Apache Kafka 2.8 allows for a first glimpse into the ZooKeeper-less future of the widely used event streaming platform: shipping with a preview of KIP-500 ("Replace ZooKeeper with a Self-Managed Metadata Quorum"), you can now run Kafka clusters without the need for setting up and operating Apache ZooKeeper. This does not only simplify running Kafka from an operational perspective, the new metadata quorum implementation (named "KRaft", Kafka Raft metadata mode) also should provide much better scaling characteristics, for instance when it comes to large numbers of topics and partitions.

I have blogged about my first experiences with KRaft and ZooKeeper-less Kafka a while ago over on my personal blog. Since then, the Debezium community has upgraded its container image for Apache Kafka to version 2.8, which makes it really simple to start your own explorations around running Kafka without ZooKeeper. Note that KRaft mode is an early access feature of Apache Kafka at this point in time and should not be used for production purposes.

Enabling KRaft Mode

As of Debezium version 1.7, the container image for Kafka supports three new environment variables, to be specified when running the image:

  • CLUSTER_ID: A unique id, such as "5Yr1SIgYQz-b-dgRabWx4g"; if this variable is present, KRaft mode is enabled. Otherwise, the image behaves as before, and must be configured with a reference to ZooKeeper. When using KRaft mode, all nodes of the Kafka cluster must use the same cluster id. Values can be generated using the kafka-storage.sh script coming with Apache Kafka.

  • NODE_ROLE: Specifies the role of the Kafka node; must be one of "controller", "broker", or "combined". In KRaft mode, Kafka nodes can either be part of the metadata quorum (controller nodes), they can be exclusively used for propagating messages (broker nodes), or they can do both (combined nodes). Depending on your use case and requirements, you might for instance go for a smaller Kafka cluster of three combined nodes, or for a larger one with three controllers and seven brokers. If no value is given, the image will start the broker in combined mode.

  • NODE_ID; Specifies a unique id (1, 2, 3, …​) for each node in the cluster; the previously used variable BROKER_ID has been deprecated in favour of NODE_ID; for the time being, it still is supported as an alias for the new name, but using it will trigger a warning in the logs, and it is planned to be phased out eventually.

In addition, one more environment variable must be given when starting a Kafka cluster in KRaft mode using the Debezium container image: KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS. This one is used to pass the controller.quorum.voters configuration option to Kafka, referencing all controller nodes in the cluster in the format "id-1@controller-node-1:controller-port-1,…​", for instance KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS=1@kafka-1:9093,2@kafka-2:9093,3@kafka-3:9093.

Giving it a Try

And really that’s all there is to it. So let’s take a look at a Docker Compose file for starting up a three node Kafka cluster, formed of combined nodes solely:

version: '2'
services:
  kafka-1:
    image: debezium/kafka:1.7
    ports:
      - 19092:9092
      - 19093:9093
    environment:
      - CLUSTER_ID=5Yr1SIgYQz-b-dgRabWx4g
      - BROKER_ID=1
      - KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS=1@kafka-1:9093,2@kafka-2:9093,3@kafka-3:9093
  kafka-2:
    image: debezium/kafka:1.7
    ports:
      - 29092:9092
      - 29093:9093
    environment:
      - CLUSTER_ID=5Yr1SIgYQz-b-dgRabWx4g
      - BROKER_ID=2
      - KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS=1@kafka-1:9093,2@kafka-2:9093,3@kafka-3:9093
  kafka-3:
    image: debezium/kafka:1.7
    ports:
      - 39092:9092
      - 39093:9093
    environment:
      - CLUSTER_ID=5Yr1SIgYQz-b-dgRabWx4g
      - BROKER_ID=3
      - KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS=1@kafka-1:9093,2@kafka-2:9093,3@kafka-3:9093

One quick docker compose up later, and you’ll have your ZooKeeper-less Kafka cluster running, ready to be used with Debezium, Kafka Connect, or any other Kafka workload you may have. Just remember: don’t roll it out to production just yet ;) Note that whether ZooKeeper is or isn’t used by a given cluster, solely is an implementation detail of Kafka, i.e. it’s fully transparent to Debezium, its history producers/consumers, and any other Kafka clients.

Setting up a cluster with dedicated controller and broker nodes isn’t much more complex either. Here’s the configuration for a cluster with one controller and three brokers (of course you’d want to run with at least three controllers in reality, so to avoid the single point of failure of only one controller node):

version: '2'
services:
  kafka-1:
    image: debezium/kafka:1.7
    ports:
      - 19092:9092
      - 19093:9093
    environment:
      - CLUSTER_ID=5Yr1SIgYQz-b-dgRabWx4g
      - BROKER_ID=1
      - KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS=1@kafka-1:9093
      - NODE_ROLE=controller
  kafka-2:
    image: debezium/kafka:1.7
    ports:
      - 29092:9092
      - 29093:9093
    environment:
      - CLUSTER_ID=5Yr1SIgYQz-b-dgRabWx4g
      - BROKER_ID=2
      - KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS=1@kafka-1:9093
      - NODE_ROLE=broker
  kafka-3:
    image: debezium/kafka:1.7
    ports:
      - 39092:9092
      - 39093:9093
    environment:
      - CLUSTER_ID=5Yr1SIgYQz-b-dgRabWx4g
      - BROKER_ID=3
      - KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS=1@kafka-1:9093
      - NODE_ROLE=broker
  kafka-4:
    image: debezium/kafka:1.7
    ports:
      - 49092:9092
      - 49093:9093
    environment:
      - CLUSTER_ID=5Yr1SIgYQz-b-dgRabWx4g
      - BROKER_ID=4
      - KAFKA_CONTROLLER_QUORUM_VOTERS=1@kafka-1:9093
      - NODE_ROLE=broker

You can find extended versions of the two Compose files (combined, controller/broker) in the Debezium examples repository, also containing services for Kafka Connect and a Postgres database, and accompanied by instructions for running the Debezium tutorial with ZooKeeper-less Kafka.

As KRaft mode matures in Kafka 3.0 and later versions, we may do some adjustments to the container image, so to support the new mode of running Kafka in the best way possible. Eventually, the option to run with ZooKeeper will be removed, but it’ll be quite some more time until then.

To learn more about KRaft, refer to KIP-500 and related KIPs, which describe the feature and its design in great detail, the KRaft README file, the README of the Debezium 1.7 container image for Apache Kafka, and aforementioned blog post "Exploring ZooKeeper-less Kafka".

Many thanks to René Kerner for providing feedback while writing this post.

Gunnar Morling

Gunnar is a software engineer at Red Hat and open-source enthusiast by heart. A long-time Hibernate core team member, he's now the project lead of Debezium. Gunnar is the spec lead for Bean Validation 2.0 (JSR 380). He’s based in Hamburg, Germany.

   


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Debezium is an open source distributed platform that turns your existing databases into event streams, so applications can see and respond almost instantly to each committed row-level change in the databases. Debezium is built on top of Kafka and provides Kafka Connect compatible connectors that monitor specific database management systems. Debezium records the history of data changes in Kafka logs, so your application can be stopped and restarted at any time and can easily consume all of the events it missed while it was not running, ensuring that all events are processed correctly and completely. Debezium is open source under the Apache License, Version 2.0.

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