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SubjectVersioned pointers: a new method of representing snapshots
Good day storage mavens,

Every now and then down in the unexciting and arcane underbelling of
storage research one encounters some real computer science. Today I will
outline one such encounter, which I expect to result in significant
improvements to the capability and performance of our ddsnap
snapshotting block device, and most probably has benefits in other areas
as well, such as snapshotting filesystems. I apologize in advance for
any forward references, as I wish to get straight to the meat of this.
For definitions of various domain specific terms, please see the
terminology section at the end.

A snapshot of a disk volume may be represented as a list of exceptions
to an origin volume, where each exception points to a logical chunk of
data in a "snapshot store", which holds the data for the snapshot at a
particular logical address. For any logical address for which no
exception is present, the data resides on the origin volume. Thus, the
entire set of exceptions for a snapshot can be thought of as a list of
places where the snapshot differs from the origin.

The "versioned pointer" method is a new way of representing
exceptions for multiple simultaneous snapshots in a surprisingly compact
form. The idea was inspired by a proposal from Steve Vandebogart
(interning at Google) to represent exception sharing for a series of
volume snapshots using a snapshot sequence number in place of a fixed
size chunk sharing bitmap, as is the existing practice in ddsnap. The
sequence number would be fewer bits than the bitmap and could be packed
into unused bits of a physical block pointer, which would shrink our
snapshot metadata significantly. However, when the sequence eventually
wraps a full metadata edit would be needed to relabel stored exceptions,
and so some snapshot creates would take much longer than others. Users
generally do not like to wait around while snapshots are created.

Versioned Pointers

This issue was addressed by introducing a one to one mapping between
snapshots and arbitrary version numbers in place of sequence numbers
(and in the process notched up yet another example of a problem solved
by adding a new layer of indirection). The idea of sequenced pointers
thus begat version labels, which begat the notion of "versioned
pointers", the subject of this post.

It occurred to me that a pointer version label is similar to a revision
control version id, and I proceeded to investigate the question of
whether revision control techniques could be applied to volume
snapshots. I had experimented with a system where each piece of text is
labeled by the version in which it first appears, and by the version in
which it disappears (the "birth" and "death" labels, essentially a
binary weave). By knowing the hierarchical relationship between
versions, the "version tree", it is possible to determine whether any
given piece of labeled text belongs to a given version.

Volume versioning differs from text versioning in that data chunks do
not appear and disappear, but only change. Each change of chunk data
can be viewed as a disappearance followed by an appearance, so only a
single label needs to be associated with each change. The other label
is implied by the presence of a change labeled by some descendent in the
version tree. It became clear that a single version label for each
rewrite of a given volume chunk is enough to determine the set of
versions to which the written data belongs.

Version Inheritance

If a given version does not have an exception of its own for a
particular logical address, then it inherits an exception from its
parent, which in turn inherits from its parent if it does not have its
own, and so on up to the root of the version tree. The root implicitly
inherits all the chunks of the origin volume. Thus, a snapshot of the
origin volume is just a new root of the version tree, with the old root
as its child. Similarly, a snapshot of a snapshot is a new child of
some version, and inherits all the exception of its parent, exactly as

Since we have not so far had an efficient way of creating snapshots of
snapshots in ddsnap, the possibly of being able to do so merely by
altering a version tree seemed very interesting.

Thus encouraged, I set out to determine whether a stable representation
is possible in the sense that no full metadata edit would ever be
required to maintain this representation except when a version is
deleted. If this were the case then this new technique would be well
suited to volume snapshotting, where a large amount of durable metadata
has to be maintained and updated with good locality.


Here is an example version tree with version nodes labeled in the order

`-- C '1003'
     `-- B '1002'
         |-- A '1001'
         `-- D
             |-- E '1005'
             `-- F
                 |-- G '1007'
                 `-- H '1006'

Versions A, B and C are snapshots of the origin.  (They appear inverted
in the tree because new origin snapshots are added at the root.)  All
other versions represent snapshots of snapshots. Most of the versions
have snapshot tags, in quotes. Those that do not are inaccessible ghost
versions, explained below.

Given the exception list [[A, p1] [B, p2]] where p1 and p2 are physical
chunks, and omitting the snapshot tags, we have:

`-- C
     `-- B => p2
         |-- A => p1
         `-- D => p2
             |-- E => p2
             `-- F => p2
                 |-- G => p2
                 `-- H => p2

Version A is the exclusive owner of chunk p1 while all other versions
except C inherit p2.  C has no exception at this logical address,
therefore inherits a chunk of the origin.

Another way to represent this is to overlay the chunks of the exception
list on their respective versions:

`-- C
     `-- B [p2]
         |-- A [p1]
         `-- D
             |-- E
             `-- F
                 |-- G
                 `-- H

This representation shows both the global version tree and an exception
list for a particular logical address.

Writable Snapshots

It is highly desirable that snapshots be writeable. As an example of
why one might wish to do this, consider a virtualized server farm
where each server has its own, slightly different image of the root
volume. For each virtual server instance, a snapshot of a generic root
volume is taken and customized for or altered at runtime by one of the
server instances. (This also constitutes a use case for snapshots of
snapshots, to avoid a clumsy revert of the origin volume for each new
server instance.)

Writeable snapshots are problematic in terms of inheritance: if a
pointer for a newly allocated snapshot store chunk pointer is labeled
with a given version then it may be inherited by other children of the
same version, violating the principle of snapshot isolation (a write to
a snapshot may not change any other snapshot). My solution is to
generate a new, implicit version as a child of the written version, to
which the new versioned pointer can be added without affecting any
other version.

Ghost Versions

Adding a new layer of indirection was the method of choice once again:
each snapshot is known externally by a numeric "tag" which is the handle
for all operations on the snapshot, such as creating a virtual block
device for it or deleting it. When a snapshot mapping to a version
having one or more children is written for the first time, a new version
is generated as above and its tag is reassigned to the new version.

The original version loses its tag and cannot thereafter be accessed
externally, becoming a "ghost version". A ghost version exists only to
allow its children to continue to inherit any data written to it before
it had any children.

Thinking back on it, this was a fairly radical idea because it was far
from clear that the implicitly snapshot strategy would not rapidly
exhaust the limited supply of version numbers. Remarkably, it turned
out to be the case that only a limited number of ghost versions could
ever be created, that limit being one less than the number of externally
known snapshots. Unfortunately, the proof of this will not fit in the
margin of this email.

An essential property of a ghost version is that, because it is not
externally accessible and thus cannot be read or written, it need
not be a consistent point in time version of a volume. Therefore its
exceptions can (and must) be freely cannibalized by other versions as
the geometry of the version tree changes and exception lists are
modified over time.

To illustrate, given a write to a snapshot with tag '1001' mapping to
version A, with one child snapshot:

`-- A '1001'
     `-- B '1002'

A version C is implicitly created to hold the new exception [C, p1],
which could not have been added to version A because it would then have
been inherited by version B, violating the isolation of snapshot 1002:

`-- A
    |-- B '1002'
     `-- C [p1] '1001'

Version A has become a ghost.

Version Deletion Problem

When a snapshot with exactly one child is deleted, all the exceptions
it owns can simply be relabelled to the child version, and the
child version replaces the deleted version in the version tree. This
does not violate snapshot isolation because the chunks in question were
previously inherited by the child anyway.

When a version with more than one child is deleted, it is not obvious
how to relabel exceptions belonging to the deleted version. It would
be possible to generate duplicate exceptions sharing the original chunk
pointers, but this would raise the specter of metadata that can expand
during a delete. When the snapshot store is nearly full the delete
could fail for lack of space. Not only would this surprise the user,
but in the case of automatic deletion to recover space to service a
write to a snapshot, the system could deadlock. There is no such thing
as an elegant workaround for an expand-in-delete problem.

Ghost Versions Redux

The solution I adopted is to leave the version associated with a deleted
snapshot in the version tree, along with any inherited exceptions. The
version's tag is deleted, creating what I initially called a "zombie"
version. Later we discovered that zombie and ghost versions are in fact
the same, and in particular, share the property that they cannot
proliferate without bound. (This was just one of many close calls for
the versioned pointer method, where subtle logic came to the rescue in
the face of some seemingly insurmountable problem.)

A ghost version can always be deleted when its child count drops to one
at the time one of its remaining two children was deleted. The single
remaining child is promoted to take its place in the veresion tree, and
all exceptions belonging to the ghost are relabeled to the child as in
the case of explicit deletion of a snapshot with a single child.

This fact is one link in the long chain of reasoning required to show
that ghost can never outnumber explicitly created snapshots. As a
corollary, each ghost version requires at least two children to force
its continued existence. (Before leaping to the conclusion that this
shows there are always more explicitly snapshots than ghost versions,
consider that both children may themselves be ghosts.)

Exclusive Exceptions

An exclusive exception is one that is not inherited by any child,
either because the owner has no children, or each of its heirs has
an exception for the same chunk address, or every version that inherits
the exception is a ghost. An exclusive exception's data chunk can
always be modified without affecting any other snapshot. In
particular, whenever a logical chunk of a given snapshot is written
repeatedly with no intervening snapshot creates, all but the first
write are guaranteed to be to exclusive exceptions.

Orphan Exceptions

An orphan exception is an exclusive exception that belongs to a ghost.
Because it cannot be read or written directly via a snapshot tag or
indirectly by being inherited, it is completely inaccessible and will
only waste space in the snapshot store if allowed to exist. Orphan
exceptions may be created by writes to snapshots or deletes, and the
respective algorithms must detect and delete them immediately to avoid
leakage. Potentially long and complex chains of inheritance can be
involved, so this requirement gives rise to some particularly subtle
rules. For example:

"If a target has no children and no exception then removing it
or replacing its ghost parent with no exception by a sibling of
the target with no heirs reduces heirs of the parent. If heirs
are reduced, a search for a ghost ancestor with an uninherited
exception must be performed."

Reading from a Snapshot

Reading from a snapshot at a given logical chunk address requires
determining which exceptions are present in the exception list for that
logical address, and are labeled by versions lying between the target
version and the root of the snapshot tree. If any such exceptions are
found, then the exception furthest from the root owns the snapshot data
of interest. Otherwise the data for that logical address resides on the
origin volume.

Writing to a Snapshot

After a write to particular logical chunk of a snapshot an exclusive
exception for that chunk of that snapshot will always exist, containing
the written data. Before the write, the snapshot may have had no
exception but inherited an exception from some other snapshot or
inherited a chunk from the origin, or it may have had an exception that
is inherited by one or more of its descendants, or it may have already
had an exclusive exception. In all cases except the last, an
exception is added to the snapshot at that logical address. If an
exception is inherited from a ghost and the written snapshot is the sole
heir of the exception, then the exception will be relabeled, otherwise a
new exception will be created, including allocating a snapshot store
chunk to hold the exception data.

Writing to the Origin

If an origin chunk is inherited by any snapshot, then the data about to
be overwritten must be copied to the snapshot store before the new data
is written. If the root of the snapshot already has an exception, then
the origin chunk is clearly not inherited and nothing needs to be done.
Otherwise a new exception for the root version is created and the data
to be preserved from the origin is copied to the associated chunk.

Deleting a Snapshot

Snapshot deletion is by far the most complex aspect of the versioned
pointers technique. Various rules must be enforced, for example, that
no ghost version may exist with less than two children. If the deleted
snapshot has one child then the child will be promoted to be a child of
the deleted snapshot's parent. If it has two or more children then the
deleted snapshot will become a ghost. If it has no children and its
parent is a ghost with two children, then the parent will be deleted and
the sibling of the deleted snapshot will be promoted to take the place
of the parent.

Besides adjusting the version tree, each exception for the deleted
version (or versions if the parent is also deleted) must be
either removed from the snapshot metadata if it is not inherited by any
version, or relabeled to one of its children if it is. Any exceptions
that become orphans as a result of no longer being inherited by the
deleted snapshot must be detected and removed.


The attached test program implements all six basic snapshot operations:

1) Create snapshot of origin
2) Create snapshot of snapshot
3) Delete snapshot
4) Write to origin
5) Write to snapshot
6) Read from snapshot

None of the algorithms are worse than O(n) where n is the number of
versions in the version tree. Most are O(e) where e is the number of
exceptions in an exception list. This level of performance was largely
achieved through pre-computation of lookup tables to accelerate such
operations as determining whether a given version lies on the path from
some other version to the root of the version tree. The snapshot
delete in particular started as an O(n^3) algorithm before being
gradually improved to O(e) using mapping tables and a multipass

It is thought that all the algorithms can eventually be improved to
O(log n) worst case performance. Meanwhile, since n is limited to a
fairly small number by the number of bits available in a version
label, real world performance appears entirely satisfactory. Compared
to our current representation of snapshot exception data, fitting more
data in cache is likely to have a bigger effect than the slightly more
expensive base operations.


The versioned pointer technique is compatible with extent-based data
representations, much more so than the snapshot exception
representation it is expected to replace, which ties snapshots together
with a sharing bitmap that would be complex to represent in an extent
form, as the extents are likely to be different for each snapshot.

On the other hand, each exception represented by a versioned pointer
simply needs a count field added to become an extent. Using 64 bit
exceptions as we do, there is enough room in the pointer for 48 bits of
logical address, addressing an even exabyte of snapshot store, 10 bits
of version label allowing 512 user visible snapshots, and a 6 bit
extent count, allowing extents up to 256K assuming 4K blocks. Allowing
for other overheads, this gives a data to metadata ratio of about
15,000 to one, beyond which there is not a great deal of additional
benefit to be obtained from extents.

Extension of the current algorithms to handle extents is in progress.

Application to filesystems

The versioned pointer technique is by no means limited to representing
volume data. It also has promise as a means of implementing filesystem
snapshots. Compared to the technique used by WAFL or ZFS, there is no
recursive copying of tree-structured metadata. Compared to Btrfs, there
are no reference counts. A possible deficiency is the bias towards
representing all version information for a given logical address
together at the same location in the metadata. If there is a lot of
version metadata and only a single snapshot is being accessed, a larger
amount of metadata may have to be read. Extending the method to handle
extents would mitigate this.

If applied to filesystems, it would be feasible to independently
snapshot each file and each directory.

Fuzzing Test

The attached test program implements a "fuzzing test" to verify
empirically the correct implementation of the versioned pointers
operations. Without loss of generality, only a single exception list is
tested, because each exception list is self contained and independent
from all other exception associated with other logical addresses.

Each iteration of the fuzz test randomly selects one of the first five
operations and performs it on a random target, then reads every
snapshot to verify that all contain the expected data. Various
consistency tests are performed, for example:

* All exception labels are valid
* No deleted version labels an exception
* No multiple exceptions with same label in same list
* No ghosts have orphan exceptions
* No ghost has less than two children
* No cycles in the version tree

This fuzzing test has run successfully to ten million iterations. This
does not prove that the algorithms are correct, but it is encouraging.
Along the way, seemingly endless bugs were discovered especially in
the area of ghost exception detection. Some of the invariants
described in this note were discovered in response to bugs detected by
the fuzzing test, which is not to say that empirical observation is a
substitute for logical analysis, but that the underlying logic was most
certainly discovered faster than it could have been by logical analysis


The versioned pointer method is a novel technique for representing
versioned disk data, which promises the following benefit to the ddsnap
snapshotting block device project:

   1) Maximum number of snapshots increases
   2) Metadata shrinks by up to 50%
   3) Supports instant creation of snapshots of snapshots
   4) Easier to move to extents for additional compactness

It is also possible that the method may prove useful for filesystem
snapshots. A prototype implementation exists, demonstrating the
efficacy of the technique and empirically verifying correctness.


Snapshot:  A volume version tagged with a unique id by which it can be
accessed and operated on externally.

Snapshot tag:  An externally visible 32 bit integer specified by an
application programs at the time a snapshot is created.  The snapshot
tag is used to create a virtual snapshot volume through which the
snapshot can be read and written.

Snapshot chunk:  A chunk in the snapshot store holding data that was
either copied from the origin due to a write to an origin logical
volume or written to a snapshot logical volume.

Origin chunk:  A chunk of data on the origin volume that is implicitly
shared at the same address by any version that does not have alternate
data at that address.

Version label:  A unique id carried by each node in the version tree.

Version tree:  The root of the version tree is the most recent snapshot
of the origin.  Each new version of the origin becomes the new root of
the version tree and the parent of the old root.  Each new version of a
version becomes a child of the existing version.

Chunk inheritance:  When a new version is created it inherits every
chunk of its parent.  The root of the version tree inherits every chunk
of the origin volume.  Care must be taken never to write to an inherited
chunk, otherwise all versions inheriting the chunk will be altered in
violation of the principle of isolation between versions (the I in

Exception list:  A list of exceptions for a given logical chunk address
defining which physical chunks belong to which versions.  Each exception
is said to be "at" that logical address.

Exception:  A pair [V, p] that appears in an exception list to specify
that the physical chunk p is inherited by all nodes in the version
subtree rooted at the node labelled V, and bounded by nodes labelled by
other exceptions in the same list.  Each physical chunk is owned by
exactly one exception.  An exception labeled by a given version is said
to be "at" that version. We may say read or write "to an exception"
which really means "to the physical chunk owned by the exception".

Unique vs shared chunks:  A physical chunk is said to be unique if it is
not inherited and shared otherwise.  An origin chunk at a given logical
address is unique if and only if there is an exception at that address
labeled by the root version.  A chunk of the origin or a version can be
written to without affecting any other version if and only if it is


#include <stdio.h>
#include <inttypes.h>
#include <stdbool.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <sys/types.h>

#define vecmove(d, s, n) memmove(d, s, (n) * sizeof(*(d)))
#define vecset(d, v, n) memset(d, v, (n) * sizeof(*(d)))
#define error(string, args...) do { printf(string "!\n", ##args); exit(99); } while (0)
#define assert(expr) do { if (!(expr)) error("Failed assertion \"%s\"", #expr); } while (0)
#define trace_off(cmd)
#define trace_on(cmd) cmd
#define PACKED

void hexdump(void *data, unsigned size)
while (size) {
unsigned char *p;
int w = 16, n = size < w? size: w, pad = w - n;
printf("%p: ", data);
for (p = data; p < (unsigned char *)data + n;)
printf("%02hx ", *p++);
printf("%*.s \"", pad*3, "");
for (p = data; p < (unsigned char *)data + n;) {
int c = *p++;
printf("%c", c < ' ' || c > 127 ? '.' : c);
data += w;
size -= n;

#define LABEL_BITS 8
#define CHUNK_BITS 54

typedef uint16_t version_t;
typedef uint16_t label_t;
typedef uint64_t chunk_t;
typedef unsigned tag_t;

struct exception { label_t label: LABEL_BITS; chunk_t chunk: CHUNK_BITS; } PACKED;
struct version { tag_t tag; label_t parent; bool used, ghost, present, pathmap, family; };

struct version ver[MAXVERSIONS];
label_t ordmap[MAXVERSIONS];
label_t children[MAXVERSIONS];
label_t child_count[MAXVERSIONS];
label_t child_index[MAXVERSIONS];
label_t version_count, active_count;
unsigned cycle;

label_t get_child(label_t parent, unsigned i)
return children[child_index[parent] + i];

label_t get_parent(label_t child)
return ver[child].parent;

label_t get_root(void)
return children[0];

label_t is_ghost(label_t version)
return ver[version].ghost;

int find_tag(tag_t tag)
for (int version = 1; version < version_count; version++)
if (!is_ghost(version) && ver[version].tag == tag)
return version;
error("invalid snapshot '%u'", tag);
return 0;

void show_table(void)
for (int i = 0; i < version_count; i++) {
printf("%i: ", i);
if (!ver[i].used)
else if (!i)
else {
printf("<- ");
if (!get_parent(i))
printf("%i", get_parent(i));
if (!is_ghost(i)) // 0 should be a ghost
printf(" '%i'", ver[i].tag);

int count_table(void)
int total = 0;
for (int i = 0; i < version_count; i++)
total += ver[i].used;
return total;

unsigned exceptions;
struct exception excep[1000];

void show_exceptions(void)
printf("%i exceptions: ", exceptions);
for (int i = 0; i < exceptions; i++)
printf("[%i, %Lu] ", excep[i].label, (chunk_t)excep[i].chunk);

void show_index(void)
printf("child index: ");
for (int i = 0; i < version_count; i++)
printf("%i:%u ", i, child_index[i]);

int show_subtree(version_t version, int depth, version_t target)
assert(depth < MAXVERSIONS);
printf("%*s%i: ", 3 * depth, "", version);
if (!is_ghost(version))
printf("'%i'", ver[version].tag);
else printf("~%i", child_count[version]);
for (int i = 0; i < exceptions; i++)
if (excep[i].label == version)
printf(" [%Lu]", (chunk_t)excep[i].chunk);
printf("%s\n", target == version ? " <==" : "");
int total = 0;
for (int i = 0; i < child_count[version]; i++)
total += show_subtree(get_child(version, i), depth + 1, target);
return total + 1;

void show_tree_with_target(tag_t tag)
version_t target = tag == -1 ? 0 : find_tag(tag);
int total = child_count[0] ? show_subtree(get_root(), 0, target) : 0;
printf("(%u versions)\n", total);

void show_tree(void)

int count_subtree(label_t version, int depth)
if (depth > MAXVERSIONS)
int total = 0;
for (int i = 0; i < child_count[version]; i++)
total += count_subtree(get_child(version, i), depth + 1);
return total + 1;

int count_tree(void)
return count_subtree(0, 0);

void order_tree(label_t version, int order)
ordmap[version] = order;
for (int i = 0; i < child_count[version]; i++)
order_tree(get_child(version, i), order + 1);

/* Chunk allocation */


typedef unsigned data_t;

chunk_t nextchunk;
chunk_t checkchunk[MAXVERSIONS];
data_t snapdata[MAXCHUNKS], orgdata = 0x1234;
data_t checkdata[MAXVERSIONS];
bool allocmap[MAXCHUNKS];

chunk_t new_chunk(data_t data)
for (int i = 0; i < MAXCHUNKS; i++, nextchunk++) {
if (nextchunk == MAXCHUNKS)
nextchunk = 0;
if (!allocmap[nextchunk])
goto found;
error("out of chunks");
allocmap[nextchunk] = 1;
snapdata[nextchunk] = data;
return nextchunk++;


void free_chunk(chunk_t chunk)
allocmap[chunk] = 0;

/* Version allocation */

label_t new_version(label_t parent, uint32_t tag)
int version;
for (version = 1; version < version_count; version++)
if (!ver[version].used)
goto recycle;
int last = version_count - 1;
child_index[version_count] = version_count ? child_index[last] + child_count[last]: 0;
version = version_count++;
ver[version] = (struct version){ .parent = parent, .tag = tag, .used = 1 };
return version;

void free_version(label_t version)
ver[version].parent = 0;
ver[version].used = 0;

/* Version tree editing */

void add_exception(label_t label, chunk_t chunk)
printf("new exception [%u, %Lu]\n", label, chunk);
assert(exceptions < MAXVERSIONS);
excep[exceptions++] = (struct exception){ .label = label, .chunk = chunk };

bool pathmap[MAXVERSIONS][MAXVERSIONS]; // should be sparse vec of bitmaps

* Store the ord numbers in the version table. Per-version bitmap specifies
* whether any given version is on the path to root. Walk the exception list
* looking for the label on the path with the highest ord.
struct exception *lookup_chunk(label_t target)
if (!ver[target].pathmap) {
trace_off(printf("load pathmap for %u \n", target);)
memset(pathmap[target], 0, sizeof(pathmap[target]));
for (label_t v = target; v; v = get_parent(v))
pathmap[target][v] = true;
ver[target].pathmap = 1;
int high = 0;
bool *path = pathmap[target];
struct exception *found = NULL;
for (struct exception *e = excep; e < excep + exceptions; e++)
if (path[e->label] && ordmap[e->label] > high)
high = ordmap[(found = e)->label];
return found;

bool family[MAXVERSIONS][MAXVERSIONS]; // should be sparse vec of bitmaps

void load_family(label_t target)
trace_off(printf("load family for %u \n", target);)
memset(family[target], 0, sizeof(family[target]));
for (int i = 0; i < child_count[target]; i++)
family[target][get_child(target, i)] = true;
family[target][target] = true;
ver[target].family = 1;

unsigned count_family(label_t target)
if (!ver[target].family)
bool *map = family[target];
int total = 0;
for (int i = 0; i < exceptions; i++)
total += map[excep[i].label];
assert(total <= child_count[target] + 1);
return total;

struct exception *find_exception(label_t target)
for (int i = 0; i < exceptions; i++)
if (excep[i].label == target)
return &excep[i];
error("label %u missing", target);

void set_present(bool flag)
for (struct exception *e = excep; e < excep + exceptions; e++)
ver[e->label].present = flag;

bool is_present(version_t version)
return ver[version].present;

int count_heirs(label_t version)
int heirs = 0;
for (int i = 0; i < child_count[version]; i++) {
version_t child = get_child(version, i);
if (!is_present(child))
heirs += count_heirs(child) + !is_ghost(child);
return heirs;

int inherited(version_t version)
int heirs = count_heirs(version);
//printf("version %i exception has %i heirs\n", version, heirs);
return heirs;

label_t *children_p(label_t version)
return children + child_index[version];

label_t *insert_child_p(label_t parent, label_t child, unsigned count)
label_t *p = children_p(parent);
/* insert sorted for cosmetic reasons */
for (int i = 0; i < count; i++, p++)
if (child < *p)
return p;

void insert_child(label_t parent, label_t child)
label_t *p = insert_child_p(parent, child, child_count[parent]);
vecmove(p + 1, p, children + version_count - p - 1);
*p = child;
for (int i = parent + 1; i < version_count; i++)
ver[child].parent = parent;
ver[parent].family = 0;
order_tree(get_root(), 1); // overkill

label_t *find_child(label_t parent, label_t child)
for (int i = 0; i < child_count[parent]; i++)
if (get_child(parent, i) == child)
return children_p(parent) + i;
error("child not found");

void remove_child(label_t child)
label_t parent = get_parent(child);
label_t *p = find_child(parent, child);
vecmove(p, p + 1, children + version_count - p - 1);
for (int i = parent + 1; i < version_count; i++)
ver[parent].family = 0;

void replace_child(label_t child, label_t newchild)
label_t parent = get_parent(child);
label_t *p1 = children_p(parent), *p2 = find_child(parent, child);
/* insert sorted for cosmetic reasons */
vecmove(p2, p2 + 1, p1 + child_count[parent] - p2 - 1);
p2 = insert_child_p(parent, newchild, child_count[parent] - 1);
vecmove(p2 + 1, p2, p1 + child_count[parent] - p2 - 1);
*p2 = newchild;
ver[newchild].parent = parent;
ver[parent].family = 0;

void invalidate_path(version_t version)
assert(version < MAXVERSIONS);
ver[version].pathmap = 0;
for (int i = 0; i < child_count[version]; i++)
invalidate_path(get_child(version, i));

void promote_child(label_t child)
label_t parent = get_parent(child);
printf("promote version %u to child of %u \n", child, parent);
assert(child_count[parent] == 1);
replace_child(parent, child);
order_tree(get_root(), 1); // overkill

void extract_children(void) // O(n^2)
unsigned total = 0;

memset(child_count, 0, sizeof child_count);
for (int parent = 0; parent < version_count; parent++) {
child_index[parent] = total;
for (int child = 0; child < version_count; child++)
if (get_parent(child) == parent) {
children[total++] = child;
* Three pass O(n) extract algorithm
* 1: walk the table incrementing child counts of nonfree parents
* 2: accumlate the counts to create the index, clear the counts
* 3: walk the table filling in the children using the index
void extract_children_fast_untested(void) // O(n^2)
unsigned total = 0;
vecset(child_count, 0, version_count);
for (int i = 0; i < version_count; i++)
if (ver[i].used)
for (int i = 0; i < version_count; i++) {
child_index[i] = total;
total += child_count[i];
vecset(child_count, 0, version_count);
for (int i = 0; i < version_count; i++)
if (ver[i].used) {
version_t parent = get_parent(i);
children[child_index[parent] + child_count[parent]++] = i;

* O(n) exception delete
* 1) walk the exception list incrementing per parent present child counts
* 2) walk the list deleting target exceptions where present equals child count
* 3) walk the list clearing present entries for the next time round
label_t brood[MAXVERSIONS]; /* children present in exception list per parent */

bool delete_exceptions(version_t target, version_t parent)
printf("delete target %u, parent %i, %i children\n", target, parent, child_count[target]);
struct exception *limit = excep + exceptions, *save = excep, *kill = NULL;
for (struct exception *from = excep; from < limit; from++)
if (is_present(target)) {
if (child_count[target] > 1 && !count_heirs(target))
kill = find_exception(target);
} else {
/* kill orphans */
version_t ancestor = parent;
while (!is_present(ancestor) && ancestor)
ancestor = get_parent(ancestor);
if (ancestor && is_ghost(ancestor) && is_present(ancestor) && !count_heirs(ancestor))
kill = find_exception(ancestor);
if (kill)
printf("kill ancestor %u with %u heirs\n", kill->label, count_heirs(kill->label));
if (!is_ghost(parent))
parent = 0;
for (struct exception *from = excep; from < limit; from++) {
version_t label = from->label;
if (kill == from)
goto free;
if (label == target || label == parent) {
if (child_count[label] == brood[label])
goto free;
if (child_count[label] == 1) {
if (!count_heirs(label))
goto free;
printf("relabel %i as %i\n", label, get_child(label, 0));
ver[label].present = 0;
label = from->label = get_child(label, 0);
ver[label].present = 1;
goto keep;
goto keep;
*save++ = *from;
ver[label].present = 0;
printf("free [%i, %Li]\n", from->label, (chunk_t)from->chunk);
for (save = excep; save < excep + exceptions; save++)
brood[get_parent(save->label)] = 0;
return parent && child_count[parent] == 1;

/* External operations */

void delete_snapshot(tag_t tag)
//if (cycle == 75109) show_tree_with_target(tag);
version_t target = find_tag(tag);
memset(brood, 0, sizeof(brood));
ver[target].tag = 0;
ver[target].ghost = 1; /* does not inherit ghost exception */
version_t parent = get_parent(target);
switch (child_count[target]) {
case 0:;
remove_child(target); /* no relabel to deleted child */
if (delete_exceptions(target, parent))
promote_child(get_child(parent, 0));
case 1:
delete_exceptions(target, parent);
promote_child(get_child(target, 0));
delete_exceptions(target, parent);
* Ghost exception inheritance
* Any ghost exception inherited only by ghosts may be deleted.
* If a target with more than one child, an exception and no heirs is deleted
* then the exception may be deleted.
* Replacing a target with one child and no exception by its child with no
* heirs reduces heirs of the parent.
* If a target has no children and no exception then removing it or replacing
* its ghost parent with no exception by a sibling of the target with no
* heirs reduces heirs of the parent.
* If heirs are reduced, a search for a ghost ancestor with an uninherited
* exception must be performed.

void snapshot_of_snapshot(tag_t tag, tag_t parent_tag)
label_t parent = find_tag(parent_tag);
label_t child = new_version(parent, tag);
insert_child(parent, child);
order_tree(get_root(), 1); // overkill

void snapshot_of_origin(tag_t tag)
label_t root = new_version(0, tag);
if (!child_count[0]) {
insert_child(0, root);
insert_child(root, get_child(0, 0));
children[0] = root;
order_tree(get_root(), 1); // overkill

data_t read_snapshot(tag_t tag)
struct exception *found = lookup_chunk(find_tag(tag));
//printf("read version %u, chunk %Li \n", find_tag(tag), found->chunk);
return found ? snapdata[found->chunk] : orgdata;

void write_snapshot(tag_t tag, data_t data)
label_t target = find_tag(tag);
printf("write 0x%x to snapshot %i version %u \n", data, tag, target);
struct exception *e;

if (count_family(target) == child_count[target] + 1) {
e = find_exception(target);
goto rewrite;

if (child_count[target]) {
label_t child = new_version(target, tag);
printf("implicit version %u of %u \n", child, target);
insert_child(target, child);
ver[target].ghost = 1;
target = child;

label_t ancestor = get_parent(target);
while (!is_present(ancestor) && is_ghost(ancestor))
ancestor = get_parent(ancestor);
bool relabel = is_ghost(ancestor) && count_heirs(ancestor) == 1;

if (relabel) {
printf("relabel version %u exception to %u!\n", ancestor, target);
e = find_exception(ancestor);
e->label = target;
goto rewrite;

chunk_t chunk = new_chunk(data);
add_exception(target, chunk);
checkchunk[target] = chunk;
checkdata[target] = data;
snapdata[chunk] = data;

printf("rewrite chunk %Lu to 0x%x\n", (chunk_t)e->chunk, data);
checkdata[target] = data;
snapdata[e->chunk] = data;

* O(n) search for one child not present
* 1) walk the exception list setting each child present
* 2) walk the child list to find the one not present
* 3) walk the exception list clearing present for next time round

void write_origin(data_t data)
printf("write 0x%x to origin\n", data);
if (cycle == 10901)
if (!child_count[0])
goto write;
label_t version = get_root();
for (int i = 0; i < exceptions; i++)
if (excep[i].label == version)
goto write;
if (1 && is_ghost(version)) { // !!! this code is probably bogus
/* do not add unique exception to ghost */
while (count_family(version) == child_count[version] - 1) {
int i;
for (i = 0; i < child_count[version]; i++)
if (!ver[get_child(version, i)].present)
goto deeper;
error("did not find only child not present");
version = get_child(version, i);
printf("deep relabel to %u, children %u\n", version, child_count[version]);
if (!is_ghost(version))
bool clobber = is_ghost(version) && !count_heirs(version);
if (clobber)
goto write;
add_exception(version, new_chunk(orgdata));
orgdata = data;

void fuzztest(int cycles)
tag_t snap[MAXVERSIONS], tag, newtag = 1000;
int snaps = 0;
char *why;

for (cycle = 1; cycle <= cycles; cycle++) {
printf("--- cycle %i ---\n", cycle);
if (!snaps || rand() % 5 == 0) {
if (!snaps || (snaps < MAXVERSIONS / 2 && rand() % 2000000 < 1000000)) {
/* Randomly create snapshot */
tag = snap[snaps] = newtag++;
if (!snaps || rand() % 20 == 0) {
printf("create snapshot %u of origin\n", tag);
checkdata[find_tag(tag)] = orgdata;
} else {
tag_t parent = snap[rand() % snaps];
printf("create snapshot %u of %u \n", tag, parent);
snapshot_of_snapshot(tag, parent);
checkdata[find_tag(tag)] = read_snapshot(parent);
} else {
/* Randomly delete snapshot */
int which = rand() % snaps;
printf("delete snapshot %u \n", snap[which]);
why = "delete left wrong number of versions in version tree";
if (count_tree() != active_count)
goto eek;
snap[which] = snap[--snaps];
} else {
/* Write to random snapshot */
data_t data = rand();
if (rand() % 20 == 0) {
tag = -1;
} else {
tag = snap[rand() % snaps];
write_snapshot(tag, data);
why = "version 0 corrupted";
if (is_ghost(0) || child_count[0] > 1)
goto eek;
why = "write left wrong number of versions in version tree";
if (count_tree() != active_count)
goto eek;
/* Verify valid exception list */
bool member[MAXVERSIONS] = { };
for (int i = 0; i < exceptions; i++) {
label_t version = excep[i].label;
//printf("[%i, %Lu]\n", version, (chunk_t)excep[i].chunk);
why = "invalid exception label";
if (version == 0 || version > MAXVERSIONS)
goto eek;
why = "deleted version in exception list";
if (!ver[version].used)
goto eek;
why = "multiple exceptions with same label";
if (member[version])
goto eek;
why = "ghost has inaccessible exception";
if (is_ghost(version) && !inherited(version)) {
printf("ghost %i has inaccessible exception\n", version);
goto eek;
member[version] = 1;
for (int version = 0; version < version_count; version++) {
why = "present flag should be clear";
if (ver[version].present) {
printf("present flag should be clear for %u\n", version);
goto eek;
why = "ghost has less than two children";
if (is_ghost(version) && child_count[version] < 2) {
printf("ghost %i has less than two children\n", version);
goto eek;
why = "tree has a cycle";
int counted = count_tree();
if (counted == MAXVERSIONS)
goto eek;
why = "wrong number of versions in version tree";
if (counted != active_count)
goto eek;
why = "snapshot has wrong data after write";
for (int i = 0; i < snaps; i++) {
data_t data = read_snapshot(snap[i]);
if (data != checkdata[find_tag(snap[i])]) {
printf("snapshot %u has wrong data 0x%x\n", snap[i], data);
tag = snap[i];
goto eek;
//if (cycle == 75109) { show_tree(); exit(1); }
printf("--- Failed at cycle %u --- \n", cycle);
printf("tree count = %u, table count = %u, active count = %u\n", count_tree(), count_table(), active_count);
error("%s", why);

int main(void)
label_t v0 = new_version(-1, 0);

#if 1
return 0;

tag_t nexttag = 1001;
label_t v1 = v1 = new_version(v0, nexttag++);
label_t v2 = v2 = new_version(v1, nexttag++);
label_t v3 = v3 = new_version(v2, nexttag++);
#if 0
hexdump(child_count, 16);
hexdump(child_index, 16);
hexdump(children, 16);
//nested_snapshot(123, 2005);
hexdump(child_count, 16);
hexdump(child_index, 16);
hexdump(children, 16);
return 0;
return 0;
label_t target = v2;
tag_t tag = ver[target].tag;
add_exception(v2, new_chunk(0));
printf("data = %u\n", read_snapshot(tag));
write_snapshot(tag, 0x333);
write_snapshot(1003, 0x666);
// hexdump(snapdata, 16);
// write_origin(666);
// write_origin(777);
// write_snapshot(ver[target].tag, 555);
hexdump(snapdata, 32);
printf("data = 0x%x, orgdata = 0x%x\n", read_snapshot(tag), orgdata);
printf("v3 data = 0x%x\n", read_snapshot(ver[v3].tag));
hexdump(family[v2], 16);
// delete_exceptions((label_t[]){ v7 }, 1);
printf("data = 0x%x, orgdata = 0x%x\n", read_snapshot(1002), orgdata);
hexdump(child_index, 16);
return 0;

label_t v4 = v4 = new_version(v1, nexttag++);
label_t v5 = v5 = new_version(v4, nexttag++);
label_t v6 = v6 = new_version(v4, nexttag++);
add_exception(v5, new_chunk(0));
add_exception(v6, new_chunk(0));
#if 0
hexdump(family[v4], 16);
return 0;

return 0;
 \ /
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