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CDR/CEL Processing – Climbing the Beanstalk

By Nir Simionovich

One of the most annoying tasks within Asterisk (or VoIP in general) is the task of CDR and event processing. Why is processing these so annoying? Well, depending on your infrastructure, problems can arise because of any of the below:

  • Row locking within the database
  • Handling of multiple input points
  • Handling a constantly changing data set
  • Split brain processing issues with clusters
  • Replication of data records between multiple data processing points
  • Data synchronizing
  • Data uniqueness and data consistency
  • etc.

The primary issue is to make sure that when you process an event or a CDR, it is processed once and only once.

Asterisk provides multiple backends for processing CDR and CEL records. These include log files, MySQL, Postgres, ODBC, and others. However, all of these are more or less prone to the same caveats listed above.

When we started developing our cloud platform, cloudonix.io, we were confronted with the following issues for processing CDR/CEL records:

  • Our platform had an unknown number of Asterisk servers, autoscaling at unknown times.
  • Our platform was split into multiple cloud zones and regions.
  • Our platform was spitting out multiple event types that required different types of processing.

Thus, we took the normal track everybody did: logging into a RDBMS of sort. The result was annoying.  Processing was slow, locking of records was always an issue, and, worst of all, providing multiple processing points to handle the events was becoming increasingly difficult. The solution: beanstalkd (http://kr.github.io/beanstalkd).

For lack of a better description, beanstalkd is very simply a job queue. It will accept a free formatted string into a queue (named ‘tube’) in the beanstalk world. Jobs can be pushed into the queue (put), extracted from the queue (reserve), deleted from the queue (delete), and more. Our idea for operation was really simple: CDR records need to process relatively slow, CEL records need to process relatively fast, we want to be able to have multiple clients reserve work from the queue, process the work uniquely, then delete the job, or return to the queue upon failure.

Thus, cdr_beankstalk and cel_beanstalk were born.

The beanstalk backends are fairly similar in nature, and provide a means of inserting CDR/CEL events directly from Asterisk to a remote beanstalkd server. So, how do we work with beanstalkd? Let’s have a look.

Step 1: Install the beanstalkd server

Some of the major distributions provide beanstalkd as a precompiled package, so try that one first, otherwise download the source. Pay attention to the installation and configuration, as you will need that later on. Normally, the installation will make the beanstalkd server available at port 11300.

Note:beanstalkd doesn’t include any type of authorization or security, so make sure you block this port to the world. Remember, security is on you!

Step 2: Configure cdr_beanstalkd.conf

The following sample shows the cdr_beanstalkd.conf file:

You will need to uncomment the lines to activate the backend. The important configuration parameters here are tube and priority. The backend enables the insertion of events to a single assigned tube. That means that all CDR records will be inserted to the asterisk-cdr tube. When a job is inserted, you can assign a priority. The lower the number, the higher the priority. The priority mechanism is especially useful when you have multiple Asterisk servers with varying functionality, which require different levels of priority for processing. For example, an Asterisk server that deals with wholesale routing requires a higher priority than one doing voicemail.

Step 2: Test your configuration

Using the console, make sure your new CDR backend is working:

A similar configuration is available for cel_beanstalkd.conf and the same concepts apply.

Once your configuration is alive and tested, you can use the beanstalkd client libraries to start processing your jobs. One of my favorite libraries for PHP is called Pheanstalk(https://github.com/pda/pheanstalk). It’s a little old, but provides all the functionality that you could want. The overall beanstalkd client life cycles can be defined as the following:

This means that in order to process uniquely, you will need to reserve a job, delete it when finished processing, or release the reservation if the processing failed, which means that you will not let the queue store the reserved job again. The nice thing is that you don’t need to worry about queue integrity or the priorities, beanstalkd will take care of that for you. In addition, you can configure beanstalkd to store your queue on file as well, meaning that your storage and operations are stateful. Thus, you can continue your processing and work, even after a failure.

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Nir Simionovich

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