A cluster is a collection of git-annex repositories which are combined to form a single logical repository.

A cluster is accessed via a gateway repository. The gateway is not itself a node of the cluster.

A cluster's nodes can be any combination of git-annex repositories and special remotes.

using a cluster

To use a cluster, your repository needs to have its gateway configured as a remote. Clusters can currently only be accessed via ssh. This gateway remote is added the same as any other git remote:

$ git remote add bigserver me@bigserver:annex

The gateway publishes information about the cluster to the git-annex branch. So you may need to fetch from it to learn about the cluster:

$ git fetch bigserver

That will make available an additional remote for the cluster, eg "bigserver-mycluster", as well as some remotes for each node.

$ git annex info bigserver
...
gateway to cluster: bigserver-mycluster
proxying: bigserver-node1 bigserver-node2 bigserver-node3
...

You can get files from the cluster without caring which node it comes from:

$ git-annex get foo --from bigserver-mycluster
copy foo (from bigserver-mycluster...) ok

And you can send files to the cluster, without caring what nodes they are stored to:

$ git-annex move bar --to bigserver-mycluster
move bar (to bigserver-mycluster...) ok

In fact, a single upload like that can be sent to every node of the cluster at once, very efficiently.

$ git-annex whereis bar
whereis bar (3 copies)
    acae2ff6-6c1e-8bec-b8b9-397a3755f397 -- [bigserver-mycluster]
    9f514001-6dc0-4d83-9af3-c64c96626892 -- node 1 [bigserver-node1]
    d81e0b28-612e-4d73-a4e6-6dabbb03aba1 -- node 2 [bigserver-node2]
    5657baca-2f11-11ef-ae1a-5b68c6321dd9 -- node 3 [bigserver-node3]

Notice that the file is shown as present in the cluster, as well as on individual nodes. But the cluster itself does not count as a copy of the file, so the 3 copies are the copies on individual nodes.

Most other git-annex commands that operate on repositories can also operate on clusters.

A cluster is not a git repository, and so git pull bigserver-mycluster will not work.

preferred content of clusters

The preferred content of the cluster can be configured. This tells users what files the cluster as a whole should contain.

To configure the preferred content of a cluster, as well as other related things like groups and required content, it's easiest to do the configuration in a repository that has the cluster as a remote.

For example:

$ git-annex wanted bigserver-mycluster standard
$ git-annex group bigserver-mycluster archive

By default, when a file is uploaded to a cluster, it is stored on every node of the cluster. To control which nodes to store to, the preferred content of each individual node can be configured.

It's also a good idea to configure the preferred content of the cluster's gateway. To avoid files redundantly being stored on the gateway (which remember, is not a node of the cluster), you might make it not want any files:

$ git-annex wanted bigserver nothing

setting up a cluster

A new cluster first needs to be initialized. Run git-annex-initcluster in the repository that will serve as the cluster's gateway. In the example above, this was the "bigserver" repository.

$ git-annex initcluster mycluster

Once a cluster is initialized, the next step is to add nodes to it. To make a remote be a node of the cluster, configure git config remote.name.annex-cluster-node, setting it to the name of the cluster.

In the example above, the three cluster nodes were configured like this:

$ git remote add node1 /media/disk1/repo
$ git remote add node2 /media/disk2/repo
$ git remote add node3 /media/disk3/repo
$ git config remote.node1.annex-cluster-node mycluster
$ git config remote.node2.annex-cluster-node mycluster
$ git config remote.node3.annex-cluster-node mycluster

Finally, run git-annex-updatecluster to record the cluster configuration in the git-annex branch. That tells other repositories about the cluster.

$ git-annex updatecluster
Added node node1 to cluster: mycluster
Added node node2 to cluster: mycluster
Added node node3 to cluster: mycluster
Started proxying for node1
Started proxying for node2
Started proxying for node3

Operations that affect multiple nodes of a cluster can often be sped up by configuring annex.jobs in the gateway repository. In the example above, the nodes are all disk bound, so operating on more than one at a time will likely be faster.

$ git config annex.jobs cpus

adding additional gateways to a cluster

A cluster can have more than one gateway. One way to use this is to make a cluster that is distributed across several locations.

Suppose you have a datacenter in AMS, and one in NYC. There will be a gateway in each datacenter which provides access to the nodes there. And the gateways will relay data between each other as well.

Start by setting up the cluster in Amsterdam. The process is the same as in the previous section.

AMS$ git-annex initcluster mycluster
AMS$ git remote add node1 /media/disk1/repo
AMS$ git remote add node2 /media/disk2/repo
AMS$ git config remote.node1.annex-cluster-node mycluster
AMS$ git config remote.node2.annex-cluster-node mycluster
AMS$ git-annex updatecluster
AMS$ git config annex.jobs cpus

Now in a clone of the same repository in NYC, add AMS as a git remote accessed with ssh:

NYC$ git remote add AMS me@amsterdam.example.com:annex
NYC$ git fetch AMS

Setting up the cluster in NYC is different, rather than using git-annex initcluster again (which would make a new, different cluster), we ask git-annex to extend the cluster from AMS:

NYC$ git-annex extendcluster AMS mycluster

The rest of the setup process for NYC is the same, of course different nodes are added.

NYC$ git remote add node3 /media/disk3/repo
NYC$ git remote add node4 /media/disk4/repo
NYC$ git config remote.node3.annex-cluster-node mycluster
NYC$ git config remote.node4.annex-cluster-node mycluster
NYC$ git-annex updatecluster
NYC$ git config annex.jobs cpus

Finally, the AMS side of the cluster has to be updated, adding a git remote for NYC, and extending the cluster to there as well:

AMS$ git remote add NYC me@nyc.example.com:annex
AMS$ git-annex sync NYC
NYC$ git-annex extendcluster NYC mycluster

A user can now add either AMS or NYC as a remote, and will have access to the entire cluster as either AMS-mycluster or NYC-mycluster.

user$ git-annex move foo --to AMS-mycluster
move foo (to AMS-mycluster...) ok

Looking at where files end up, all the nodes are visible, not only those served by the current gateway.

user$ git-annex whereis foo
whereis foo (4 copies)
    acfc1cb2-b8d5-8393-b8dc-4a419ea38183 -- cluster mycluster [AMS-mycluster]
    11ab09a9-7448-45bd-ab81-3997780d00b3 -- node4 [AMS-NYC-node4]
    36197d0e-6d49-4213-8440-71cbb121e670 -- node2 [AMS-node2]
    43652651-1efa-442a-8333-eb346db31553 -- node3 [AMS-NYC-node3]
    7fb5a77b-77a3-4032-b3e5-536698e308b3 -- node1 [AMS-node1]
ok

Notice that remotes for cluster nodes have names indicating the path through the cluster used to access them. For example, "AMS-NYC-node3" is accessed via the AMS gateway, which then relays to NYC where node3 is located.

considerations for multi-gateway clusters

When a cluster has multiple gateways, nothing keeps the git repositories on the gateways in sync. A branch pushed to one gateway will not be able to be pulled from another one. And gateways only learn about the locations of keys that are uploaded to the cluster via them. So in the example above, after an upload to AMS-mycluster, NYC-mycluster will only know that the key is stored in its nodes, but won't know that it's stored in nodes behind AMS. So, it's best to have a single git repository that is synced with, or perhaps run git-annex-remotedaemon on each gateway to keep its git repository in sync with the other gateways.

Clusters can be constructed with any number of gateways, and any internal topology of connections between gateways. But there must always be a path from any gateway to all nodes of the cluster, otherwise a key won't be able to be stored from, or retrieved from some nodes.

It's best to avoid there being multiple paths to a node that go via different gateways, since all paths will be tried in parallel when eg, uploading a key to the cluster.

A breakdown in communication between gateways will temporarily split the cluster. When communication resumes, some keys may need to be copied to additional nodes.