<antirez>

antirez 269 days ago. 106972 views.
Yesterday a concerned Redis user wrote the following on Hacker News:

— https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19204436 —
I love Redis, but I'm a bit skeptical of some of the changes that are currently in development. The respv3 protocol has some features that, while they sound neat, also could significantly complicate client library code. There's also a lot of work going into a granular acl. I can't imagine why this would be necessary, or a higher priority than other changes like multi-thread support, better persistence model, data-types, etc.
— end of user comment —

I’ve the feeling she/he (not sure) is not the only one that looks at ACLs as some sort of feature imposed by the Redis Labs goals, because “enterprise users” or something like that. Also the other points in the comment are interesting, and I believe everything is very well worth addressing in order to communicate clearly with the Redis community what’s the road ahead.

For simplicity I’ll split this blog post into sections addressing every single feature mentioned in the original comment.

## RESP3

The goal of RESP3, as I already blogged in these pages, is to actually simplify the clients landscape. Hopefully every client will have a lower layer that will not try to reinvent some kind of higher level interface: redis.call(“get”,”foo”). There is no longer need to orchestrate conversions because now the protocol is semantical enough to tell the client what a given reply should look like in the hand of the caller, nor any need to know beforehand the command fingerprint for the majority of commands. What I think the user is referring is RESP3 support for out of band communications, that is the reply “attributes”.

I really believe that in the future of Redis “client side caching” will be a big thing. It’s the logical step in every scalable system. However without server assistance client side cache invalidation is a nightmare. This is the reason why RESP3 supports attributes in replies, mainly. However probably Redis 6 *will not implement any of that*. Redis unstable, that will become Redis 6, already has a RESP3 implementation that is almost complete, and there are no attributes. The clients implementing RESP3 can just decide to discard attributes if they are willing to be really future-proof, and likely attributes will not be sent at all anyway even for future Redis versions if the user did not activate some kind of special feature. For instance, for client side caching, the connection will have to be put in some special mode. Moreover, as you know, Redis 6 will be completely backward compatible with RESP2. Actually I’m starting to believe that RESP2 support will never be removed, because it is almost for free, and there is no good reason to break backward compatibility once we did the effort to implement the abstraction layer between RESP2 and RESP3.

Normally I don’t like to change things without a good reason, however RESP2 limitations were having a strong effect on the client ecosystem. I would like to have a client landscape where users, going from one client to the other, will feel at home, and the API will be the Redis API, not the layer that the client author invented. I’m not against an *higher level* API in addition to the lower level one btw, but there should be a common ground, and clients should be able to send commands without knowing anything about such commands.

## ACLs

The ACL specification was redacted by myself four years ago. I waited so much time in order to convince myself this was really the time to implement it: we went a long way without any ACL using just tricks, mainly command renaming. However don’t believe that ACLs main motivation is enterprise customers in need for security. As a side effect, ACLs also allow authentication of users for security purposes, but the main goal of the feature is *operational*.

Let me show you an example. You have a Redis instance and you plan to use the instance to do a new thing: delayed jobs processing. You get a library from the internet, and it looks to work well. Now why on the earth such library, that you don’t know line by line, should be able to call “FLUSHALL” and flush away your database instantly? Maybe the library test will have such command inside and you realize it when it’s too late. Or maybe you just hired a junior developer that is keeping calling “KEYS *” on the Redis instance, while your company Redis policy is “No KEYS command”.

Another scenario, cloud providers: they need to carefully rename the admin commands, and even to mask such commands from being leaked for some reason. More tricks: so MONITOR will not show the commands in the output for instance. With ACLs you can setup Redis so that default users, without some authentication, will be prevented to run anything that is administrative or dangerous. I think this will be a big improvement for operations.

Moreover ACLs is one of the best code I wrote for Redis AFAIK. There is nearly no CPU cost at all, unless you se key patterns, but even so it’s small. The implementation is completely self contained inside the acl.c file, the rest of the core has a handful of calls to the ACL API. No complexity added to the system because it is completely modular. Actually the ACL code allowed to do some good refactoring around the AUTH command.

## Multi threading

There are two possible multi threading supports that Redis could get. I believe the user is referring to “memcached alike” multithreading, that is the ability to scale a single Redis instance to multiple threads in order to increase the operations per second it can deliver in things like GET or SET and other simple commands. This involves making the I/O, command parsing and so forth multi threaded. So let’s call this thing “I/O threading”.

Another multi threaded approach is to, instead, allow slow commands to be executed in a different thread, so that other clients are not blocked. We’ll call this threading model “Slow commands threading”.

Well, that’s the plan: I/O threading is not going to happen in Redis AFAIK, because after much consideration I think it’s a lot of complexity without a good reason. Many Redis setups are network or memory bound actually. Additionally I really believe in a share-nothing setup, so the way I want to scale Redis is by improving the support for multiple Redis instances to be executed in the same host, especially via Redis Cluster. The things that will happen in 2019 about that are two:

A) Redis Cluster multiple instances will be able to orchestrate to make a judicious use of the disk of the local instance, that is, let’s avoid an AOF rewrite at the same time.

B) We are going to ship a Redis Cluster proxy as part of the Redis project, so that users are able to abstract away a cluster without having a good implementation of the Cluster protocol client side.

Another thing to note is that Redis is not Memcached, but, like memcached, is an in-memory system. To make multithreaded an in-memory system like memcached, with a very simple data model, makes a lot of sense. A multi-threaded on-disk store is mandatory. A multi-threaded complex in-memory system is in the middle where things become ugly: Redis clients are not isolated, and data structures are complex. A thread doing LPUSH need to serve other threads doing LPOP. There is less to gain, and a lot of complexity to add.

What instead I *really want* a lot is slow operations threading, and with the Redis modules system we already are in the right direction. However in the future (not sure if in Redis 6 or 7) we’ll get key-level locking in the module system so that threads can completely acquire control of a key to process slow operations. Now modules can implement commands and can create a reply for the client in a completely separated way, but still to access the shared data set a global lock is needed: this will go away.

## Better persistence

Recently we did multiple efforts in order to improve this kind of fundamental functions of Redis. One of the best thing that was implemented lately is the RDB preamble inside the AOF file. Also a lot of work went both in Redis 4 and 5 about replication, that is now completely at another level compared to what it used to be. And yes, it is still one of my main focus to improve such parts.

## Data structures

Now Redis has Streams, starting with Redis 5. For Redis 6 and 7 what is planned is, to start, to make what we have much more memory efficient by changing the implementations of certain things. However to add new data structures there are a lot of considerations to do. It took me years to realize how to fill the gap, with streams, between lists, pub/sub and sorted sets, in the context of time series and streaming. I really want Redis to be a set of orthogonal data structures that the user can put together, and not a set of *tools* that are ready to use. Streams are an abstract log, so I think it’s a very worthwhile addition. However other things I’m not completely sure if they are worth to be inside the core without a very long consideration. Anyway in the latest years there was definitely more stress in adding new data structures. HyperLogLogs, more advanced bit operations, streams, blocking sorted set operations (ZPOP* and BZPOP*), and streams are good examples.

## Conclusions

I believe that the Redis community should be aware about why something is done and why something is instead postponed. I do the error to communicate a lot via Twitter like if everybody is there, but many people happen to have a life :-D and don’t care. The blog is a much better way to inform the community, I need to take the time to blog more. Incidentally I love to write posts, so it’s a win-win. An important thing to realize is that Redis has not a solid roadmap, over the years I found that opportunistic development is a huge win over having a roadmap. Something is demanded? I see the need? I’m in the mood to code it? It’s the right moment because there are no other huge priorities? There are a set of users that are helping the design process, giving hints, ideas, testing stuff? It’s the right moment, let’s do it. To have a solid roadmap for Redis is silly because the size of the OSS core team is small, sometimes I remain stuck with some random crash for weeks… Any fixed long term plan would not work. Moreover as the Redis community gives feedbacks my ideas change a lot, so I would rewrite the roadmap every month. Yet blogging is a good solution to at least show what is the current version of the priorities / ideas, and to show why other ideas were abandoned.

A final note: the level of freedom I've with Redis Labs about what to put inside the open source project side is almost infinite. I think this is kinda of a miracle in the industry, or just the people I work with at Redis Labs are nice folks that understand that what we are doing originated from the open source movement and is wise to keep it going in that way. But it's not a common thing. If I do errors in the Redis roadmap they are surely my errors.
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