Group Replication ensures that a transaction only commits after a majority of the members in a group have received it and agreed on the relative order between all transactions that were sent concurrently.
This approach works well if the total number of writes to the group does not exceed the write capacity of any member in the group. If it does and some of the members have less write throughput than others, particularly less than the writer members, those members can start lagging behind of the writers.
Having some members lagging behind the group brings some problematic consequences, particularly, the reads on such members may externalize very old data. Depending on why the member is lagging behind, other members in the group may have to save more or less replication context to be able to fulfil potential data transfer requests from the slow member.
There is however a mechanism in the replication protocol to avoid having too much distance, in terms of transactions applied, between fast and slow members. This is known as the flow control mechanism. It tries to address several goals:
to keep the members close enough to make buffering and de-synchronization between members a small problem;
to adapt quickly to changing conditions like different workloads or more writers in the group;
to give each member a fair share of the available write capacity;
to not reduce throughput more than strictly necessary to avoid wasting resources.
Given the design of Group Replication, the decision whether to throttle or not may be decided taking into account two work queues: (i) the certification queue; (ii) and on the binary log applier queue. Whenever the size of one of these queues exceeds the user-defined threshold, the throttling mechanism is triggered. Only configure: (i) whether to do flow control at the certifier or at the applier level, or both; and (ii) what is the threshold for each queue.
The flow control depends on two basic mechanisms:
the monitoring of members to collect some statistics on throughput and queue sizes of all group members to make educated guesses on what is the maximum write pressure each member should be subjected to;
the throttling of members that are trying to write beyond their fair-share of the available capacity at each moment in time.
The monitoring mechanism works by having each member deploying a set of probes to collect information about its work queues and throughput. It then propagates that information to the group periodically to share that data with the other members.
Such probes are scattered throughout the plugin stack and allow one to establish metrics, such as:
the certifier queue size;
the replication applier queue size;
the total number of transactions certified;
the total number of remote transactions applied in the member;
the total number of local transactions.
Once a member receives a message with statistics from another member, it calculates additional metrics regarding how many transactions were certified, applied and locally executed in the last monitoring period.
Monitoring data is shared with others in the group periodically. The monitoring period must be high enough to allow the other members to decide on the current write requests, but low enough that it has minimal impact on group bandwidth. The information is shared every second, and this period is sufficient to address both concerns.
Based on the metrics gathered across all servers in the group, a throttling mechanism kicks in and decides whether to limit the rate a member is able to execute/commit new transactions.
Therefore, metrics acquired from all members are the basis for calculating the capacity of each member: if a member has a large queue (for certification or the applier thread), then the capacity to execute new transactions should be close to ones certified or applied in the last period.
The lowest capacity of all the members in the group determines the real capacity of the group, while the number of local transactions determines how many members are writing to it, and, consequently, how many members should that available capacity be shared with.
This means that every member has an established write quota based on the available capacity, in other words a number of transactions it can safely issue for the next period. The writer-quota will be enforced by the throttling mechanism if the queue size of the certifier or the binary log applier exceeds a user-defined threshold.
The quota is reduced by the number of transactions that were delayed in the last period, and then also further reduced by 10% to allow the queue that triggered the problem to reduce its size. In order to avoid large jumps in throughput once the queue size goes beyond the threshold, the throughput is only allowed to grow by the same 10% per period after that.
The current throttling mechanism does not penalize transactions below quota, but delays finishing those transactions that exceed it until the end of the monitoring period. As a consequence, if the quota is very small for the write requests issued some transactions may have latencies close to the monitoring period.