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lakeFS with Key Value Store

Starting at version 0.80.2, lakeFS abandoned the tight coupling to PostgreSQL and moved all database operations to work over Key-Value Store

While SQL databases, and Postgres among them, have their obvious advantages, we felt that the tight coupling to Postgres is limiting our users and so, lakeFS with Key Value Store is introduced. Our KV Store implements a generic interface, with methods for Get, Set, Compare-and-Set, Delete and Scan. Each entry is represented by a [partition, key, value] triplet. All these fields are generic byte-array, and the using module has maximal flexibility on the format to use for each field

Under the hood, our KV implementation relies on a backing DB, which persists the data. Theoretically, it could be any type of database and out of the box, we already implemented drivers for DynamoDB, for AWS users, and PostgreSQL, using its relational nature to store a KV Store. More databases will be supported in the future, and lakeFS users and contributors can develop their own driver to use their own favorite database. For experimenting purposes, an in-memory KV store can be used, though it obviously lack the persistency aspect

In order to store its metadata objects (that is Repositories, Branches, Commits, Tags, and Uncommitted Objects), lakeFS implements another layer over the generic KV Store, which supports serialization and deserialization of these objects as protobuf. As this layer relies on the generic interface of the KV Store layer, it is totally agnostic to whichever store implementation is in use, gaining our users the maximal flexibility

For further reading, please refer to our KV Design

Optimistic Locking with KV

One important key difference between SQL databases and Key Value Store is the ability to lock resources. While this is a common practice with relational databases, Key Value stores not always support this ability. When designing our KV Store, we tried to support the most simplistic straight-forward interface, with flexibility in backing DB selection, and so, we decided not to support locking. This decision brought some concurrency challenges we had to overcome. Let us take a look at a common lakeFS flow, Commit, during which several database operations are performed:

  • All relevant (Branch correlated) uncommitted objects are collected and marked as committed
  • A new Commit object is created
  • The relevant Branch is updated to point to the new commit

The Commit flow includes multiple database accesses and modifications, and is very sensitive to concurrent executions: If 2 Commit flows run in parallel, we must guarantee correctness of the data. lakeFS with PostgreSQL simply locks the Branch for the entire Commit operation, preventing concurrent execution of such flows. Now, with KV Store replacing the SQL database, this easy solution is no longer available. Instead, we implemented an Optimistic Locking algorithm, which leverages the KV Store Compare-And-Set (CAS) functionality to remember the Branch state at the beginning of the Commit flow, and updating the branch at the end, only if it remains unchanged, using CAS, with the former Branch state, used as a comparison criteria. If the sampled Branch state and the current state differ, it could only mean that another, later, Commit is in progress, causing the first Commit to fail, and give the later Commit a chance to complete. Here’s a running example:

  • Commit A sets the StagingToken to tokenA and samples the Branch,
  • Commit B sets the StagingToken to tokenB and samples the Branch,
  • Commit A finishes, tries to update the Branch and fails due to the recent modification by Commit B - the StagingToken is set to tokenB and not tokenA as expected by Commit A,
  • Commit B finishes and updates the branch, as tokenB is set as StagingToken and it matches the flow expectation

An important detail to note, is that as a Commit starts, and the StagingToken is set a new value, the former value is added to a list of ‘still valid’ StagingTokens - SealedToken - on the Branch, which makes sure no StagingToken and no object are lost due to a failed Commit

You can read more on the Commit Flow in the dedicated section in the KV Design

DB Transactions and Atomic Updates

Another notable difference is the existence of DB transactions with PostgreSQL, ability that our KV Store lacks. This ability was leveraged by lakeFS to construct several DB updates, into one “atomic” operation - each failure, in each step, rolled back the entire operation, keeping the DB consistent and clean. With KV Store, this ability is gone, and we had to come up with various solutions. As a starting point, the DB consistency is, obviously, not anything we can risk. On the other hand, maintaining the DB clean, and as a result smaller, is something that can be sacrificed, at least as a first step. Let us take a look at a relatively simple flow of a new Repository creation: A brand new Repository has 3 objects: The Repository object itself, an initial Branch object and an initial Commit, which the Branch points to. With SQL DB, it was as simple as creating all 3 objects in the DB under one transaction (at this order). Any failure resulted in a rollback and no redundant leftovers in our DB. With no transaction in KV Store, if for example the Branch creation fails, it will leave the Repository without an initial Branch (or a Branch at all), yet the Repository will be accessible. Trying to delete the Repository as a response to Branch creation failure is ony a partial solution as this operation can fail as well. To mitigate this we introduced a per-Repository-partition, which holds all repository related objects (the Branch and Commit in this scenario). The partition key can only be derived from the specificRepository instance itself. In addition we first create the Repository objects, the Commit and the Branch, under the Repository’s partition key, and then the Repository is created. The Repository and its objects will be accessible only after a successful creation of all 3 entities. A failure in this flow might leave some dangling objects, but consistency is maintained. The number of such dangling objects is not expected to be significant, and we plan to implement a cleaning algorithm to keep our KV Store neat and clean

So, Which Approach is Better?

This documents provides a peek into lakeFS’ new database approach - Key Value Store instead of a Relational SQL. It discusses the challenges we faced, and the solutions we provided to overcome these challenges. Considering the fact that lakeFS over with relational database did work, you might ask yourself why did we bother to develop another solution. The simple answer, is that while PostgreSQL was not a bad option, it was the only option, and any drawback of PostgreSQL, reflected on our users:

  • PostgreSQL can only scale vertically and that is a limitation. At some point this might not hold.
  • PostgreSQL is not a managed solution, meaning that users had to take care of all maintenance tasks, including the above mentioned scale (when needed)
  • As an unmanaged database, scaling means downtime - is that acceptable?
  • It might even get to the point that your organization is not willing to work with PostgreSQL due to various business considerations

If none of the above apply, and you have no seemingly reason to switch from PostgreSQL, it can definitely still be used as an excellent option for the backing database for lakeFS’s KV Store. If you do need another solution, you have DynamoDB support, out of the box. DynamoDB, as a fully managed solution, with horizontal scalability support and optimized partitions support, answers all the pain-points specified above. It is definitely an option to consider, if you need to overcome these And, of course, you can always decide to implement your own KV Store driver to use your database of choice - we would love to add your contribution to lakeFS