DocumentDB, Node.js, CoffeeScript and Hubot

For anyone that doesn’t already know, Hubot is Githubs ever present “bot” that can be customized to respond to all sorts of commands on a number of different messaging platforms. From what I understand (I don’t work at Github, so I’m just going by what I’ve read) it is used for build/deploy to production (and all other environments), determining employee locations (distributed teams) and a million other things. Fortunately Github has made Hubot open source and anyone can download and integrate it into Skype, Hipchat, Campfire, Slack etc etc. I’ve decided to have a crack at integrating it into my work place, specifically against the Slack messaging system.

I utterly love it.
During a 24 hour “hackday”, I integrated it into Slack (see details) and grabbed a number of pre-existing scripts to start me off. Some obvious ones (for a dev team) are TeamCity integration, statistics and statuses of various 3rd party services that we use and information retrieval from our own production system. This last one will be particularly useful for support, having an easy way to retrieve information about a customer without having to write up new UI’s for every change we do. *very* dev friendly Smile

One thing I’ve been tinkering with is having Hubot communicate directly with the Azure DocumentDB service. Although I’ve only put the proverbial toe in the water I see LOTS of potential here. Hubot is able to run anywhere (behind corporate firewall, out on an Azure Website or anywhere in between). Having it access DocumentDB (which can be accessed by anywhere with a net connection) means that we do not need to modify production services/firewalls etc for Hubot to work. Hubot can then perform these queries, get the statistics/details with ease. This (to me) is a big win, I can provide a useful information retrieval system without having to modify our existing production platform.

Fortunately the DocumentDB team have provided a nice Node.js npm package to install (see here for some examples). This made things trivially easy to do. The only recommendation I’d suggest is for tools/services/hubots that are read-only, just use the read only DocumentDB Key which is available on the Azure Portal. I honestly didn’t realise that read-only keys were available until I recently did some snooping about, and although I’m always confident in my code, having a read-only key just gives me a safety net against production data.

Oh yes, CoffeeScript. I’m not a Javascript person (I’m backend as much as possible, C# these days) and Hubots default language is CoffeeScript. So first I had to deal with JS and THEN deal with CoffeeScript. Yes, this last part is just my personal failing (kicking and screaming into the JS era).

An example of performing a query against DocumentDB in Node.js (in Coffeescript) follows. First you need to get a database reference, then a collection reference (from the DB) then perform the real query you want.

DocumentClient = require(“documentdb”).DocumentClient;
client = new DocumentClient( process.env.HUBOT_DOCUMENTDB_ENDPOINT, “masterKey”:process.env.HUBOT_DOCUMENTDB_READONLY_KEY} );
GetDatabase client, ‘(database) –>
  GetCollection client, database._self, ‘(collection) –>
    client.queryDocuments(collection._self, “select * from docs d where = ‘testid’”).toArray   (err, res) –>
      if res && res.length > 0

GetCollection = (client, databaseLink, callback) –> 
  collectionQuery = { query: ‘SELECT * FROM root r WHERE”mycollection”’};
    client.queryCollections( databaseLink, collectionQuery).toArray (err, results) –> 
      if !err
        if results.length > 0
            callback( results[0]);

GetDatabase = (client, databaseName, callback ) –>
  dbQuery = { query: ‘SELECT * FROM root r WHERE”mydatabase”’};
    client.queryDatabases(dbQuery).toArray (err, results) –> 
      if !err
        if results.length > 0  

Given CoffeeScript is white space sensitive and my blog editor doesn’t appear to allow me to format the code *exactly* how I need to, I’m hoping readers will be able to deduce where the white space is off.

End result is Hubot, Node.js and DocumentDB are really easy to integrate together. Thanks for a great service/library Microsoft!

Azure DocumentDB performance thoughts

Updated: Typos and clarifying collections.

I’ve been developing against Azure DocumentDB storage for over 6 months now and have to say, overall I’m impressed. It gives me more than Azure Table storage (great key/value lookup but no searching via other properties) but isn’t a 800 pound gorilla of Azure Database. For me it sits nicely between the two, giving me easy development/deployment but also lets me index which fields I like (admittedly I’m sticking with the default of “all”) and query against them.

Now, my development hasn’t just been idle curiosity with a bit of tinkering here and there, but is a commercial application that is out in the wild (although in beta) currently. It is critical that language support, tooling, performance and documentation quality is met. For the most part it has, I’m personally very happy with it and will push for us to continue using it where appropriate.

Initially DocumentDB was NOT available in the region where my Azure Web Roles/VM’s where running (during development we had Web Roles running out of Singapore but DocumentDB out of west-us). This was fine for development purposes but was a niggling concern that *when* will DocumentDB appear in Singapore? Well finally it did, and the performance change “felt” to improve.

Felt…  tricky word. I swear sometimes when I tinker with my machine it “feels” faster…  but it’s probably just mind over matter. (Personally I’d love to be involved in some medical trial where I end up with a placebo. I swear it would cure me of virtually anything… or at least I feel it would) Smile

Ahem, I digress. So it “felt” faster  once DocumentDB appeared in Singapore but I know others didn’t really notice any difference. Admittedly there are LOTS of moving parts in the application and DocumentDB is just one small cog in a big machine. Maybe I was bias, maybe I was the only one paying attention, maybe I was fooling myself? Time to crank out Visual Studio and see what lies/statistics and benchmarks will tell me.

One of our development accounts had enough data to make it mostly realistic (ie not just a tiny tiny sample of data which wouldn’t prove anything). But that was sitting in west-us…   so the benchmarks I took were slightly the reverse of what production was.

In production we have the VM/WebRole and DocumentDB in Singapore where as previously we have VM/Webrole in Singapore and DocumentDB in West-US. For the purposes of my benchmarking I’ve kept the DocumentDB in west-us (test data) and have 2 VM’s setup to do the testing. One in west-us and one in Singapore.

First, some notes about the setup. Originally we had 4 collections setup with a given DocumentDB account (for explanation of a collection, see here). The query was through the LINQ provider (using SQL syntax) with a couple of simple where conditions (company = x and userid = y type of thing). Very simple, very straight forward. The query was also only executed against one of the collections. The other collections had data but were not relevant for this query.

So, what did I find?

When the test was run on a VM in Singapore against DocumentDB in west-us, the runtime results were:







Giving an average of 3915ms

Where as running the same test in the west-us resulted in:







With an average of 485ms.

That’s an improvement of 88%. This really shouldn’t be a surprise, the Pacific ocean is a tad large. I bet all those packets got very soggy and slowed downWinking smile

Another change that I’ve been working on is merging our 4 collections into a single collection. It has been stressed by the DocumentDB team that collections are not tables. Regardless of this, when we setup our collections originally we did make them as if they were tables. ie a single type of entity would be stored in a single collection. Although I’ll eventually end up with just the single combined collection, during these tests all 5 collections all co-existed within the same DocumentDB account.

I’ve been modifying/copying the data from the 4 collections to a single “uber collection” which really is the way it should have been done in the first place. My only real source of confusion is when querying this combined collection how do we know what to serialize the response objects as?

ie if I perform a query and I get a mix of results (class A and class B), how do I deal with it? This really was an artificial problem. The reality is that my queries really didn’t change (that much). If I was originally querying collection 1 for results I’d always get back results serialized as a list of Class A objects. If I’m doing the same query against the combined collection I should still get the same results. The only change I did to the objects (and the query) was that in each Document stored in this combined collection I added a “DocType” property which was assigned some number (really enum). This way I could modify my query to be something like:   “….. original query…..  AND e.DocType=1”   etc.

This just gave me a little piece of mind that my queries would only return a single Document Type and that I wouldn’t have to “worry my pretty little head” over some serialization trickery later on.

So… what happened? Is a combined collection better or worse performance wise? A resounding BETTER is the answer. For the *exact* same data (just copying the documents from the 4 collections into the combined collection) and adding the DocType property I got the following results:

WebRole in Singapore with DocumentDB in west-us:







Giving an average of 3609ms. This is an 8% improvement.

For everything in west-us I then got:







With the average being 152ms. This is an improvement of 69%!!!!  HOW??? WHY???? (not that I’m complaining mind you). What appears to have happened is that regardless of compute vs storage location approximately 300ms has been shaved off the query time. ie The average for compute/storage in different locations went from 3915ms to 3609ms with a difference of 306ms. When we have compute and storage in the same location the averages were 485ms to 152ms, having a difference of 333ms.

I’ll be asking the DocumentDB production team for any advice/reasoning around this merely to satisfy my own curiosity but hey, not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

When I get some time I’ll do some more tests to see if this DocType property I added somehow improve the performance. If I added that to the scenario where I had the 4 collections, would it speed things up? I can’t see how, since I’m just using it to filter document entity types and for the test when I have multiple collections I’m really only querying one of them (which has a single entity type in it). More investigations to follow…..