Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest days of the year at Shopify with respect to every metric. As the Infrastructure team started preparing for the upcoming seasonal traffic in the late summer of 2014, we were confident that we could cope, and determined resiliency to be the top priority. A resilient system is one that functions with one or more components being unavailable or unacceptably slow. Applications quickly become intertwined with their external services if not carefully monitored, leading to minor dependencies becoming single points of failure.
For example, the only part of Shopify that relies on the session store is user sign-in - if the session store is unavailable, customers can still purchase products as guests. Any other behaviour would be an unfortunate coupling of components. This post is an overview of the tools and techniques we used to make Shopify more resilient in preparation for the holiday season.
This is the second in a series of blog posts describing our evolution of Shopify toward a Docker-powered, containerized data center. This instalment will focus on the creation of the container used in our production environment when you visit a Shopify storefront.
Read the first post in this series here.
Before we dive into the mechanics of building containers, let's discuss motivation. Containers have the potential to do for the datacenter what consoles did for gaming. In the early days of PC gaming, each game typically required video or sound driver massaging before you got to play. Gaming consoles however, offered a different experience:
- predictability: cartridges were self-contained fun: always ready-to-run, with no downloads or updates.
- fast: cartridges used read-only memory for lightning fast speeds.
- easy: cartridges were robust and largely child-proof - they were quite literally plug-and-play.
Predictable, fast, and easy are all good things at scale. Docker containers provide the building blocks to make our data centers easier to run and more adaptable by placing applications into self-contained, ready-to-run units much like cartridges did for console games.