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SubjectRe: Versioning file system
On Jun 19, 2007, at 03:58:57, Bron Gondwana wrote:
> On Mon, Jun 18, 2007 at 11:10:42PM -0400, Kyle Moffett wrote:
>> On Jun 18, 2007, at 13:56:05, Bryan Henderson wrote:
>>>> The question remains is where to implement versioning: directly
>>>> in individual filesystems or in the vfs code so all filesystems
>>>> can use it?
>>> Or not in the kernel at all. I've been doing versioning of the
>>> types I described for years with user space code and I don't
>>> remember feeling that I compromised in order not to involve the
>>> kernel.
>> What I think would be particularly interesting in this domain is
>> something similar in concept to GIT, except in a file-system:
> [...snip...]
> It can work, but there's one big pain at the file level: no mmap.

IMHO it's actually not that bad. The "gitfs" would divide larger
files up into manageable chunks (say 4MB) which could be quickly
SHA-1ed. When a file is mmapped and partially modified, the SHA-1
would be marked as locally invalid, but since mmap() loses most
consistency guarantees that's OK. A time or writeout based "commit"
scheme might still freeze, SHA-1, and write-out the page at regular
intervals without the program's knowledge, but since you only have to
SHA-1 the relatively-small 4MB chunk (which is about to hit disk
anyways), it's not a significant time penalty. Even if under memory
pressure and swapping data out to disk you don't have to update the
SHA-1 and create a new commit as long as you keep a reference to the
object stored in the volume header somewhere and maintain the "SHA-1
out-of-date" bit.

A program which carefully uses msync() would be fine, of course (with
proper configuration) as that would create a new commit as appropriate.

Since mmap() is poorly defined on network filesystems in the absence
of msync(), I don't see that such behaviour would be a problem. And
it certainly would be fine on local filesystems as there you can just
stuff the "SHA-1 out-of-date" bit and a reference to the parent
commit and path in the object itself. Then you just need to keep a
useful reference to that object in a table somewhere in the volume
and you're set.

> If you don't want to support mmap it can work reasonably happily,
> though you may want to keep your sha1 (or other digest) state as
> well as the final digest so you can cheaply calculate the digest
> for a small append without walking the entire file. You may also
> want to keep state checkpoints every so often along a big file so
> that truncates don't cost too much to recalculate.

That may be worth it even if the file is divided into 4MB chunks (or
other configurable value), but it would need benchmarking.

> Luckily in a userspace VFS that's only accessed via FTP and DAV we
> can support a limited set of operations (basically create, append,
> read, delete) You don't get that luxury for a general purpose
> filesystem, and that's the problem. There will always be
> particular usage patterns (especially something that mmaps or seeks
> and touches all over the place like a loopback mounted filesystem
> or a database file) that just dodn't work for file-level sha1s.

I'd think that loopback-mounted filesystems wouldn't be that difficult
1) Set the SHA-1 block size appropriately to divide the big file
into a bunch of little manageable files. Could conceivably be multi-
layered like directories, depending on the size of the file.
2) Mark the file as exempt from normal commits (IE: without
special syscalls or fsync/msync() on the file itself, it is never
updated in the tree objects.
3) Set up the loopback device to call the gitfs commit code when
it receives barriers or flushes from the parent filesystem.

And database files aren't a big issue. I have yet to see a networked
filesystem which you could stick a MySQL database on it from one node
and expect to get useful/recent read results from other nodes. If
you really wanted something like that for such a "gitfs", you could
just add code to MySQL to create a gitfs commit every N transactions
and not otherwise. The best part is: that would make online MySQL
backups from another node trivial! Just pick any arbitrary
appropriate commit object and mount that object, then "cp -a
mysql_db_dir mysql_backup_dir". That's not to say it wouldn't have a
performance penalty, but for some people the performance penalty
might be worth it.

Oh, and for those programs which want multi-master replication, this
makes it ten times easier:
1) Put each master-server on a different gitfs branch
2) Write your program as gitfs aware. Make it create gitfs
commits at appropriate times (so the data is accessible from other
3) Come up with a useful non-interactive database-file merge
algorithm. Useful examples of different kinds of merge engines may
be found in the git project. This should take $BASE_VERSION,
algorithm should probably pick a safe default and save a "conflict"
entry in the face of conflicting changes.
4) Hook your merge algorithm into the gitfs mechanics using some
to-be-defined API.
5) Whenever your software does a database-file commit it sends
out a little notification to the other nodes (maybe using a gitfs API?)
6) Run a periodic (as defined by the admin yet again) thread on
each node which does branch merging. When two or more branches have
different SHA-1 sums the servers will rotate the merging task between
them. The thus-selected server will merge changes from the other
server(s) into its current working copy. With 2 servers this means
that the maximum delay between one server making a change and the
other server seeing it will be 2 times the merge interval.
7) For small pools of servers a simple rotated-merge-master
algorithm would work. For larger pools you would need to come up
with some logarithmic rotating-merge-node algorithm to evenly divide
the work of propagating changes across all nodes.

> It does have some lovely properties though. I'd enjoy working in
> an envionment that didn't look much like POSIX but had the strong
> guarantees and auditability that addressing by sha1 buys you.

I'd like to think we can have our cake and eat it too :-D. POSIX
requirements should be doable on the local system and can be mimiced
well enough on networked filesystems (albeit with update latency)
that most programs won't care. If you're the only person modifying
files on gitfs, regardless of what node they are stored on, it should
have the same behavior as local files (since with gitfs caching they
would *become* local files too :-D). The few programs that do care
about POSIX atomicity across networked filesystems (which is already
mostly implementation defined) could probably be updated to map gitfs
commits and merges into their own internal transactions and do just

Kyle Moffett

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