Software Development

Avoid Dogpile Problem

A Cache Stampede or Dogpile is essentially a race condition – it’s all about who gets there first. When a cached resource expires or becomes invalid, multiple clients may end up requesting the same resource at the same time. This sudden surge of traffic can overwhelm the caching system and the underlying infrastructure. Let us delve into understanding on how to prevent the dogpile problem in cache.

1. Understanding the Issue

Imagine a web server that’s inundated with requests for a specific webpage. To reduce the server load, the page is cached. Under normal circumstances, the cached version of the page is used often enough that it remains in the cache, making it easily accessible. However, under a heavy load, the cached version of the page may expire while many requests are still coming in. This can cause multiple threads of execution to try to access the expired cache at the same time, leading to a stampede of requests for the same resource. If the server isn’t equipped to handle this sudden surge of requests, it may become overloaded and fail to respond. This can then result in a cascade of failures across the entire system, as the overload affects other components and shared resources.

1.1 How to resolve this chaos?

Instagram, like many other online platforms, has had to deal with the cache stampede problem. To tackle this issue, Instagram implemented a solution using a programming concept called “Promise”. A Promise is essentially an object that represents a unit of work producing a result that will produce a result in the future. It allows developers to write asynchronous code that can “wait” for a Promise to be complete, and when it is completed, they can fetch the resulting value.

But Instagram is not the only one that has had to deal with this issue. Several other strategies can be used to solve the cache stampede problem, including:

  • Cache Locking: This strategy involves the caching system locking the resource when a client requests a resource that has expired or been invalidated. The locking mechanism ensures that only one client is regenerating the resource, reducing the likelihood of a surge in traffic.
  • Cache Timeout: Another solution is to return a stale version of the resource when a client requests a resource that has expired or been invalidated while regenerating the resource in the background. This approach ensures that the client receives a response quickly, while also reducing the likelihood of a surge in traffic.
  • Randomized Expiration: To reduce the likelihood of a cache dogpile problem, staggering the expiration of cached resources can be beneficial. This can be done by using randomized expiration times for different resources, ensuring that not all resources expire at the same time.

In addition to these strategies, other methods can be used to handle the cache stampede problem. These include using a distributed cache, where multiple servers share the same cache, and implementing a load balancer, which can distribute incoming requests across multiple servers to prevent overload.

2. Conclusion

In conclusion, the cache stampede problem presents a significant challenge for online platforms and tech enthusiasts alike. As demonstrated, the sudden surge of requests for expired or invalidated cached resources can overwhelm servers and lead to system failures. However, various strategies, such as cache locking, cache timeout, and randomized expiration, offer effective solutions to mitigate this issue. Additionally, advanced techniques like using distributed caches and implementing load balancers further enhance system resilience against cache stampedes. By understanding and implementing these strategies, online platforms can ensure smoother operations and better user experiences even during periods of high traffic and resource demand.

Yatin Batra

An experience full-stack engineer well versed with Core Java, Spring/Springboot, MVC, Security, AOP, Frontend (Angular & React), and cloud technologies (such as AWS, GCP, Jenkins, Docker, K8).
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