[distcc] Working on several distcc enhancements (take 2)

Laurent Calburtin laurent.calburtin at free.fr
Sun Nov 27 18:15:05 GMT 2005


We just started to use distcc at our company (a dozen developers on  
same project), and I'm pleased to see the distcc project is active!

I read your enhancements proposal with attention, especially point 4  
and 5 and I would like to share with you some ideas.

On Friday 18 November 2005 23.39, Daniel Kegel wrote:

 > 4. When a distccd server is full up on active jobs, and other nearby
 >    servers are not, it's a shame that clients which connect to the
 >    wrong server have to wait
 > 5. If Alice has already compiled everything on client A, and Bob  
starts a job
 >    to compile the same everything on client B, it's a shame that  
Bob has to wait;
 >    perhaps distccd (or a load balancer!) should (carefully) cache  

I'm very interested about combining ccache and distcc. I think that  
would make a huge performance improvement in our situation where many  
developers are compiling each day roughly the same set of files.

But installing ccache on each distccd host means as many separate  
Since filling a cache has a price (compiling!), I would prefer  
filling as few caches as possible with the same content. I know that  
some are using a file server to share the cache but that means  
network communications and we may avoid that.

As far as I know, ccache is using an md4 hash on the pre-processor  
output as a short signature of a file to compile. Why not sending  
only this hash to hosts instead of the full pre-processor output?
If the host has the result in its cache, we win, else the client can  
decide to try another host or to continue with this host by sending  
him the pre-processor output to compile and store in its cache for  
the next developer to come in.

An objection to this scenario could be the network overhead needed to  
ask all hosts the one who has the cached output. That brings me to  
another area where distcc may need improvement: host selection.

For now host selection, as far as I know, don't use any serverside  
status information (such as current load or number of pending  
connections) and since every clients use the same algorithm to select  
a host from its hosts list, chances are that distcc clients will all  
tend to connect to the same servers.
Imagine a 10 servers farm and 15 developers distributing 5 files to  
compile. 15 distcc clients will try to connect to the first server  
while 5 servers will remain idle (if I'm wrong with this scenario  
please tell me). I saw a patch submission that, as I understood, tend  
to eliminate this problem by randomizing the host selection. That may  
solve the pb in this case.

Ultimately we may want a way for the client to select the "best" host  
based on different criteria:
- does it have already the output in cache?
- does it have a slot available?
- is it the most powerful?

So why not just shout out what we need by broadcasting (or  
multicasting) the md4 hash code in just one udp packet. Available  
hosts would reply by describing their status (availability, cached  
output available, power ratio,...) so that the distcc client could  
choose the best one.
UDP is not reliable but reliability is not mandatory in this case  
since we use it only as a way to improve the host selection. And  
distcc clients will only wait for answers for a very limited time (an  
additional way to select the most reactive server).

The work needed for all that would be some merging of ccache code  
into distcc so that distcc and distccd can exchange only the hash  
code instead of the whole pre-processed file.
The host selection protocol can be totally separated and should have  
minimal impact on existing distcc source code.

Additionnaly, if distccd hosts can reply to broadcasting, one may  
want to take this opportunity to implement automatic detection of  
available distccd servers. But I personnally think zeroconf would be  
better suited for this, and I saw a patch submission for it.

thank you for reading!
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