Copyright (c) 2014 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
Unported License.

Nodepool launch and delete workers


Split the node launch and delete operations into separate workers for scalability and flexibility.

Problem Description

When nodepool launches or deletes a node, it creates a thread for the operation. As nodepool scales up the number of nodes it manages, it may have a very large number of concurrent threads. To launch 1,000 nodes would consume an additional 1,000 threads. Much of this time is spent waiting (sleeping or performing network I/O outside of the global interpreter lock), so despite Python’s threading limitations, this is generally not a significant performance problem.

However, recently we have seen that seemingly small amounts of additional computation can starve important threads in nodepool, such as the main loop or the gearman I/O threads. It would be better if we could limit the impact of thread contention on critical paths of the program while still preserving our ability to launch >1,000 nodes at once.

Proposed Change

Create a new worker (independent process which may run on either the main nodepool host or one or more new servers) which performs node launch and delete taks called ‘nodepool-launcher’. All of the interaction with providers related to launching and deleting servers (including ip allocation, initial ssh sessions, etc) will be done with this worker.

The nodepool-launcher worker would read a configuration file with the same syntax as the main nodepool server in order to obtain cloud credentials. The worker should be told which providers it should handle via command-line arguments (the default should be all providers).

It will register functions with gearman in the form “node-launch:<provider>” and “node-delete:<provider>” for each of the providers it handles. Generally a single worker should expect to have exclusive control of a given provider, as that allows the rate limiting performed by the provider manager to be effective. Though there should be no technical limitation that enforces this, just a recommendation to the operator to avoid having more than one nodepool-launcher working with any given provider.

The worker will launch threads for each of the jobs in much the same way that the current nodepool server does. The worker may handle as many simultaneous jobs as desired. This may be unlimited as it is currently, or it could be a configurable limit so that, say, it does not have more than 100 simultaneous server launches running. It is not expected that the launcher would suffer the same starvation issues that we have seen in the main nodepool server (due to its more limited functionality), but if it does, this control could be used to mitigate it.

The main nodepool server will then largely consist of the main loop and associated actions. Anywhere that it currently spawns a thread to launch or delete a node should be converted into a gearman function call to launch or delete. The main loop will still create the database entry for the initial node launch (so that its calulations may proceed as they do now) and should simply pass the node id as an argument to the launch gearman function. Similarly, it should mark nodes as deleted when the ZMQ message arrives, and then submit a delete function call with the node id.

The main loop currently keeps track of ongoing delete threads so that the periodic cleanup task does not launch more than one. Similarly with this change it should keep track of delete jobs and not launch more than one simultaneously. It should additionally keep track of launch jobs, and if the launch is unsuccessful (or the worker disconnects – this also returns WORK_FAIL) it should mark the node for deletion and launch a delete thread. This will maintain the current behavior where if nodepool is stopped (in this case, a nodepool launch-worker is stopped), building nodes are deleted rather than being orphaned.


Nodepool could be made into a more single-threaded application, however, we would need to devise a state machine for all of the points at which we wait for something to complete during the launch cycle, and they are quite numerous and changing all the time. This would seem to be very complex whereas threading is actually an ideal paradigm.



Primary assignee: unknown

Work Items

  • Create nodepool-launcher class and command
  • Change main server to launch gearman jobs instead of threads
  • Stress test


This affects nodepool and system-config.


No new servers are required, but are optional. Initial implementation should be colocated on the current nodepool server (it has underutilized virtual CPUs).

DNS Entries



The infra/system-config nodepool documentation should be updated to describe the new system.


The gearman protocol is cleartext and unauthenticated. IP based access control is currently used, and certificate support along with authentication is planned and work is in progress. No sensitive information will be sent over the wire (workers will read cloud provider credentials from a local file).


This should be testable privately and locally before deployment in production.



Similar in spirit, but does not require