Decisions 1

Marc Bollinger

Infra & Data Eng Manager at Thumbtack

Lumosity is home to the world's largest cognitive training database, a responsibility we take seriously. For most of the company's history, our analysis of user behavior and training data has been powered by an event stream--first a simple Node.js pub/sub app, then a heavyweight Ruby app with stronger durability. Both supported decent throughput and latency, but they lacked some major features supported by existing open-source alternatives: replaying existing messages (also lacking in most message queue-based solutions), scaling out many different readers for the same stream, the ability to leverage existing solutions for reading and writing, and possibly most importantly: the ability to hire someone externally who already had expertise.

We ultimately migrated to Kafka in early- to mid-2016, citing both industry trends in companies we'd talked to with similar durability and throughput needs, the extremely strong documentation and community. We pored over Kyle Kingsbury's Jepsen post (, as well as Jay Kreps' follow-up (, talked at length with Confluent folks and community members, and still wound up running parallel systems for quite a long time, but ultimately, we've been very, very happy. Understanding the internals and proper levers takes some commitment, but it's taken very little maintenance once configured. Since then, the Confluent Platform community has grown and grown; we've gone from doing most development using custom Scala consumers and producers to being 60/40 Kafka Streams/Connects.

We originally looked into Storm / Heron , and we'd moved on from Redis pub/sub. Heron looks great, but we already had a programming model across services that was more akin to consuming a message consumers than required a topology of bolts, etc. Heron also had just come out while we were starting to migrate things, and the community momentum and direction of Kafka felt more substantial than the older Storm. If we were to start the process over again today, we might check out Pulsar , although the ecosystem is much younger.

To find out more, read our 2017 engineering blog post about the migration!

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