Completing the project now known as “API 2.0” is one of the most important steps in finalizing the sr.ht beta, and I’ve been trying to keep the community abreast of developments, especially on the sr.ht-dev mailing list. I’m summarizing for the blog as well today, some of our recent developments in this respect and planned work to come.
Read more: why is API 2.0 is important to the beta?
SourceHut is a distributed system of "mini-services", each fulfilling its role in a particular domain — git.sr.ht handles git, builds.sr.ht handles CI, lists.sr.ht handles mailing lists, and so on. In order for these services to communicate effectively, good API design is critical. A good API is also necessary for SourceHut users to extend sr.ht with their own tools.
The legacy API was designed within the context of our Flask applications for the purpose of quickly meeting these needs during the design & development of the sr.ht alpha. It's... not great. The RESTful design implies a tree-like structure, which does not map as well onto our data model — the "graph" of GraphQL does much better in this regard. Additionally, the implementation is somewhat inconsistent and leaves a lot to be desired in terms of robustness. The stronger type system of GraphQL enforces a baseline of consistency which, while achievable with the legacy approach, is much easier with the 2.0 approach.
The API design is an essential participant in proving the architecture design of sr.ht. In order to meet the confidence level we need to start the beta, we need a greater degree of confidence than the legacy approach offered. API 2.0 meets this requirement. Additionally, stability is going to be important post-beta: this is our last opportunity to make a clean break with the legacy API and ship a better, more stable design into production which we can comfortably support for longer.
Some of the progress which has been completed recently includes:
OAuth 2.0 support
The new meta.sr.ht API supports OAuth 2.0 for authentication. We previously advertised “OAuth” support, but the new implementation is actually conformant with the RFC. A draft of our OAuth 2.0 documentation can be read here.
The design makes meta.sr.ht-api the source of truth for all things OAuth, and the meta.sr.ht-web (Python) frontend just issues GraphQL queries to manage it. meta.sr.ht-api is responsible for issuing personal access tokens, authorization tokens, and access tokens, and possibly refresh tokens in the future.
The relevant GraphQL resolvers are
@internal, so meta.sr.ht-web is the only
client which is allowed to use them. However, this is a good proof-of-concept
for later work which will expand this design to other resolvers, which
third-party clients are permitted to use, to relocate more sources of truth
from -web into -api. The ultimate intention is to remove SQLAlchemy from the
-web services entirely and just have them execute GraphQL queries to fetch the
necessary information to present the web UI.
The access tokens themselves (both personal access tokens and bearer tokens)
take the form of a BARE-encoded payload specifying
the username, client ID, authorized scopes, and token expiration, authorized
with HMAC, and base64 encoded. Resolvers which can be accessed with these
tokens, and the required scopes to access them, are controlled by the new
@access directive in the GraphQL schema.
To revoke a token, its SHA is computed and a revocation entry is added to Redis. Additionally, the token record in the database has its expiration set to the current time. When token authorization is checked, its hash is computed and the revocation status is quickly queried from Redis. In general, Redis is treated as an ephemeral cache on sr.ht — in the event that the data is lost, a new revocation list can be constructed by simply querying the database for expired tokens and issuing new revocations for them.
These changes brings the total number of authorization methods up to four:
@internalauthentication, based on a single-use token encrypted with SourceHut internal private keys, and used for service-to-service authorization. It has access to resolvers which are not normally available to the public.
- OAuth 2.0 authentication, via either bearer tokens or personal access tokens,
which are limited by the scopes laid down on each resolver with
- SourceHut web login cookie authorization, intended for use with the web-based GraphQL playgrounds, which have an access level equivalent to personal access tokens.
- Legacy OAuth tokens, which must have
*permissions, and are only granted read-only access.
The fourth method, legacy OAuth tokens, is planned to be hastily removed. In order to facilitate this, I intend to start recording when a legacy token is used to access the GraphQL API. This information will be used to create a list of users who would be affected by the removal of this feature; they’ll be sent an email with another 30 days of notice (and instructions on switching to API 2.0 tokens) before it’s removed.
A side note: the new personal access token design allows you to create personal access tokens with limited scopes, and removes the ability for third-parties to create bearer tokens with unlimited account access.
These systems are security-critical, so some eyes on the code from the community
would be appreciated. The bulk of the code can be reviewed in the
branch of meta.sr.ht,
and at the tip of gql.sr.ht.
SQLAlchemy has been a major pain point for the web applications, and the database abstraction to be used with GraphQL has been carefully designed to avoid the same pitfalls. Specifically, it has been made as thin as possible. The abstraction is now mostly done, as support was recently added for GraphQL mutations. The only outstanding improvement might be to introduce better support code for cursors, which are used to access lists of things (e.g. PGP keys for an account).
Another place where there might be improvement is in reducing the number of
total round-trips. It would be feasible to defer loading detailed user
information until it’s actually necessary, for example, and also possible to
cache some basic relationships (e.g. username to user ID) in memory, though such
a cache would only affect corner cases. Additionally, if we can update the
mutation support code to use PostgreSQL’s
RETURNING feature, we can avoid a
round-trip to fetch the record we intend to mutate. This may require forking
squirrel. In theory, it should be
possible to reduce the number of round-trips for any given request to be equal
to the number of distinct resource types it implicates. Further consolidation
may be possible with more elaborate queries in the future.
Initial performance testing
Initial performance tests on routine read-only queries suggests that we can expect to handle 1,000 reqs/sec/thread with a target service time of 20ms per request. Write queries are about half as efficient, and we could expect perhaps 100 reqs/sec/thread at 200ms each. The bottleneck on write queries seems to be in PostgreSQL, rather than in our code. More research will be necessary if it becomes an issue. In order to scale up parallelism, we’ll have to plan out the number of connections per PSQL server; I expect that we have plenty of room with our current deployment to tune this upwards.
For scaling in the future, read-only queries can be distributed over horizontally scalable PSQL secondaries. The API code is already set up to use read-only transactions when appropriate, so redirecting these should be easy. Write access will still have to be limited to a single master server, which will need to scale vertically. If this becomes a bottleneck in the future, we may research sharding options. However, writes are much less common than reads, and if we direct the read load off of the master server we should be able to scale quite far without much cost.
Some initial testing with pgbouncer raised some issues with feature compatibility between pgbouncer, the PSQL write protocol, lib/pq, and psycopg2. We plan on using pgbouncer more to meet availability requirements than scalability requirements, however, so an in-depth answer to these issues will be explored separately.
Some things which are next up in the pipeline:
The next major problem which needs to be addressed is the handling of asynchronous work in the GraphQL backends. Some tasks will need to be done async, including webhook and email delivery. Additionally, a lightweight means of firing off small tasks to be completed async whenever needful would be helpful to have, for small optimizations which move more logic out of codepaths which would block delivering responses to clients.
To this end, I intend to build a general-use system for handling queuing, executing, and re-attempting async tasks in Go applications. This will be able to live in any Go process, and my expectation is that some of them will live inside of the GraphQL backends themselves, and some will live in dedicated daemons which will have work assigned to them by the GraphQL backends remotely. Whether or not a task will be handled in- or out-process is a function of the tasks predicted reliability and importance, and thus the need for external management of that task queue.
For example, email delivery is likely to be handled in-process. We deliver mail through a dedicated mail server, which has its own queuing and re-delivery mechanisms built-in. Mail delivery is likely to succeed, and relatively soon after it enters our task queue. The in-process queues are unlikely to get very full. Webhook delivery, on the other hand, is important for preserving a consistent data model across our services, and does not have a secondary queue or redelivery mechanism like email. Therefore, managing it through a separate daemon would be ideal. However, both of these can use the same code - the only difference would be where the tasks come from, be it somewhere up the call stack or a remote request.
Some things that this code will need to support are:
- Warm process shutdown (including shutting down the HTTP listener in the GraphQL backends to free up the port for the next daemon, or to stop accepting new tasks in the remote daemons)
- Queueing, executing, and re-delivery of tasks, with exponential backoff
- Observability via Prometheus (and the relevant alarms)
- The ability to serialize state to disk
This design will likely have implications for the upcoming builds.sr.ht work distribution overhaul as well.
To continue supporting legacy webhooks, we will first need to build an implementation of the legacy system for the GraphQL backends. Naturally, this is blocked by the async solution above, but it should provide a good proving grounds for that work.
We have some basic sketches for handling webhook registration and delivery with GraphQL, but a proof-of-concept needs to be built. The basic idea is that, when registering a new webhook, you provide a GraphQL query which we execute before delivering your webhook and use as the request payload for the webhook. This can be used to eliminate any further API requests your webhook endpoint might have to perform to gather any additional information it needs to complete its work.
A plan will need to be made for transitioning our existing code from legacy webhooks to API 2.0 webhooks.
We’ll need to change how we handle the distribution packages to support these updates. It’s likely that, for example, the “meta.sr.ht” package will become a meta-package which depends jointly on meta.sr.ht-web (where the Python web application will be re-homed to), meta.sr.ht-api (the GraphQL backend), and perhaps meta.sr.ht-async. If we grow any additional frontends in the future (Gemini, for instance), this will make it easy to add them. It will also make it easy to offer GraphQL APIs without the web application, should any third-party installations desire this.
Other future work
- gql.sr.ht is going to be merged into core-go soon.
- A lot of refactoring has gone into the GQL support code in the course of developing OAuth 2.0 and the database abstraction for meta.sr.ht; git.sr.ht’s GraphQL proof-of-concept will have to be updated to follow these changes.
- A transition plan for deprecating the legacy API entirely will have to be prepared prior to finalizing the beta.
Please make your way to sr.ht-dev to keep up with and participate in the discussion.