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Infrastructure architecture

This guide provides a general overview of the Invenio infrastructure architecture. It is not meant to be a comprehensive guide for each subsystem.

Over all, the Invenio infrastructure is a pretty standard web application infrastructure. It consists of:

  • Load balancers: HAProxy, Nginx or others.
  • Web servers: Nginx, Apache or others.
  • Application servers: UWSGI, Gunicorn or mod_wsgi.
  • Distributed task queue: Celery
  • Database: PostgreSQL, MySQL or SQLite.
  • Search engine: Elasticsearch (v6 and v7).
  • Message queue: RabbitMQ, Redis or Amazon SQS.
  • Cache system: Redis or Memcache.
  • Storage system: Local, S3, XRootD, WebDAV and more.

Infrastructure architecture

Request handling

A client making a request to Invenio will usually first hit a load balancer. For high availability you can have more load balancers and balance traffic between them with e.g. DNS load balancing.

Load balancer

Request types

The load balancer usually (if it supports SSL termination) allows you to split traffic into three categories of requests:

  • static files requests: e.g. javascript assets
  • application requests: e.g. search queries
  • record files requests: e.g. downloading very large files

This way you can dimension the number connection slots between different types of requests according to available resources. For instance a static file request can usually be served extremely efficiently, while an application request usually takes longer and requires more memory.

Similar, downloading a very file depends on the client's available bandwidth and can thus take up a connection slot for a significant amount time. If your storage system supports it, it is possible with Invenio to completely offload the serving of large files to your storage system (e.g. S3).

All in all, the primary job of the load balancer is to manage traffic to your servers according to available resources. For instance during traffic floods the load balancer takes care of queue requests to the web servers.

Backup pages

A load balancer can also direct traffic to a static backup site in case your main web server is down. This is useful in order to communicate with users during major incidents.

Web servers

The load balancer proxies traffic to one of several web servers. The web server's primary job is to manage the connections into your application server. A web server like Apache and Nginx is usually much better than an application server to manage connections. Also, you can use the web server to configure limits on specific parts of your application so that for instance you can upload a 1TB file on the Files REST API, but not on the search REST API.

Application servers

The web server proxies traffic usually (but not necessarily) to a single application server running on the same machine. The application server is responsible for handling the application requests. Invenio is a Python application, and thus make use of the WSGI standard. There exists several application servers capable of running WSGI python application, e.g. Gunicorn, uWSGI and mod_wsgi.

Storing records

Invenio store records as JSON documents in an SQL database. Most modern SQL databases today have a JSON type, that can efficiently store JSON documents in a binary format.

Transactional databases

The primary reason using an SQL database is that they provide transactions, which is very important since data consistency for a repository is of utmost importance. Also, database servers can handle very large amounts of data as long as they are scaled and configured properly. Last but not least, they are usually highly reliable as compared to some NoSQL solutions.

Primary key lookups

Most access from Invenio to the database is via primary key look ups, which are usually very efficient in database. Search queries and the like are all sent to the search engine cluster which can provide much better performance than a database.

Search and indexing

Invenio uses Elasticsearch as its underlying search engine since Elasticsearch is fully JSON-based, and thus fit well together with storing records internally in the database as JSON documents.

Elasticsearch furthermore is highly scalable and provides very powerful search and aggregation capabilities. You can for instance make geospatial queries with Elasticsearch.

Direct indexing

Invenio has the option to directly index a record in Elasticsearch when handling a request, and thus make the record immediately available for searches.

Bulk indexing

In addition to direct indexing, Invenio can also do bulk indexing which is significantly more efficient when indexing large number of records. The bulk indexing works by the application sending a message to the message queue, and at regular intervals a background job will consume the queue and index the records. Also, several bulk indexing jobs can run concurrently at the same time on multiple worker nodes and thus you can achieve very high indexing rates during bulk indexing.

Background processing

Invenio relies on an application called Celery for distributed background processing. In order for an application server to reply faster to a request, it can offload some task to asynchronous jobs. It works by the application sending a message to the message queue (e.g. RabbitMQ), which several Celery worker nodes continuously consume tasks from.

An example of background tasks can for instance be sending an email or registering a DOI.

Multiple queues

The background processing supports multiple queues and advanced workflows. You could for instance have a low priority queue that constantly runs x number of file integrity checks per day, and another normal queue for other tasks like DOI registration.

Cronjobs and retries

Celery also supports running jobs at scheduled intervals as well as retrying tasks in case the fail (e.g. if a remote service is temporarily down).

Caching and temporary storage

Invenio uses an in-memory cache like Redis or Memcache for fast temporary storage. The cache is for instance used for:

  • User session storage
  • Results from background jobs
  • Caching rendered pages

Storing files

Invenio comes with a default object storage REST API to expose files. Underneath the hood, Invenio can however store files in multiple different storage systems due to a simple storage abstraction layer. Also, it is possible to completely by-pass the Invenio object storage and directly use another storage system like S3. In this case, you just have to be careful to manage access correctly on the external system.

Multiple storage systems

One strength of Invenio is that you can store files on multiple systems at the same time. This is useful if you for instance need to use multiple systems or do live migration from one system to another.