Architecture Overview

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Where Alluxio Fits

Alluxio holds a unique place in the big data ecosystem, residing between storage systems such as Amazon S3, Apache HDFS or OpenStack Swift and computation frameworks and applications such as Apache Spark or Hadoop MapReduce and provides the central point of access with a memory centric design. For user applications and computation frameworks, Alluxio is the layer that manages data access and provides fast storage, facilitating data sharing and locality between jobs, regardless of whether they are running on the same computation engine. As a result, Alluxio can bring an order of magnitude speed up for those big data applications while providing a common interface of data access. For under storage systems, Alluxio connects the gap between big data applications and traditional storage systems, and expands the set of workloads available to utilize the data. Since Alluxio hides the integration of under storage systems to applications, any under storage can back all the applications and frameworks running on top of Alluxio. Coupled with the potential to mount multiple under storage systems, Alluxio can serve as a unifying layer for any number of varied data sources.


Alluxio Components

Alluxio’s design uses a single primary master and multiple workers. At a very high level, Alluxio can be divided into three components, the master, workers, and clients. The master and workers together make up the Alluxio servers, which are the components a system admin would maintain and manage. The Alluxio clients reside within the applications, such as Spark or MapReduce jobs, or Alluxio command-line users. Users of Alluxio will typically only need to interact with the client portion of Alluxio.


Alluxio masters are either a primary master, or a secondary master.

Primary Master

The primary master is primarily responsible for managing the global metadata of the system, for example, the file system tree. Clients may interact with the primary master to read or modify this metadata. In addition, all workers periodically heartbeat to the primary master to maintain their participation in the cluster. The primary master does not initiate communication with other components; it only interacts with other components by responding to requests. There is at most one primary master in an Alluxio cluster. If the Alluxio master is deployed in high availability mode, the multiple masters will use Zookeeper for master election, in order to ensure there is at most 1 primary master.

Secondary Master

The secondary master replays journals written by the primary master and periodically writes checkpoints. It does not process any requests from any Alluxio components.


Alluxio workers are responsible for managing local storage resources allocated to Alluxio. These resources could be local memory, SSD, or hard disk and are user configurable. Alluxio workers store data as blocks and serve requests from clients to read or write data by reading or creating new blocks. However, the worker is only responsible for the data in these blocks; the actual mapping from file to blocks is only stored in the master.


The Alluxio client provides users a gateway to interact with the Alluxio servers. It exposes a file system API. It initiates communication with master to carry out metadata operations and with workers to read and write data that exist in Alluxio. Data that exists in the under storage but is not available in Alluxio is accessed directly through an under storage client.