2.3. Proxy Rings, Ring Masters, and Network Transparency

2.3.1. Proxy Rings

In a data data acquisition system we usually want several such computer systems to join the party. Data taken in one system must be made visible in near real-time to analysis software in other computer systems. This section describes the mechanism used by the NSCL Ring Buffer data acquisition system to accomplish this feat.

Each system that runs the ring buffer data acquisition system has a simple server process called the RingMaster. We'll talk more about the RingMaster and its role in the next section.

One role the ring master performs is to assist in hoisting data out of an local ring, sending it across the network to another system. This is done through a mechanism called a proxy ring which makes the semantics of getting data from a remote system identical to the semantics of getting data from a local system.

If a process attempts to open a ring buffer whose URL does not specify localhost as the hostname, the ring buffer DAQ system contacts the RingMaster in the target host and collaborates with it to create a local ring and a network pipeline that ships data from the ring in the remote host to the local proxy ring. Only the first consumer goes through the gymnastics of creating a proxy ring and subsequent consumers simply connect to the proxy as an additional consumer. In this way, network traffic between rings and their proxies are aggregated.

A proxy ring has the local name hostname.remote-ringname where hostname is the host in which the 'real ring' is located and remote-ringname is the name of the real ring in hostname. Thus the proxy ring for tcp://spdaq42/fox will be tcp://localhost/spdaq42.fox.

2.3.2. The RingMaster server

All systems that run the Ring buffer data acquisition system also run a simple server called the RingMaster. The RingMaster performs the following functions:

The Ring buffer DAQ system has two types of clients. Producers and consumers. Recall that each ring can have at most one producer, and many consumers.

The ring master keeps track of which local processes are attached to a ring and whether or not a process is the producer or a consumer (actually a consumer could be consuming data from several rings, or even be more than one consumer on one ring).

When a client wants to obtain the put or a get pointer, it asks the ring master for one. It does so by opening a TCP/IP connection to the ring master and sending it a pointer request message. The ring master identifies the pointer it provides to the client. The client is then required to hold the TCP/IP connection open. If the TCP/IP connection closes, as it will normally if a process exits, the RingMaster releases the pointer that was associated with that connection.

In this way, ring buffers are immune to stalls that could occur if a pointer got orphaned.