Upgrade controllers with no API downtime


Problem Description

Currently, database migration for a new major neutron release means full shutdown of all neutron-server instances before contract alembic migration scripts are applied.

When running a popular cloud, it’s usually hard or impractical to shut down all neutron-server instances before applying all contract alembic migration scripts that may take a while, especially for databases with a lot of data to migrate. Such a shutdown requires a significantly more elaborate planning, trying to squeeze the upgrade process in a maintenance window with less disruption to API users. For clouds with high SLAs, it may be impossible to shutdown all Neutron API endpoints at one time, leaving users with no Networking API for extended time. Due to dependencies from other services (i.e. Nova) on Neutron API availability, upgrades have a greater impact as Neutron is a central service in any Openstack installation.

This spec describes an approach to allow for non-impacting neutron-server upgrades, leaving instances running in a cluster. Instead of full shutdown, operators will be able to upgrade the services in rolling mode, upgrading each node running the service without disruption for other such nodes. If Networking API is served by multiple nodes hidden behind a load balancer, that approach should allow for no-downtime upgrade experience. Ideally, users would not notice any issues accessing Neutron API services for the entirety of the upgrade.


Running mixed major versions of neutron-server in a cloud opens the question of how to mitigate slight differences of API behaviour between those versions. For example, in Newton, all resources received a new project_id field. If we would run mixed Mitaka/Newton versions of neutron-server behind a round robin load balancer, then consequent GET calls for the same resource would result in different reply payloads, depending on which particular neutron-server is hit by an API request.

Enforcing consistent API behaviour for mixed version environment, or pinning API behaviour to a version that would describe previous major version behaviour, is out of scope for the proposal. Consequent blueprints may clarify best practices, or propose mechanisms for strict API behaviour control.

Proposed Change

Since neutron-server downtime derives solely from executing unsafe contract upgrade migrations while neutron-server is operational, the solution is to make those migrations safe for online execution, or eliminate them. This is achieved with two major changes:

  1. Time consuming data migration changes are moved from neutron-db-manage phase into neutron-server itself, so that data is migrated while the service is up and serving requests, instead of while it’s fully shut down. Data migration process will be lazy, happening at the time when a resource is touched by plugin code. That said, users should not be able to switch to a next major version before they complete migration for all remaining resources. We will provide a tool to trigger pending migrations (preferrably in chunks) that will become part of preparation process for next upgrade. The tool will be modeled similar to online-data-migrations command found in Cinder.
  2. Remaining schema contraction changes are postponed to the time when:
    • all the data is migrated from old tables/columns, and
    • no neutron-server instances running in a cluster are able to access obsolete tables/columns.


This idea is not new, other projects already got rid of unsafe migration scripts that would require offline execution. Among those projects are Nova and Cinder.

Data migration between multiple tables/columns implemented in neutron-server runtime is potentially error prone and requires specific reviewer attention. It would be impractical to expect proper attention to those intricacies for any patch that needs to read or update a database model. So the first step is to isolate the layer that has access to database models behind a special facade. The base of the facade is oslo.versionedobjects and corresponding NeutronObject framework that is already in tree and is successfully used by several features (qos, vlan-aware-vms). The work to switch all the plugin code that accesses database using SQLAlchemy models, to object facade, is ongoing and is tracked as a separate blueprint.

Once plugin code is switched to using objects for resource persistence, we can implement any needed data migration rules in a single place, in a corresponding object class, isolating consuming code from all the complexities of the migration/conversion process.

Even with persistence facade, some work on migration mechanism and techniques is expected. For the start, an Ocata feature that would need a schema/data migration change will be identified and used as a guinea pig to explore the proposal practicalities.

At the time of writing, port bindings rework is probably the best candidate to try the new approach.

As for unsafe schema changes, if at release X we want to introduce a contract migration we can only do so destructively in release X+2 (i.e. after all the data used by X and X+1 located in the old schema is migrated), which guarantees that whenever the deployer upgrades to X+2 (from X+1), the server instance running behind won’t hit the data/code being affected by the schema migration. At this point, even seemingly unsafe operations like dropping tables or columns become safe to execute while neutron-server instances are online. For Ocata, there should be no new contract alembic scripts at all. Those may show up again in later releases.

To achieve the goal for Newton to Ocata upgrades, we should guarantee that all patches will follow decided path during Ocata. This will be achieved by both automation as well as social means.

For the former, we introduce a functional test that fails on attempt to execute an operation known to be unsafe.

We will probably not be able to catch everything programmatically, so we still need to make sure core reviewer team is aware of new requirements, and proactively track all proposed alembic migrations at least first cycles until it becomes a habit of an average Joe the Reviewer to spot and -1 unsafe patches.

To make sure the new upgrade mode works, a new gating grenade job will be implemented that will run multiple neutron-server instances of different major versions. Access to Networking API will be implemented using a lightweight load balancer (haproxy) hiding multiple instances of neutron-server behind it. We may also consider moving known consumers of Neutron API (for example, Nova) to the ‘old’ subnode to make sure it can talk to newer as well as older Neutron in the same setup. Only two adjacent major versions of neutron-server will be used in the grenade job to conform to assert:supports-upgrade tag requirements.

Action items

(The feature assumes completion of adopt-oslo-versioned-objects-for-db blueprint but does not strictly depend on it.)

  1. Block unsafe contract migrations at the start of Ocata (Done).
  2. Explore practicalities of the proposal for data migrations for a new feature.
  3. Add a voting grenade job running different major versions of neutron-server.
  4. Document new upgrade path in ops upgrades guide, with its limitations.
  5. Update devref and wider audience about new requirements.



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