Autoscaling Marathon tasks in PaaSTA

PaaSTA allows programmatic control of the number of marathon tasks a service has. It does this by using Zookeeper as a data store to record the number of tasks it thinks should be running for each instance of a service on a per-cluster basis.

How to use autoscaling

Enabling autoscaling

In order to use autoscaling, edit your marathon-*.yaml files in your soa configs and add a min_instances and a max_instances attribute and remove the instances attribute from each instance you want to autoscale. When using autoscaling, the min_instances and max_instances attributes become the minimum and maximum (inclusive) number of marathon tasks paasta will create for your job.

If autoscaling information for your service is not available in Zookeeper (e.g. you’ve just created your service) PaaSTA will “fail safe” and default to creating max_instances instances. The reasoning behind this is that during a situation where there is a loss of autoscaling state, a service up is the safest course of action until the autoscaler can scale back down to a “normal” instance count.

If you use autoscaling it is highly recommended that you also configure a healthcheck. This ensures that PaaSTA will not autoscale marathon tasks that are just starting up or unhealthy. If you have no healthcheck defined autoscaling will run as soon as the service is deployed. If you have defined a healthcheck, autoscaling will run as soon as the healthcheck passes. This is so new tasks that have higher-than-average load when starting up are ignored.

Autoscaling parameters are stored in an autoscaling attribute of your instances as a dictionary. Within the autoscaling attribute, setting a metrics_provider will allow you to specify a method that determines the utilization of your service. If a metrics provider isn’t provided, the "mesos_cpu" metrics provider will be used. Within the autoscaling attribute, setting a decision_policy will allow you to specify the logic that determines when to autoscale your service. If a decision policy isn’t provided, the "pid" decision policy will be used. Specifying a setpoint allows you to specify a target utilization for your service. The default setpoint is 0.8 (80%). Decision policies and metrics providers have their own optional keyword arguments that may be placed into the autoscaling dictionary as well.

Let’s look at sample marathon config file:

  cpus: 1
  mem: 300
  min_instances: 30
  max_instances: 50
    decision_policy: pid
    metrics_provider: mesos_cpu
    setpoint: 0.5

This makes the instance main autoscale using the pid decision policy and the mesos_cpu metrics provider. PaaSTA will aim to keep this service’s utilization at 50%.

Autoscaling components

Metrics providers

The currently available metrics providers are:


The default autoscaling method if none is provided. Tries to use cpu usage to predict when to autoscale.


Makes a request on a HTTP endpoint on your service. Expects a JSON-formatted dictionary with a 'utilization' field containing a number between 0 and 1.

Extra parameters:

endpoint:the path to perform the HTTP request on (the requested URL will be http://$HOST:$PORT/$endpoint). Defaults to ‘status’.

Makes a request on a HTTP endpoint on your service. Expects a response with a JSON body containing the current uwsgi state (see this page for the expected format). Uses the percentage of non-idle workers as the utilization metric.

Extra parameters:

endpoint:the path to perform the HTTP request on (the requested URL will be http://$HOST:$PORT/$endpoint). Defaults to ‘status/uwsgi’.

Decision policies

The currently available decicion policies are:

pid:Uses a PID controller to determine when to autoscale a service. See this page for more information on PIDs.
threshold:Autoscales when a service’s utilization exceeds beyond a certain threshold.
bespoke:Allows a service author to implement their own autoscaling.

How to create a custom (bespoke) autoscaling method

The current number of instance for a service can be accessed through the PaaSTA api from the endpoint /v1/services/SERVICE_NAME/INSTANCE_NAME/autoscaler. Sending an HTTP GET request will return an integer describing how many instances PaaSTA thinks your sevice should have. This endpoint also accepts an HTTP POST request with a JSON payload with the format {'desired_instances': NUMBER_OF_DESIRED_INSTANCES}. This endpoint can be used to control the number of instances PaaSTA thinks your service should have.

Finally, remember to set the decision_policy of the autoscaling parameter for each service instance to "bespoke" or else PaaSTA will attempt to autoscale your service with the default autoscaling method.