Distributed Systems Safety Research

About Jepsen

Jepsen is an effort to improve the safety of distributed databases, queues, consensus systems, etc. We maintain an open source software library for systems testing, as well as blog posts and conference talks exploring particular systems’ failure modes. In each analysis we explore whether the system lives up to its documentation’s claims, file new bugs, and suggest recommendations for operators.

Jepsen pushes vendors to make accurate claims and test their software rigorously, helps users choose databases and queues that fit their needs, and teaches engineers how to evaluate distributed systems correctness for themselves.

In addition to public analyses, Jepsen offers technical talks, training classes, and distributed systems consulting services.

Other Resources

Recent Work

  • In cooperation with YugaByte, we identified three safety issues in YugaByte DB, including read skew and data corruption under normal operating conditions, read skew and data corruption during clock skew, and, under rare circumstances involving multiple network partitions, the loss of acknowledged inserts. YugaByte DB addressed all three of these problems, as well as several other issues, in 1.2.0.

  • Fauna and Jepsen worked together to identify 19 issues in FaunaDB, a distributed transactional document store based on the Calvin protocol. In addition to minor problems with schema changes and availability, we found that indices could fail to return negative integer values, skip records at the end of pages, and exhibit read skew. Temporal queries could observe older states than the timestamp they requested, and exhibited occasional read skew. We also found nonmonotonic reads, long fork, and read skew in development releases. We found that basic key-value operations in FaunaDB 2.5.4 appeared to provide snapshot isolation up to strict serializability, depending on workload. FaunaDB has addressed every serious issue we identified in version 2.6.0, and fixes for minor issues, like concurrent schema modification, are slated for upcoming releases.

  • We worked with MongoDB to explore sharded single-document consistency and MongoDB’s new support for causally consistent sessions. We found that sharded clusters appeared to preserve single-document linearizability and did not lose inserted documents during shard rebalancing and network partitions. However, causal sessions required majority reads and writes; at the default consistency levels, causal sessions did not preserve claimed ordering invariants. MongoDB has updated their documentation to reflect this.

  • We analyzed Dgraph, a distributed graph database, and identified numerous deadlocks, crashes, and consistency violations, including the loss and corruption of records, even in healthy clusters. Dgraph addressed many of these issues during our collaboration, and continues to work on remaining problems.

  • Together with Aerospike, we validated their next-generation consensus system, confirming two known data-loss scenarios due to process pauses and crashes, and discovering a previously unknown bug in their internal RPC proxy mechanism which allowed clients to see successfully applied updates as definite failures. Aerospike fixed this bug, added an option to require nodes write to disk before acknowledging operations to clients, and plans to extend the maximum clock skew their consensus system can tolerate.

  • Jepsen demonstrated numerous problems with data loss in Hazelcast, an in-memory data grid: map updates could be lost, atomic references were not atomic, ID generators generated duplicate IDs, locks were not exclusive, and queues could lose acknowledged messages.

  • Jepsen worked with Tendermint to evaluate their distributed, linearizable, byzantine-fault-tolerant blockchain system. We were unable to find issues with their replication algorithm, but did discover single-node crashes and issues with crash recovery that could lead to unavailability or data loss.