Summer Systems @Scale 2022
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DADI @Scale: Deploying Containers at Scale in Alibaba

Alibaba Cloud offers a comprehensive suite of elastic computing services that are based on container technology. Alibaba Group is one of the key customers of Alibaba Cloud and all of the major applications across its large and diverse set of businesses are run in containers. In this talk, we present DADI, the image system that underpins Alibaba’s containers, and share our experience with deploying it at scale worldwide to serve all of Alibaba Group and a large and rapidly grow- ing number of external customers on the Alibaba Cloud. DADI is a block-level image system that replaces the waterfall model of starting containers (downloading image, unpacking image, starting container) with fine-grained on-demand transfer of remote images, realizing instant start of containers. DADI relies on a peer-to-peer architecture in large clusters to balance network traffic among all the participat- ing hosts. One of the unique features of DADI is that it is based on the standard block device so that the image system is file system and platform agnostic, enabling one image system to handle the many ap- plication and container platforms that inevitably span very large orga- nizations including Alibaba. The system is high-extensible, allowing us to quickly add features including trace-based prefetching and custom acceleration of container provisioning for different computing services such as serverless computing or Function-as-a-Service (FaaS). As part of this talk, we highlight the ease with which DADI can support new container technologies including those based on Kata Containers, fire- cacker and gVisor. We conclude with a discussion of ongoing efforts towards more secure containers by leveraging the small attack surface of the DADI block device, and decrypting the container image only within the container.

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