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proposed -

This document is a work-in-progress and represents a very early state of the Pods design. Significant aspects are not documented, though we expect to add them in the future. This is one possible architecture for Pods, and we intend to contrast this with alternatives before deciding which approach to implement. This documentation will be kept even if we decide not to implement this so that we can document the reasons for not choosing this approach.

Proposal: Stateless Router

We will decompose gitlab_users, gitlab_routes and gitlab_admin related tables so that they can be shared between all pods and allow any pod to authenticate a user and route requests to the correct pod. Pods may receive requests for the resources they don’t own, but they know how to redirect back to the correct pod.

The router is stateless and does not read from the routes database which means that all interactions with the database still happen from the Rails monolith. This architecture also supports regions by allowing for low traffic databases to be replicated across regions.

Users are not directly exposed to the concept of Pods but instead they see different data dependent on their chosen “organization”. Organizations will be a new model introduced to enforce isolation in the application and allow us to decide which request route to which pod, since an organization can only be on a single pod.

Differences

The main difference between this proposal and the one with learning routes is that this proposal always sends requests to any of the Pods. If the requests cannot be processed, the requests will be bounced back with relevant headers. This requires that request to be buffered. It allows that request decoding can be either via URI or Body of request by Rails. This means that each request might be sent more than once and be processed more than once as result.

The with learning routes proposal requires that routable information is always encoded in URI, and the router sends a pre-flight request.

Summary in diagrams

This shows how a user request routes via DNS to the nearest router and the router chooses a pod to send the request to.

graph TD; user((User)); dns[DNS]; router_us(Router); router_eu(Router); pod_us0{Pod US0}; pod_us1{Pod US1}; pod_eu0{Pod EU0}; pod_eu1{Pod EU1}; user-->dns; dns-->router_us; dns-->router_eu; subgraph Europe router_eu-->pod_eu0; router_eu-->pod_eu1; end subgraph United States router_us-->pod_us0; router_us-->pod_us1; end
More detail This shows that the router can actually send requests to any pod. The user will get the closest router to them geographically. ```mermaid graph TD; user((User)); dns[DNS]; router_us(Router); router_eu(Router); pod_us0{Pod US0}; pod_us1{Pod US1}; pod_eu0{Pod EU0}; pod_eu1{Pod EU1}; user-->dns; dns-->router_us; dns-->router_eu; subgraph Europe router_eu-->pod_eu0; router_eu-->pod_eu1; end subgraph United States router_us-->pod_us0; router_us-->pod_us1; end router_eu-.->pod_us0; router_eu-.->pod_us1; router_us-.->pod_eu0; router_us-.->pod_eu1; ```
Even more detail This shows the databases. `gitlab_users` and `gitlab_routes` exist only in the US region but are replicated to other regions. Replication does not have an arrow because it's too hard to read the diagram. ```mermaid graph TD; user((User)); dns[DNS]; router_us(Router); router_eu(Router); pod_us0{Pod US0}; pod_us1{Pod US1}; pod_eu0{Pod EU0}; pod_eu1{Pod EU1}; db_gitlab_users[(gitlab_users Primary)]; db_gitlab_routes[(gitlab_routes Primary)]; db_gitlab_users_replica[(gitlab_users Replica)]; db_gitlab_routes_replica[(gitlab_routes Replica)]; db_pod_us0[(gitlab_main/gitlab_ci Pod US0)]; db_pod_us1[(gitlab_main/gitlab_ci Pod US1)]; db_pod_eu0[(gitlab_main/gitlab_ci Pod EU0)]; db_pod_eu1[(gitlab_main/gitlab_ci Pod EU1)]; user-->dns; dns-->router_us; dns-->router_eu; subgraph Europe router_eu-->pod_eu0; router_eu-->pod_eu1; pod_eu0-->db_pod_eu0; pod_eu0-->db_gitlab_users_replica; pod_eu0-->db_gitlab_routes_replica; pod_eu1-->db_gitlab_users_replica; pod_eu1-->db_gitlab_routes_replica; pod_eu1-->db_pod_eu1; end subgraph United States router_us-->pod_us0; router_us-->pod_us1; pod_us0-->db_pod_us0; pod_us0-->db_gitlab_users; pod_us0-->db_gitlab_routes; pod_us1-->db_gitlab_users; pod_us1-->db_gitlab_routes; pod_us1-->db_pod_us1; end router_eu-.->pod_us0; router_eu-.->pod_us1; router_us-.->pod_eu0; router_us-.->pod_eu1; ```

Summary of changes

  1. Tables related to User data (including profile settings, authentication credentials, personal access tokens) are decomposed into a gitlab_users schema
  2. The routes table is decomposed into gitlab_routes schema
  3. The application_settings (and probably a few other instance level tables) are decomposed into gitlab_admin schema
  4. A new column routes.pod_id is added to routes table
  5. A new Router service exists to choose which pod to route a request to.
  6. A new concept will be introduced in GitLab called an organization and a user can select a “default organization” and this will be a user level setting. The default organization is used to redirect users away from ambiguous routes like /dashboard to organization scoped routes like /organizations/my-organization/-/dashboard. Legacy users will have a special default organization that allows them to keep using global resources on Pod US0. All existing namespaces will initially move to this public organization.
  7. If a pod receives a request for a routes.pod_id that it does not own it returns a 302 with X-Gitlab-Pod-Redirect header so that the router can send the request to the correct pod. The correct pod can also set a header X-Gitlab-Pod-Cache which contains information about how this request should be cached to remember the pod. For example if the request was /gitlab-org/gitlab then the header would encode /gitlab-org/* => Pod US0 (for example, any requests starting with /gitlab-org/ can always be routed to Pod US0
  8. When the pod does not know (from the cache) which pod to send a request to it just picks a random pod within it’s region
  9. Writes to gitlab_users and gitlab_routes are sent to a primary PostgreSQL server in our US region but reads can come from replicas in the same region. This will add latency for these writes but we expect they are infrequent relative to the rest of GitLab.

Detailed explanation of default organization in the first iteration

All users will get a new column users.default_organization which they can control in user settings. We will introduce a concept of the GitLab.com Public organization. This will be set as the default organization for all existing users. This organization will allow the user to see data from all namespaces in Pod US0 (for example, our original GitLab.com instance). This behavior can be invisible to existing users such that they don’t even get told when they are viewing a global page like /dashboard that it’s even scoped to an organization.

Any new users with a default organization other than GitLab.com Public will have a distinct user experience and will be fully aware that every page they load is only ever scoped to a single organization. These users can never load any global pages like /dashboard and will end up being redirected to /organizations/<DEFAULT_ORGANIZATION>/-/dashboard. This may also be the case for legacy APIs and such users may only ever be able to use APIs scoped to a organization.

Detailed explanation of Admin Area settings

We believe that maintaining and synchronizing Admin Area settings will be frustrating and painful so to avoid this we will decompose and share all Admin Area settings in the gitlab_admin schema. This should be safe (similar to other shared schemas) because these receive very little write traffic.

In cases where different pods need different settings (for example, the Elasticsearch URL), we will either decide to use a templated format in the relevant application_settings row which allows it to be dynamic per pod. Alternatively if that proves difficult we’ll introduce a new table called per_pod_application_settings and this will have 1 row per pod to allow setting different settings per pod. It will still be part of the gitlab_admin schema and shared which will allow us to centrally manage it and simplify keeping settings in sync for all pods.

Pros

  1. Router is stateless and can live in many regions. We use Anycast DNS to resolve to nearest region for the user.
  2. Pods can receive requests for namespaces in the wrong pod and the user still gets the right response as well as caching at the router that ensures the next request is sent to the correct pod so the next request will go to the correct pod
  3. The majority of the code still lives in gitlab rails codebase. The Router doesn’t actually need to understand how GitLab URLs are composed.
  4. Since the responsibility to read and write gitlab_users, gitlab_routes and gitlab_admin still lives in Rails it means minimal changes will be needed to the Rails application compared to extracting services that need to isolate the domain models and build new interfaces.
  5. Compared to a separate routing service this allows the Rails application to encode more complex rules around how to map URLs to the correct pod and may work for some existing API endpoints.
  6. All the new infrastructure (just a router) is optional and a single-pod self-managed installation does not even need to run the Router and there are no other new services.

Cons

  1. gitlab_users, gitlab_routes and gitlab_admin databases may need to be replicated across regions and writes need to go across regions. We need to do an analysis on write TPS for the relevant tables to determine if this is feasible.
  2. Sharing access to the database from many different Pods means that they are all coupled at the Postgres schema level and this means changes to the database schema need to be done carefully in sync with the deployment of all Pods. This limits us to ensure that Pods are kept in closely similar versions compared to an architecture with shared services that have an API we control.
  3. Although most data is stored in the right region there can be requests proxied from another region which may be an issue for certain types of compliance.
  4. Data in gitlab_users and gitlab_routes databases must be replicated in all regions which may be an issue for certain types of compliance.
  5. The router cache may need to be very large if we get a wide variety of URLs (for example, long tail). In such a case we may need to implement a 2nd level of caching in user cookies so their frequently accessed pages always go to the right pod the first time.
  6. Having shared database access for gitlab_users and gitlab_routes from multiple pods is an unusual architecture decision compared to extracting services that are called from multiple pods.
  7. It is very likely we won’t be able to find cacheable elements of a GraphQL URL and often existing GraphQL endpoints are heavily dependent on ids that won’t be in the routes table so pods won’t necessarily know what pod has the data. As such we’ll probably have to update our GraphQL calls to include an organization context in the path like /api/organizations/<organization>/graphql.
  8. This architecture implies that implemented endpoints can only access data that are readily accessible on a given Pod, but are unlikely to aggregate information from many Pods.
  9. All unknown routes are sent to the latest deployment which we assume to be Pod US0. This is required as newly added endpoints will be only decodable by latest pod. This Pod could later redirect to correct one that can serve the given request. Since request processing might be heavy some Pods might receive significant amount of traffic due to that.

Example database configuration

Handling shared gitlab_users, gitlab_routes and gitlab_admin databases, while having dedicated gitlab_main and gitlab_ci databases should already be handled by the way we use config/database.yml. We should also, already be able to handle the dedicated EU replicas while having a single US primary for gitlab_users and gitlab_routes. Below is a snippet of part of the database configuration for the Pod architecture described above.

Pod US0 ```yaml # config/database.yml production: main: host: postgres-main.pod-us0.primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-main.pod-us0.replicas.consul ci: host: postgres-ci.pod-us0.primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-ci.pod-us0.replicas.consul users: host: postgres-users-primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-users-replicas.us.consul routes: host: postgres-routes-primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-routes-replicas.us.consul admin: host: postgres-admin-primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-admin-replicas.us.consul ```
Pod EU0 ```yaml # config/database.yml production: main: host: postgres-main.pod-eu0.primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-main.pod-eu0.replicas.consul ci: host: postgres-ci.pod-eu0.primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-ci.pod-eu0.replicas.consul users: host: postgres-users-primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-users-replicas.eu.consul routes: host: postgres-routes-primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-routes-replicas.eu.consul admin: host: postgres-admin-primary.consul load_balancing: discovery: postgres-admin-replicas.eu.consul ```

Request flows

  1. gitlab-org is a top level namespace and lives in Pod US0 in the GitLab.com Public organization
  2. my-company is a top level namespace and lives in Pod EU0 in the my-organization organization

Experience for paying user that is part of my-organization

Such a user will have a default organization set to /my-organization and will be unable to load any global routes outside of this organization. They may load other projects/namespaces but their MR/Todo/Issue counts at the top of the page will not be correctly populated in the first iteration. The user will be aware of this limitation.

  1. User is in Europe so DNS resolves to the router in Europe
  2. They request /my-company/my-project without the router cache, so the router chooses randomly Pod EU1
  3. Pod EU1 does not have /my-company, but it knows that it lives in Pod EU0 so it redirects the router to Pod EU0
  4. Pod EU0 returns the correct response as well as setting the cache headers for the router /my-company/* => Pod EU0
  5. The router now caches and remembers any request paths matching /my-company/* should go to Pod EU0
sequenceDiagram participant user as User participant router_eu as Router EU participant pod_eu0 as Pod EU0 participant pod_eu1 as Pod EU1 user->>router_eu: GET /my-company/my-project router_eu->>pod_eu1: GET /my-company/my-project pod_eu1->>router_eu: 302 /my-company/my-project X-Gitlab-Pod-Redirect={pod:Pod EU0} router_eu->>pod_eu0: GET /my-company/my-project pod_eu0->>user: <h1>My Project... X-Gitlab-Pod-Cache={path_prefix:/my-company/}
  1. User is in Europe so DNS resolves to the router in Europe
  2. The router does not have /my-company/* cached yet so it chooses randomly Pod EU1
  3. Pod EU1 redirects them through a login flow
  4. Still they request /my-company/my-project without the router cache, so the router chooses a random pod Pod EU1
  5. Pod EU1 does not have /my-company, but it knows that it lives in Pod EU0 so it redirects the router to Pod EU0
  6. Pod EU0 returns the correct response as well as setting the cache headers for the router /my-company/* => Pod EU0
  7. The router now caches and remembers any request paths matching /my-company/* should go to Pod EU0
sequenceDiagram participant user as User participant router_eu as Router EU participant pod_eu0 as Pod EU0 participant pod_eu1 as Pod EU1 user->>router_eu: GET /my-company/my-project router_eu->>pod_eu1: GET /my-company/my-project pod_eu1->>user: 302 /users/sign_in?redirect=/my-company/my-project user->>router_eu: GET /users/sign_in?redirect=/my-company/my-project router_eu->>pod_eu1: GET /users/sign_in?redirect=/my-company/my-project pod_eu1->>user: <h1>Sign in... user->>router_eu: POST /users/sign_in?redirect=/my-company/my-project router_eu->>pod_eu1: POST /users/sign_in?redirect=/my-company/my-project pod_eu1->>user: 302 /my-company/my-project user->>router_eu: GET /my-company/my-project router_eu->>pod_eu1: GET /my-company/my-project pod_eu1->>router_eu: 302 /my-company/my-project X-Gitlab-Pod-Redirect={pod:Pod EU0} router_eu->>pod_eu0: GET /my-company/my-project pod_eu0->>user: <h1>My Project... X-Gitlab-Pod-Cache={path_prefix:/my-company/}
  1. User is in Europe so DNS resolves to the router in Europe
  2. The router cache now has /my-company/* => Pod EU0, so the router chooses Pod EU0
  3. Pod EU0 returns the correct response as well as the cache header again
sequenceDiagram participant user as User participant router_eu as Router EU participant pod_eu0 as Pod EU0 participant pod_eu1 as Pod EU1 user->>router_eu: GET /my-company/my-project router_eu->>pod_eu0: GET /my-company/my-project pod_eu0->>user: <h1>My Project... X-Gitlab-Pod-Cache={path_prefix:/my-company/}
  1. User is in Europe so DNS resolves to the router in Europe
  2. The router has no cached value for this URL so randomly chooses Pod EU0
  3. Pod EU0 redirects the router to Pod US0
  4. Pod US0 returns the correct response as well as the cache header again
sequenceDiagram participant user as User participant router_eu as Router EU participant pod_eu0 as Pod EU0 participant pod_us0 as Pod US0 user->>router_eu: GET /gitlab-org/gitlab router_eu->>pod_eu0: GET /gitlab-org/gitlab pod_eu0->>router_eu: 302 /gitlab-org/gitlab X-Gitlab-Pod-Redirect={pod:Pod US0} router_eu->>pod_us0: GET /gitlab-org/gitlab pod_us0->>user: <h1>GitLab.org... X-Gitlab-Pod-Cache={path_prefix:/gitlab-org/}

In this case the user is not on their “default organization” so their TODO counter will not include their normal todos. We may choose to highlight this in the UI somewhere. A future iteration may be able to fetch that for them from their default organization.

  1. User is in Europe so DNS resolves to the router in Europe
  2. Router does not have a cache for / route (specifically rails never tells it to cache this route)
  3. The Router choose Pod EU0 randomly
  4. The Rails application knows the users default organization is /my-organization, so it redirects the user to /organizations/my-organization/-/dashboard
  5. The Router has a cached value for /organizations/my-organization/* so it then sends the request to POD EU0
  6. Pod EU0 serves up a new page /organizations/my-organization/-/dashboard which is the same dashboard view we have today but scoped to an organization clearly in the UI
  7. The user is (optionally) presented with a message saying that data on this page is only from their default organization and that they can change their default organization if it’s not right.
sequenceDiagram participant user as User participant router_eu as Router EU participant pod_eu0 as Pod EU0 user->>router_eu: GET / router_eu->>pod_eu0: GET / pod_eu0->>user: 302 /organizations/my-organization/-/dashboard user->>router: GET /organizations/my-organization/-/dashboard router->>pod_eu0: GET /organizations/my-organization/-/dashboard pod_eu0->>user: <h1>My Company Dashboard... X-Gitlab-Pod-Cache={path_prefix:/organizations/my-organization/}

As above, they will end up on /organizations/my-organization/-/dashboard as the rails application will already redirect / to the dashboard page.

  1. User is in Europe so DNS resolves to the router in Europe
  2. The router knows that /not-my-company lives in Pod US1 so sends the request to this
  3. The user does not have access so Pod US1 returns 404
sequenceDiagram participant user as User participant router_eu as Router EU participant pod_us1 as Pod US1 user->>router_eu: GET /not-my-company/not-my-project router_eu->>pod_us1: GET /not-my-company/not-my-project pod_us1->>user: 404

Creates a new top level namespace

The user will be asked which organization they want the namespace to belong to. If they select my-organization then it will end up on the same pod as all other namespaces in my-organization. If they select nothing we default to GitLab.com Public and it is clear to the user that this is isolated from their existing organization such that they won’t be able to see data from both on a single page.

Experience for GitLab team member that is part of /gitlab-org

Such a user is considered a legacy user and has their default organization set to GitLab.com Public. This is a “meta” organization that does not really exist but the Rails application knows to interpret this organization to mean that they are allowed to use legacy global functionality like /dashboard to see data across namespaces located on Pod US0. The rails backend also knows that the default pod to render any ambiguous routes like /dashboard is Pod US0. Lastly the user will be allowed to navigate to organizations on another pod like /my-organization but when they do the user will see a message indicating that some data may be missing (for example, the MRs/Issues/Todos) counts.

  1. User is in the US so DNS resolves to the US router
  2. The router knows that /gitlab-org lives in Pod US0 so sends the request to this pod
  3. Pod US0 serves up the response
sequenceDiagram participant user as User participant router_us as Router US participant pod_us0 as Pod US0 user->>router_us: GET /gitlab-org/gitlab router_us->>pod_us0: GET /gitlab-org/gitlab pod_us0->>user: <h1>GitLab.org... X-Gitlab-Pod-Cache={path_prefix:/gitlab-org/}
  1. User is in US so DNS resolves to the router in US
  2. Router does not have a cache for / route (specifically rails never tells it to cache this route)
  3. The Router chooses Pod US1 randomly
  4. The Rails application knows the users default organization is GitLab.com Public, so it redirects the user to /dashboards (only legacy users can see /dashboard global view)
  5. Router does not have a cache for /dashboard route (specifically rails never tells it to cache this route)
  6. The Router chooses Pod US1 randomly
  7. The Rails application knows the users default organization is GitLab.com Public, so it allows the user to load /dashboards (only legacy users can see /dashboard global view) and redirects to router the legacy pod which is Pod US0
  8. Pod US0 serves up the global view dashboard page /dashboard which is the same dashboard view we have today
sequenceDiagram participant user as User participant router_us as Router US participant pod_us0 as Pod US0 participant pod_us1 as Pod US1 user->>router_us: GET / router_us->>pod_us1: GET / pod_us1->>user: 302 /dashboard user->>router_us: GET /dashboard router_us->>pod_us1: GET /dashboard pod_us1->>router_us: 302 /dashboard X-Gitlab-Pod-Redirect={pod:Pod US0} router_us->>pod_us0: GET /dashboard pod_us0->>user: <h1>Dashboard...

They get a 404.

Experience for non-authenticated users

Flow is similar to authenticated users except global routes like /dashboard will redirect to the login page as there is no default organization to choose from.

A new customers signs up

They will be asked if they are already part of an organization or if they’d like to create one. If they choose neither they end up no the default GitLab.com Public organization.

An organization is moved from 1 pod to another

TODO

GraphQL/API requests which don’t include the namespace in the URL

TODO

The autocomplete suggestion functionality in the search bar which remembers recent issues/MRs

TODO

TODO

Administrator

Loads /admin page

  1. Router picks a random pod Pod US0
  2. Pod US0 redirects user to /admin/pods/podus0
  3. Pod US0 renders an Admin Area page and also returns a cache header to cache /admin/podss/podus0/* => Pod US0. The Admin Area page contains a dropdown list showing other pods they could select and it changes the query parameter.

Admin Area settings in Postgres are all shared across all pods to avoid divergence but we still make it clear in the URL and UI which pod is serving the Admin Area page as there is dynamic data being generated from these pages and the operator may want to view a specific pod.

More Technical Problems To Solve

Replicating User Sessions Between All Pods

Today user sessions live in Redis but each pod will have their own Redis instance. We already use a dedicated Redis instance for sessions so we could consider sharing this with all pods like we do with gitlab_users PostgreSQL database. But an important consideration will be latency as we would still want to mostly fetch sessions from the same region.

An alternative might be that user sessions get moved to a JWT payload that encodes all the session data but this has downsides. For example, it is difficult to expire a user session, when their password changes or for other reasons, if the session lives in a JWT controlled by the user.

How do we migrate between Pods

Migrating data between pods will need to factor all data stores:

  1. PostgreSQL
  2. Redis Shared State
  3. Gitaly
  4. Elasticsearch

Is it still possible to leak the existence of private groups via a timing attack?

If you have router in EU, and you know that EU router by default redirects to EU located Pods, you know their latency (lets assume 10 ms). Now, if your request is bounced back and redirected to US which has different latency (lets assume that roundtrip will be around 60 ms) you can deduce that 404 was returned by US Pod and know that your 404 is in fact 403.

We may defer this until we actually implement a pod in a different region. Such timing attacks are already theoretically possible with the way we do permission checks today but the timing difference is probably too small to be able to detect.

One technique to mitigate this risk might be to have the router add a random delay to any request that returns 404 from a pod.

Should runners be shared across all pods?

We have 2 options and we should decide which is easier:

  1. Decompose runner registration and queuing tables and share them across all pods. This may have implications for scalability, and we’d need to consider if this would include group/project runners as this may have scalability concerns as these are high traffic tables that would need to be shared.
  2. Runners are registered per-pod and, we probably have a separate fleet of runners for every pod or just register the same runners to many pods which may have implications for queueing

How do we guarantee unique ids across all pods for things that cannot conflict?

This project assumes at least namespaces and projects have unique ids across all pods as many requests need to be routed based on their ID. Since those tables are across different databases then guaranteeing a unique ID will require a new solution. There are likely other tables where unique IDs are necessary and depending on how we resolve routing for GraphQL and other APIs and other design goals it may be determined that we want the primary key to be unique for all tables.