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Working with Pravega: State Synchronizer

You can think about Pravega as a streaming storage primitive, because it is a great way to durably persist data.  You can think about Pravega as a great pub-sub messaging system, because with Readers, Writers and ReaderGroups it is a great way to do messaging at scale.  But you can also think about Pravega as a way to implement shared state in a consistent fashion across multiple cooperating processes distributed in a cluster.  It is this latter category that we explore with this document.

Instructions for running the sample applications can be found in the Pravega Samples readme.

You really should be familiar with Pravega Concepts (see Pravega Concepts) before continuing reading this page.  In particular, you should be somewhat familiar with the State Synchronizer concept.

Shared State and Pravega

State Synchronizer is a facility provided by the Pravega programming model to make it easy for developers to use Pravega to coordinate shared state between processes.

state synchronizer

The idea is that a Stream is used to persist a sequence of changes to shared state and that various applications use their Pravega Java Client Library to concurrently read and write the shared state in a consistent fashion. 

SharedStateMap and Shared Configuration Example

Before we dive into the details about how to use State Synchronizer, let's take a quick look at an example application that uses State Synchronizer.  We have provided a simple yet illustrative example of using State Synchronizer here.

The example uses State Synchronizer to build an implementation of Java's Map data structure called SharedMap.  We use that primitive SharedMap data structure to build a Shared Config, that allows a set of processes to consistently read/write a shared, configuration object of key/value pair properties.  Also as part of that example, we provide a simple command line-based application that allows you to play around with the SharedConfig app.

state synchronizer example

Here is a menu of the available commands in the SharedConfigCLI application:

Enter one of the following commands at the command line prompt:

GET_ALL - prints out all of the properties in the Shared Config.
GET {key} - print out the configuration property for the given key.
PUT {key} , {value} - update the Shared Config with the given key/value pair.  Print out previous value (if it existed).
PUT_IF_ABSENT {key} , {value} - update the Shared Config with the given key/value pair, only if the property is not already defined.
REMOVE {key} [ , {currentValue}] - remove the given property from the Shared Config.  If {currentValue} is given, remove only if the property's current value matches {currentValue}..
REPLACE {key} , {newValue} [ , {currentValue}] - update the value of the property.  If {currentValue} is given, update only if the property's current value matches {cuurentValue}.
CLEAR - remove all the keys from the Shared Config.
REFRESH - force an update from the Synchronized State.
HELP - print out a list of commands.
QUIT - terminate the program.

Install the Pravega-Samples and launch two instances of the SharedConfigCLI using the same scope and stream name.  This will simulate how two different processes can coordinate their local copy of the SharedConfig with one shared state object.  You can follow these steps to get a feel for how the SharedConfig is coordinated:

# Process 1 Process 2 Discussion
1 GET_ALL GET_ALL Shows that both processes see an empty SharedConfig
2 PUT p1,v1 Process 1 adds a property named p1
3 GET p1 GET p1 Process 1 sees value v1 for the property
Process 2 does not have a property named p1. Why? Because it has not refreshed its state with the shared state
4 REFRESH Re-synchronize Process 2's state with the shared state
5 GET p1 Now Process 2 sees the change Process 1 made in step 2
6 REPLACE p1, newVal, v1 Process 2 attempts to change the value of p1, but uses a conditional replace, meaning the change should be made only if the old value of p1 is v1 (which it is at this point)
7 GET p1 Sure enough, the value of p1 was changed to newVal
8 REPLACE p1, anotherVal, v1 Process 1 tries to change the value of p1 in the same way Process 2 did in step 6. This will fail because the value of p1 in shared state is no longer v1
9 GET p1 The failed replace operation in step 8 caused Process 1's copy of the shared state to be updated, its value is now newVal because of step 6.

You can repeat with a similar sequence to explore the semantics of PUT_IF_ABSENT and other operations that modify shared state.

The idea is that modifications to the SharedConfig succeed only if they operate on the latest value.  We use optimistic concurrency to implement efficient consistency across multiple consumers of the SharedConfig object.

You can have multiple different SharedConfig state objects running simultaneously, each separate SharedConfig uses State Synchronizer objects based on a different Pravega Stream.  Of course if you launch two applications using State Synchronizer objects backed by the same Stream, you get two processes concurrently accessing the shared state.  This is exactly the situation we illustrated above.

Using State Synchronizer to Build the SharedMap

We used the State Synchronizer to build the SharedMap object in Pravega-Samples.  State Synchronizer can be used to build a shared version of almost any data structure.  Maybe your app needs to share just a simple integer count of something; we can use State Synchronizer to build a simple shared counter.  Maybe the data you are sharing is a Set of currently running servers in a cluster;  we can use State Synchronizer to build  a shared Set.  The possibilities are many.

Let's explore how to build shared objects using State Synchronizer by examining how we built Shared Map.

State Synchronizer

State Synchronizer is a type of Pravega client, similar to an EventStreamReader or EventStreamWriter.  A State Synchronizer is created via a ClientFactory object.  Each State Synchronizer has a unique name within a Scope.  A SynchronizerConfig object is used to tailor the behavior of a StateSynchronizer (although currently, there are no properties on a State Synchronizer that are configurable).  State Synchronizer uses Java generic types to allow a developer to specify a type specific State Synchronizer.  All of these things are done in a fashion similar to how EventStreamReaders and EventStreamWriters are used.


When designing an application that uses State Synchronizer, the developer needs to decide what type of state is going to be synchronized (shared).  Are we sharing a Map?  A Set?  A Pojo? What is the data structure that is being shared.  This defines the core "type" of the State Synchronizer (the StateT generic type in the State Synchronizer interface).  The StateT object can be any Java object that implements the Revisioned interface defined by Pravega.  Revisioned is a simple interface that allows Pravega to ensure it can properly compare two different StateT objects.

In our example, the SharedMap is the State Synchronizer application.  It defines a simple Map object presenting the typical get(key), set (key, value) etc. operations you would expect from a key-value pair map object.  It implements  the Revisioned interface, as required to use the State Synchronizer, and uses a simple ConcurrentHashMap as its internal implementation of the Map.  So in our example, StateT corresponds to SharedStateMap\<K,V>.

UpdateT and InitialUpdateT

In addition to StateT, there are two other generic types that need to be defined by a StateSynchronizer app: an Update type and an InitialUpdate type).  The UpdateType represents the "delta" or change objects that are persisted on the Pravega Stream.  The InitialUpdateType is a special update object used to to start the State Synchronizer off.  Both UpdateType and InitialUpdateType are defined in terms of StateT.

The StateSynchronizer uses a single Segment on a Stream to store updates (changes) to the shared state object.  Changes, in the form of Initial or Update type objects, are written to the Stream based on whether the update is relative to the most current copy of the state in the Stream.  If an update is presented that is based on an older version of the state, the update is not made.

The StateSynchronizer object itself keeps a local in memory copy of the state, it also keeps version metadata about that copy of the state.  Local state can be retrieved using the getState() operation.  The local in memory copy could be stale, and it can be refreshed by an application using the fetchUpdates() operation, that retrieves all the changes made to the given version of the state.

Most changes from the application are made through the updateState() operation.  The updateState() operation takes a Function as parameter.  The Function is invoked with the latest state object, and computes the updates to be applied.

In our example, InitialUpdateT is implemented as:

 * Create a Map. This is used by StateSynchronizer to initialize shared state.
private static class CreateState<K, V> implements InitialUpdate<SharedStateMap<K,V>>, Serializable {
    private static final long serialVersionUID = 1L;
    private final ConcurrentHashMap<K, V> impl;

    public CreateState(ConcurrentHashMap<K, V> impl) {
        this.impl = impl;

    public SharedStateMap<K, V> create(String scopedStreamName, Revision revision) {
        return new SharedStateMap<K, V>(scopedStreamName, impl, revision);

In this case, the CreateState class is used to initialize the shared state in the Stream by creating a new, empty SharedStateMap object.  You could imagine other examples of InitialUpdate that would set a counter to 1, or perhaps initialize a Set to a fixed initial set of members.

It may seem a bit odd that functions like "initialize" and "update" are expressed as classes, but when you think about it, that makes sense.  The changes, like initialize and update, need to be stored in Pravega, therefore they need to be serializable objects.  It must be possible for client applications to be able to start at any time, compute the current state and then keep up as changes are written to the Stream.  If we just stored "the latest state value" in the Stream, there would be no way to consistently provide concurrent update and read using optimistic concurrency.

UpdateT is a bit more tricky.  There isn't just one kind of update to a Map, but rather there are all sorts of updates: put of a key/value pair, put of a collection of key/value pairs, removing a key/value pair and clearing all of the key/value pairs,  Each of these "kinds" of updates are represented by their own Class.  We define an abstract class, called StateUpdate, from which all of these "operational" update classes inherit.  

StateUpdate abstract class

 * A base class for all updates to the shared state. This allows for several different types of updates.
private static abstract class StateUpdate<K,V> implements Update<SharedStateMap<K,V>>, Serializable {
    private static final long serialVersionUID = 1L;

    public SharedStateMap<K,V> applyTo(SharedStateMap<K,V> oldState, Revision newRevision) {
        ConcurrentHashMap<K, V> newState = new ConcurrentHashMap<K, V>(oldState.impl);
        return new SharedStateMap<K,V>(oldState.getScopedStreamName(), newState, newRevision);

    public abstract void process(ConcurrentHashMap<K, V> updatableList);

By defining an abstract class, we can define UpdateT in terms of the abstract StateUpdate class.  The abstract class implements the "applyTo" method that is invoked by the StateSynchronizer to apply the update to the current state object and return an updated state object.  The actual work is done on a copy of the old state's underlying Map (impl) object, a "process" operation is applied (specific to each subclass) to the impl object and a new version of the SharedState, using the post-processed impl as the internal state.  The abstract class defines a process() method that actually does the work of whatever update needs to be applied.  This method is implemented by the various concrete classes that represent Put, PutAll etc. operations on the shared map.

Here, for example, is the way we implement the Put(key,value) operation on the SharedMap object:

Put as an Update Object

 * Add a key/value pair to the State.
private static class Put<K,V> extends StateUpdate<K,V> {
    private static final long serialVersionUID = 1L;
    private final K key;
    private final V value;

    public Put(K key, V value) {
        this.key = key;
        this.value = value;

    public void process(ConcurrentHashMap<K, V> impl) {
        impl.put(key, value);

Here, the process() operation is to add a key/value pair to the map, or if the key already exists, change the value.  Each of the "operations" on the SharedMap is implemented in terms of creating instances of the various subclasses of StateUpdate.

Executing Operations on SharedMap

SharedMap demonstrates the typical operations on a StateSynchronizer.  SharedMap presents an API, very similar to Java's Map\<K,V> interface.  It implements the Map operations in terms of manipulating the StateSynchronizer, using the various subclasses of StateUpdate to perform state change (write) operations.


Creating a SharedMap

  * Creates the shared state using a synchronizer based on the given stream name.
  * @param clientFactory - the Pravega ClientFactory to use to create the StateSynchronizer.
  * @param streamManager - the Pravega StreamManager to use to create the Scope and the Stream used by the StateSynchronizer
  * @param scope - the Scope to use to create the Stream used by the StateSynchronizer.
  * @param name - the name of the Stream to be used by the StateSynchronizer.
public SharedMap(ClientFactory clientFactory, StreamManager streamManager, String scope, String name){

    StreamConfiguration streamConfig = StreamConfiguration.builder().scope(scope).streamName(name)

    streamManager.createStream(scope, name, streamConfig);

    this.stateSynchronizer = clientFactory.createStateSynchronizer(name,
                                            new JavaSerializer<StateUpdate<K,V>>(),
                                            new JavaSerializer<CreateState<K,V>>(),

    stateSynchronizer.initialize(new CreateState<K,V>(new ConcurrentHashMap<K,V>()));

A SharedMap object is created by defining the scope and stream (almost always the case, the scope and stream probably already exist, so the steps in lines 10-16 are usually no-ops.  The StateSynchronizer object itself is constructed in lines 18-21 using the ClientFactory in a fashion similar to the way a Pravega Reader or Writer would be created.  Note that the UpdateT object and InitialUpdateT object can have separate Java serializers specified.  Currently, the SynchronizerConfig object is pretty dull; there are no configuration items currently available on the StateSynchronizer.

The StateSynchronizer provides an initialize() API that takes an InitialUpdate object.  This is called in the SharedMap constructor to make sure the SharedState is properly initialized.  Note, in many cases, the SharedMap object will be created on a stream that already contains shared state for the SharedMap.  Even in this case, it is ok to call initialize() because initialize() won't modify the shared state in the Stream.

Read Operations

The read operations, operations that do not alter shared state, like get(key)  containsValue(value) etc., work against the local copy of the StateSynchronizer.  All of these operations retrieve the current local state using getState() and then do the read operation from that state.  The local state of the StateSynchronizer might be stale.  In these cases, the SharedMap client would use refresh() to force the StateSynchronizer to refresh its state from shared state using the fetchUpdates() operation on the StateSynchronizer object.

Note, this is a design decision to trade off staleness for responsiveness.  We could easily have implemented the read operations to instead always do a refresh before doing the read against local state.  That would be a very efficient strategy if the developer expected that there will be frequent updates to the shared state.  In our case, we had imagined that the SharedMap would be read frequently but updated relatively infrequently, and therefore chose to read against local state.

Write (update) Operations

Each write operation is implemented in terms of the various concrete StateUpdate objects we discussed earlier.  The clear() operation uses the Clear subclass of StateUpdate to remove all the key/value pairs, put() uses the Put class, etc.

Lets dive into the implementation of the put() operation to discuss StateSynchronizer programming in a bit more detail:

Implementing put(key,value)

 * Associates the specified value with the specified key in this map.
 * @param key - the key at which the value should be found.
 * @param value - the value to be entered into the map.
 * @return - the previous value (if it existed) for the given key or null if the key did not exist before this operation.
public V put(K key, V value){
    final AtomicReference<V> oldValue = new AtomicReference<V>(null);
    stateSynchronizer.updateState((state, updates) -> {
        updates.add(new Put<K,V>(key,value));
    return oldValue.get();

It is important to note that the function provided to the StateSynchronizer's updateState() will be called potentially multiple times. The result of applying the function to the old state is written only when it is applied against the most current revision of the state. If there was a race and the optimistic concurrency check fails, it will be called again. Most of the time there will only be a small number of invocations.  In some cases, the developer may choose to use fetchUpdates() to synchronize the StateSynchronizer with the latest copy of shared state from the stream before running updateState().  This is a matter of optimizing the tradeoff between how frequent updates are expected and how efficient you want the update to be.  If you expect a lot of updates, call fetchUpdates() before calling updateState().  In our case, we didn't expect a lot of updates and therefore we process potentially several invocations of the function each time put() is called.

Delete Operations

We chose to implement the delete (remove) operations to also leverage the compact() feature of StateSynchronizer.  We have a policy that after every 5 remove operations, and after every clear() operation, we do a compact operation.  Now, we could have chosen to do a compact() operation after every 5 update operations, but we wanted to isolate the illustration of using compact() to just delete operations.

You can think of compact() as a form of "garbage collection" in StateSynchronizer.  After a certain number of changes have been written to SharedState, it might be efficient to write out a new initial state, an accumulated representation of all the changes, to the Stream.  That way data older than the compact operation can be ignored and eventually removed from the Stream.

state synchronizer compact

As a result of the compact() operation, a new initial sate (Initial2) is written to the stream.  Now, all the data from Change3 and older is no longer relevant and can be garbage collected out of the Stream.