Graph Engine Basics

GE is both a RAM store and a computation engine. As a RAM store, GE organizes the main memory* of a cluster of machines as a globally addressable address space (a memory cloud) to store large scale data sets; as a computation engine, GE provides user-customized APIs to implement graph processing logic.

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This figure shows the stack of GE system layers. The memory cloud is a distributed key-value store, which is supported by a memory storage module and a message passing framework. The memory storage module manages the main memory of a cluster of machines and provides mechanisms for concurrency control. The network communication module provides an efficient, one-sided, machine-to-machine message passing infrastructure.

GE provides a specification language called TSL (Trinity specification language) that bridges the graph model and the underlying storage and computation infrastructure. It is hard, if not entirely impossible, to support efficient, general-purpose graph computations using a fixed graph schema due to the diversity of graph data and application needs. Instead of using a fixed graph schema and fixed computation models, GE allows users to use TSL to specify graph schemata, communication protocols, and computational paradigms.

GE has two running modes, embedded mode and distributed mode. In the embedded mode, GE serves as an in-process library. In the distributed mode, GE can be deployed on one or more machines.

When deployed in the distributed mode, GE consists of a number of system components that communicate through a network. A GE component may have one or more following roles: I) storing data; II) handling messages and performing computations; III) interacting with clients. According to the roles played by the components, we classify GE components into three categories: Server, Proxy, and Client.

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  • Server. A server plays two roles: storing data and performing computations on the data. Computations usually involve sending messages to and receiving messages from other GE components.

  • Proxy. A proxy handles messages but does not own a data partition. It usually serves as a middle tier between servers and clients. For example, a proxy can serve as a query aggregator: it dispatches requests received from a client to servers, aggregates the results returned by individual servers and sends the aggregated results back to the client. GE proxies are optional. They can be added to the system as needed.

  • Client. A client is a GE program that communicates with a GE cluster. It is a user-interface layer between GE and the end user.

The GE components can form two typical system architectures:

  • An architecture that consists of a number of GE servers and a number of GE clients. Clients send queries directly to GE servers, and get results from the servers.

  • An architecture that consists of a number of GE servers, proxies, and clients. Clients communicate with the GE cluster via GE proxies. As the middle tier between clients and servers, proxies may generate query execution plans, decompose queries into sub-queries and aggregate partial results from individual servers before returning the final results to the clients.


* We use 'memory' to refer to dynamic random-access memory (RAM) throughout this manual.