Eventual consistency is just caching ?

So there is someone who thinks “eventual consistency is just caching”.  Though I liked the idea of discussing this, I don’t agree with Udi’s views on this.

“Cache” is generally used to store data which is more expensive to obtain from the primary location. For example, caching mysql queries is ideal for queries which could take more than fraction of a second to execute. Another example is caching queries to S3, SimpleDB or Google’s datastore which could cost money and introduce network latency into the mix. Though most applications are built to use such caches, they are also designed to be responsive in absence of caching layer.

The most important difference between “cache” and a “datastore” is that the dataflow is generally from “datastore” to “cache” rather than the other way round. Though one could queue data on “cache” first and then update datastore later (for performance reasons) that is not the way one should use it. If you are using “cache” to queue data for slower storage, you are using the wrong product. There are better “queuing” solutions  (activemq for example) that can do it for you in a more reliable way.

In most “eventually consistent” systems, there is no concept of primary and secondary nodes. Most nodes on such systems are considered equal and have similar performance characteristics.

Since “caching” solutions are designed for speed, they generally don’t have a concept of “replicas” or allow persistence to disk. Synchronizing between replica’s or to a disk can be expensive and be counter productive which is why its rare to find them on “caching” products. But many “eventually consistent” systems do provide a way for developers to request the level of “consistency” (or disk persistence) desired.

Do you have an opinion on this ? Please share examples if you have seen “caching” layer being used as an “eventually consistent datastore”.

Update: Udi mentioned on twitter that “write through caches” are eventually consistent. Sure, they are if you are talking about a caching layer on top of a persistent layer. I think there is an argument which could be made that “caches” are eventually consistent, but the reverse may not be true which is what his original post mentioned.

2 comments on “Eventual consistency is just caching ?

  1. Hi Royans,

    What if you reverse your statement?

    “Caching is Eventual Consist” or even “Caching has the same characteristics as Eventual Consistency”.

    That is what Udi is saying, or at least how I interpreted it. And they are not the same as you question, they just share some of the same issues i.e. being eventual consistent.

    -Mark

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