socket Provider". This configuration is used for network environments that require highly secure communication between cluster members.

Use of Multicast

Multicast is used as follows:

  • Cluster discovery: Multicast is used to discover if there is a cluster running that a new member can join.

  • Cluster heartbeat: The most senior member in the cluster issues a periodic heartbeat through multicast; the rate can be configured and defaults to one per second.

  • Message delivery: Messages that must be delivered to multiple cluster members are often sent through multicast, instead of unicasting the message one time to each member.

Use of Unicast

Unicast is used as follows:

  • Direct member-to-member (point-to-point) communication, including messages, asynchronous acknowledgments (ACKs), asynchronous negative acknowledgments (NACKs) and peer-to-peer heartbeats. A majority of the communication on the cluster is point-to-point.

  • Under some circumstances, a message may be sent through unicast even if the message is directed to multiple members. This is done to shape traffic flow and to reduce CPU load in very large clusters.

  • All communication is sent using unicast if multicast communication is disabled.

Use of TCP

TCP is used as follows:

  • A TCP/IP ring is used as an additional death detection mechanism to differentiate between actual node failure and an unresponsive node (for example, when a JVM conducts a full GC).

  • TCMP can be configured to exclusively use TCP for data transfers. Like UDP, the transfers can be configured to use only unicast or both unicast and multicast.

Protocol Reliability

The TCMP protocol provides fully reliable, in-order delivery of all messages. Since the underlying UDP/IP protocol does not provide for either reliable or in-order delivery, TCMP uses a queued, fully asynchronous ACK- and NACK-based mechanism for reliable delivery of messages, with unique integral identity for guaranteed ordering of messages.

Protocol Resource Utilization

The TCMP protocol (as configured by default) requires only three UDP/IP sockets (one multicast, two unicast) and six threads per JVM, regardless of the cluster size. This is a key element in the scalability of Coherence; regardless of the number of servers, each node in the cluster still communicates either point-to-point or with collections of cluster members without requiring additional network connections.

The optional TCP/IP ring uses a few additional TCP/IP sockets, and an additional thread.

Protocol Tunability

The TCMP protocol is very tunable to take advantage of specific network topologies, or to add tolerance for low-bandwidth and high-latency segments in a geographically distributed cluster. Coherence comes with a pre-set configuration. Some TCMP attributes are dynamically self-configuring at run time, but can also be overridden and locked down for deployment purposes.

6.3 Understanding Cluster Services

Coherence functionality is based on the concept of cluster services. Each cluster node can provide as well as consume any number of named services. These named services may be running on one or more other cluster nodes or a cluster node can register new named services. Each named service has a service name that uniquely identifies the service within the cluster and a service type that defines what the service can do. There may be multiple named instances of each service type (other than the root Cluster service). The following service types are supported by Coherence.

Connectivity Services

  • Cluster Service: This service is automatically started when a cluster node must join the cluster; each cluster node always has exactly one service of this type running. This service is responsible for the detection of other cluster nodes, for detecting the failure of a cluster node, and for registering the availability of other services in the cluster.

  • Proxy Service: This service allows connections (using TCP) from clients that run outside the cluster. While many applications are configured so that all clients are also cluster members, there are many use cases where it is desirable to have clients running outside the cluster. Remote clients are especially useful in cases where there are hundreds or thousands of client processes, where the clients are not running on the Java platform, or where a greater degree of coupling is desired.

Processing Services

  • Invocation Service: This service provides clustered invocation and supports grid computing architectures. This services allows applications to invoke agents on any node in the cluster, or any group of nodes, or across the entire cluster. The agent invocations can be request/response, fire and forget, or an asynchronous user-definable model.

Data Services

  • Distributed Cache Service: This service allows cluster nodes to distribute (partition) data across the cluster so that each piece of data in the cache is managed (held) by only one cluster node. The Distributed Cache Service supports pessimistic locking. Additionally, to support failover without any data loss, the service can be configured so that each piece of data is backed up by one or more other cluster nodes. Lastly, some cluster nodes can be configured to hold no data at all; this is useful, for example, to limit the Java heap size of an application server process, by setting the application server processes to not hold any distributed data, and by running additional cache server JVMs to provide the distributed cache storage. For more information on distributed caches, see "Distributed Cache".

  • Replicated Cache Service: This is a synchronized replicated cache service that fully replicates all of its data to all cluster nodes that run the service. Replicated caches support pessimistic locking to ensure that all cluster members receive the update when data is modified. Replicated caches are often used to manage internal application metadata. For more information on replicated caches, see "Replicated Cache".

  • Optimistic Cache Service: This is an optimistic-concurrency version of the Replicated Cache Service that fully replicates all of its data to all cluster nodes and employs an optimization similar to optimistic database locking to maintain coherency. All servers end up with the same current value even if multiple updates occur at the same exact time from different servers. The Optimistic Cache Service does not support pessimistic locking; so, in general, it should only be used for caching most recently known values for read-only uses. This service is rarely used. For more information on optimistic caches, see "Optimistic Cache".

A clustered service typically uses one daemon thread and optionally has a thread pool that can be configured to provide the service with additional processing bandwidth. For example, the invocation service and the distributed cache service both fully support thread pooling to accelerate database load operations, parallel distributed queries, and agent invocations.

The above services are only the basic cluster services and not the full set of types of caches provided by Coherence. By combining clustered services with cache features, such as backing maps and overflow maps, Coherence provides an extremely flexible and configurable set of options for clustered applications.

Within a cache service, there exists any number of named caches. A named cache provides the standard JCache API, which is based on the Java collections API for key-value pairs, known as java.util.Map.