Drydock User Guide
Phabricator User Documentation (Application User Guides)

Drydock, a software and hardware resource manager.

Overview

WARNING: Drydock is very new and has many sharp edges. Prepare yourself for a challenging adventure in unmapped territory, not a streamlined experience where things work properly or make sense.

Drydock is an infrastructure application that primarily helps other applications coordinate during complex build and deployment tasks. Typically, you will configure Drydock to enable capabilities in other applications:

  • Harbormaster can use Drydock to host builds.
  • Differential can use Drydock to perform server-side merges.

Users will not normally interact with Drydock directly.

If you want to get started with Drydock right away, see Drydock User Guide: Quick Start for specific instructions on configuring integrations.

What Drydock Does

Drydock manages working copies, hosts, and other software and hardware resources that build and deployment processes may require in order to perform useful work.

Many useful processes need a working copy of a repository (or some similar sort of resource) so they can read files, perform version control operations, or execute code.

For example, you might want to be able to automatically run unit tests, build a binary, or generate documentation every time a new commit is pushed. Or you might want to automatically merge a revision or cherry-pick a commit from a development branch to a release branch. Any of these tasks need a working copy of the repository before they can get underway.

These processes could just clone a new working copy when they started and delete it when they finished. This works reasonably well at a small scale, but will eventually hit limitations if you want to do things like: expand the build tier to multiple machines; or automatically scale the tier up and down based on usage; or reuse working copies to improve performance; or make sure things get cleaned up after a process fails; or have jobs wait if the tier is too busy. Solving these problems effectively requires coordination between the processes doing the actual work.

Drydock solves these scaling problems by providing a central allocation framework for resources, which are physical or virtual resources like a host or a working copy. Processes which need to share hardware or software can use Drydock to coordinate creation, access, and destruction of those resources.

Applications ask Drydock for resources matching a description, and it allocates a corresponding resource by either finding a suitable unused resource or creating a new resource. When work completes, the resource is returned to the resource pool or destroyed.

Getting Started with Drydock

In general, you will interact with Drydock by configuring blueprints, which tell Drydock how to build resources. You can jump into this topic directly in Drydock Blueprints.

For help on configuring specific application features:

You should also understand the Drydock security model before deploying it in a production environment. See Drydock User Guide: Security.

The remainder of this document has some additional high-level discussion about how Drydock works and why it works that way, which may be helpful in understanding the application as a whole.

Drydock Concepts

The major concepts in Drydock are Blueprints, Resources, Leases, and the Allocator.

Blueprints are configuration that tells Drydock how to create resources: where it can put them, how to access them, how many it can make at once, who is allowed to ask for access to them, how to actually build them, how to clean them up when they are no longer in use, and so on.

Drydock starts without any blueprints. You'll add blueprints to configure Drydock and enable it to satisfy requests for resources. You can learn more about blueprints in Drydock Blueprints.

Resources represent things (like hosts or working copies) that Drydock has created, is managing the lifecycle for, and can give other applications access to.

Leases are requests for resources with certain qualities by other applications. For example, Harbormaster may request a working copy of a particular repository so it can run unit tests.

The Allocator is where Drydock actually does work. It works roughly like this:

  • An application creates a lease describing a resource it needs, and uses this lease to ask Drydock for an appropriate resource.
  • Drydock looks at free resources to try to find one it can use to satisfy the request. If it finds one, it marks the resource as in use and gives the application details about how to access it.
  • If it can't find an appropriate resource that already exists, it looks at the blueprints it has configured to try to build one. If it can, it creates a new resource, then gives the application access to it.
  • Once the application finishes using the resource, it frees it. Depending on configuration, Drydock may reuse it, destroy it, or hold onto it and make a decision later.

Some minor concepts in Drydock are Slot Locks and Repository Operations.

Slot Locks are simple optimistic locks that most Drydock blueprints use to avoid race conditions. Their design is not particularly interesting or novel, they're just a fairly good fit for most of the locking problems that Drydock blueprints tend to encounter and Drydock provides APIs to make them easy to work with.

Repository Operations help other applications coordinate writes to repositories. Multiple applications perform similar kinds of writes, and these writes require more sequencing/coordination and user feedback than other operations.

Architecture Overview

This section describes some of Drydock's design goals and architectural choices, so you can understand its strengths and weaknesses and which problem domains it is well or poorly suited for.

A typical use case for Drydock is giving another application access to a working copy in order to run a build or unit test operation. Drydock can satisfy the request and resume execution of application code in 1-2 seconds under reasonable conditions and with moderate tradeoffs, and can satisfy a large number of these requests in parallel.

Scalable: Drydock is designed to scale easily to something in the realm of thousands of hosts in hundreds of pools, and far beyond that with a little work.

Drydock is intended to solve resource management problems at very large scales and minimizes blocking operations, locks, and artificial sequencing. Drydock is designed to fully utilize an almost arbitrarily large pool of resources and improve performance roughly linearly with available hardware.

Because the application assumes that deployment at this scale and complexity level is typical, you may need to configure more things and do more work than you would under the simplifying assumptions of small scale.

Heavy Resources: Drydock assumes that resources are relatively heavyweight and and require a meaningful amount (a second or more) of work to build, maintain and tear down. It also assumes that leases will often have substantial lifespans (seconds or minutes) while performing operations.

Resources like working copies (which typically take several seconds to create with a command like git clone) and VMs (which typically take several seconds to spin up) are good fits for Drydock and for the problems it is intended to solve.

Lease operations like running unit tests, performing builds, executing merges, generating documentation and running temporary services (which typically last at least a few seconds) are also good fits for Drydock.

In both cases, the general concern with lightweight resources and operations is that Drydock operation overhead is roughly on the order of a second for many tasks, so overhead from Drydock will be substantial if resources are built and torn down in a few milliseconds or lease operations require only a fraction of a second to execute.

As a rule of thumb, Drydock may be a poor fit for a problem if operations typically take less than a second to build, execute, and destroy.

Focus on Resource Construction: Drydock is primarily solving a resource construction problem: something needs a resource matching some description, so Drydock finds or builds that resource as quickly as possible.

Drydock generally prioritizes responding to requests quickly over other concerns, like minimizing waste or performing complex scheduling. Although you can make adjustments to some of these behaviors, it generally assumes that resources are cheap compared to the cost of waiting for resource construction.

This isn't to say that Drydock is grossly wasteful or has a terrible scheduler, just that efficient utilization and efficient scheduling aren't the primary problems the design focuses on.

This prioritization corresponds to scenarios where resources are something like hosts or working copies, and operations are something like builds, and the cost of hosts and storage is small compared to the cost of engineer time spent waiting on jobs to get scheduled.

Drydock may be a weak fit for a problem if it is bounded by resource availability and using resources as efficiently as possible is very important. Drydock generally assumes you will respond to a resource deficit by making more resources available (usually very cheap), rather than by paying engineers to wait for operations to complete (usually very expensive).

Isolation Tradeoffs: Drydock assumes that multiple operations running at similar levels of trust may be interested in reducing isolation to improve performance, reduce complexity, or satisfy some other similar goal. It does not guarantee isolation and assumes most operations will not run in total isolation.

If this isn't true for your use case, you'll need to be careful in configuring Drydock to make sure that operations are fully isolated and can not interact. Complete isolation will reduce the performance of the allocator as it will generally prevent it from reusing resources, which is one of the major ways it can improve performance.

You can find more discussion of these tradeoffs in Drydock User Guide: Security.

Agentless: Drydock does not require an agent or daemon to be installed on hosts. It interacts with hosts over SSH.

Very Abstract: Drydock's design is extremely abstract. Resources have very little hardcoded behavior. The allocator has essentially zero specialized knowledge about what it is actually doing.

One aspect of this abstractness is that Drydock is composable, and solves complex allocation problems by asking itself to build the pieces it needs. To build a working copy, Drydock first asks itself for a suitable host. It solves this allocation sub-problem, then resolves the original request.

This allows new types of resources to build on Drydock's existing knowledge of resource construction by just saying "build one of these other things you already know how to build, then apply a few adjustments". This also means that you can tell Drydock about a new way to build hosts (say, bring up VMs from a different service provider) and the rest of the pipeline can use these new hosts interchangeably with the old hosts.

While this design theoretically makes Drydock more powerful and more flexible than a less abstract approach, abstraction is frequently a double-edged sword.

Drydock is almost certainly at the extreme upper end of abstraction for tools in this space, and the level of abstraction may ultimately match poorly with a particular problem domain. Alternative approaches may give you more specialized and useful tools for approaching a given problem.

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