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course: Apache Kafka® Internal Architecture

Inside the Apache Kafka Broker

8 min
Jun Rao

Jun Rao

Co-Founder, Confluent (Presenter)

Kafka Manages Data and Metadata Separately


The functions within a Kafka cluster are broken up into a data plane and a control plane. The control plane handles management of all the metadata in the cluster. The data plane deals with the actual data that we are writing to and reading from Kafka. In this module we will focus on how the data plane handles client requests to interact with the data in our Kafka cluster.

Inside the Apache Kafka Broker


Client requests fall into two categories: produce requests and fetch requests. A produce request is requesting that a batch of data be written to a specified topic. A fetch request is requesting data from Kafka topics. Both types of requests go through many of the same steps. We’ll start by looking at the flow of the produce request, and then see how the fetch request differs.

The Produce Request

Partition Assignment


When a producer is ready to send an event record, it will use a configurable partitioner to determine the topic partition to assign to the record. If the record has a key, then the default partitioner will use a hash of the key to determine the correct partition. After that, any records with the same key will always be assigned to the same partition. If the record has no key then a partition strategy is used to balance the data in the partitions.

Record Batching


Sending records one at a time would be inefficient due to the overhead of repeated network requests. So, the producer will accumulate the records assigned to a given partition into batches. Batching also provides for much more effective compression, when compression is used.


The producer also has control as to when the record batch should be drained and sent to the broker. This is controlled by two properties. One is by time. The other is by size. So once enough time or enough data has been accumulated in those record batches, those record batches will be drained, and will form a produce request. And this produce request will then be sent to the broker that is the leader of the included partitions.

Network Thread Adds Request to Queue


The request first lands in the broker’s socket receive buffer where it will be picked up by a network thread from the pool. That network thread will handle that particular client request through the rest of its lifecycle. The network thread will read the data from the socket buffer, form it into a produce request object, and add it to the request queue.

I/O Thread Verifies and Stores the Batch


Next, a thread from the I/O thread pool will pick up the request from the queue. The I/O thread will perform some validations, including a CRC check of the data in the request. It will then append the data to the physical data structure of the partition, which is called a commit log.

Kafka Physical Storage


On disk, the commit log is organized as a collection of segments. Each segment is made up of several files. One of these, a .log file, contains the event data. A second, a .index file, contains an index structure, which maps from a record offset to the position of that record in the .log file.

Purgatory Holds Requests Until Replicated


Since the log data is not flushed from the page cache to disk synchronously, Kafka relies on replication to multiple broker nodes, in order to provide durability. By default, the broker will not acknowledge the produce request until it has been replicated to other brokers.

To avoid tying up the I/O threads while waiting for the replication step to complete, the request object will be stored in a map-like data structure called purgatory (it’s where things go to wait).

Once the request has been fully replicated, the broker will take the request object out of purgatory, generate a response object, and place it on the response queue.

Response Added to Socket


From the response queue, the network thread will pick up the generated response, and send its data to the socket send buffer. The network thread also enforces ordering of requests from an individual client by waiting for all of the bytes for a response from that client to be sent before taking another object from the response queue.

The Fetch Request


In order to consume records, a consumer client sends a fetch request to the broker, specifying the topic, partition, and offset it wants to consume. The fetch request goes to the broker’s socket receive buffer where it is picked up by a network thread. The network thread puts the request in the request queue, as was done with the produce request.

The I/O thread will take the offset that is included in the fetch request and compare it with the .index file that is part of the partition segment. That will tell it exactly the range of bytes that need to be read from the corresponding .log file to add to the response object.

However, it would be inefficient to send a response with every record fetched, or even worse, when there are no records available. To be more efficient, consumers can be configured to wait for a minimum number of bytes of data, or to wait for a maximum amount of time before returning a response to a fetch request. While waiting for these criteria to be met, the fetch request is sent to purgatory.

Once the size or time requirements have been met, the broker will take the fetch request out of purgatory and generate a response to be sent back to the client. The rest of the process is the same as the produce request.

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