Saturday, March 1, 2014

Building a Fast and Reliable Purging System

At Fastly, we’re always working to make our systems faster and more reliable. One of the more difficult problems we’ve faced is efficient cache invalidation across our global network, or as we call it: Instant Purging. When content changes, our customers issue a purge request, which we then need to deliver to each of our cache servers. The system that handles these purge requests is codenamed Powderhorn.

We recently deployed a new version of this system which delivers purges faster and more reliably, even during major network problems. In this post, we'll take a deep dive into the design, implementation, and real-world behavior of Powderhorn version 2.

Designing a Purging System

When designing the next version of Powderhorn, we did what any good engineer would do: rolled up our sleeves, put on a pot of coffee, and sat down to read some papers and think about the problem. At first, there were two obvious ways to build it: a centralized system or a decentralized system. Each seemed to have tradeoffs.

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