I'm spending my evenings evaluating Azure Service Fabric as a replacement for our current WebApps/CloudServices stack, and feel a little bit unsure about how to decide when services/actors with state should be stateful actors, and when they should be stateless actors with externally persisted state (Azure SQL, Azure Storage and DocumentDB). I know this is a fairly new product (to the general public at least), so there's probably not a lot of best practices in regards to this yet, but I've read through most of the documentation made available by Microsoft without finding a definite answer for this.
The current problem domain I'm approaching is our event store; parts of our applications are based on event sourcing and CQRS, and I'm evaluating how to move this event store over to the Service Fabric platform. The event store is going to contain a lot time series-data, and as it's our only source of truth for the data being persisted there it must be consistent, replicated and stored to some form of durable storage.
One way I have considered doing this is with stateful "EventStream" actor; each instance of an aggregate using event sourcing stores its events within an isolated stream. This means the stateful actor could keep track of all the events for its own stream, and I'd have met my requirements as to how the data is stored (transactional, replicated and durable). However, some streams may grow very large (hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of events), and this is where I'm starting to get unsure. Having an actor with a large amount of state will, I imagine, have impacts on the performance of the system when these large data models needs to be serialized to or deserialized from disk.
Another option is to keep these actors stateless, and have them just read their data from some external storage like Azure SQL - or just go with stateless services instead of actors.
Basically, when is the amount of state for an actor/service "too much" and you should start considering other ways of handling state?
Also, this section in the Service Fabric Actors design pattern: Some anti-patterns documentation leave me a little bit puzzled:
Treat Azure Service Fabric Actors as a transactional system. Azure Service Fabric Actors is not a two phase commit-based system offering ACID. If we do not implement the optional persistence, and the machine the actor is running on dies, its current state will go with it. The actor will be coming up on another node very fast, but unless we have implemented the backing persistence, the state will be gone. However, between leveraging retries, duplicate filtering, and/or idempotent design, you can achieve a high level of reliability and consistency.
What does "if we do not implement the optional persistance" indicate here? I was under the impression that as long as your transaction modifying the state succeeded, your data was persisted to durable storage and replicated to at least a subset of the replicas. This paragraph leaves me wondering if there are situations where state within my actors/services will get lost, and if this is something I need to handle myself. The impression I got from the stateful model in other parts of the documentation seems to counteract this statement.
One option that you have is to keep 'some' of the state in the actor (let's say what could be considered to be hot data that needs to be quickly available) and store everything else on a 'traditional' storage infrastructure such as SQL Azure, DocDB, .... It is difficult to have a general rule about too much local state but, maybe, it helps to think about hot vs. cold data. Reliable Actors also offer the ability to customize the StateProvider so you can also consider implementing a customized StateProvider (by implementing the IActorStateProvider) with the specific policies that you need to be more efficient with the requirements that you have in terms of amount of data, latency, reliability and so on (note: documentation is still very minimal on the StateProvider interface but we can publish some sample code if this is something you want to pursue).
About the anti-patterns: the note is more about implementing transactions across multiple actors. Reliable Actors provides full guarantee on reliability of the data within the boundaries of an actor. Because of the distributed and loosly coupled nature of the Actor model, implementing transactions that involve multiple actors is not a trivial task. If 'distributed' transactions is a strong requirement, the Reliable Services programming model is probably a better fit.
I know this has been answered, but recently found myself in the same predicament with a CQRS/ES system and here's how I went about it