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Reviewing Lightning memory-mapped database library: Because, damn it!

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I decided to resume my attempt to figure out the LMDB codebase. Okay, I did some more figuring out and I think that I know where I went wrong. The codebase appears to be trying small enough to fit into the CPU caches, in order to do that, they decided to make it hard enough to make sure it won’t fit into mycache. But I’m trying to work through that.

One of the things that I figured out was that I made a mistake, I kept thinking about databases in the same way you’ll see in RavenDB or SQL Server, as complete separate items. Instead, LMDB does something quite different. It basically uses a single file for everything. This is called the environment, and that can contains named dbs. If you have multiple databases, all of them are going to reside in the same file. The way it works, it creates a file and then map it into memory. On Windows, it actually allocate the space for the file upfront (which doesn’t appears to be necessary).

But the basic idea is that you need to specify upfront the size of the file you want, and that is the maximum data size you have. This can change, but only if you close the environment and start it up again with a higher value. This also explains why you have to specify the number of databases you want to have per environment.  Once you created the environment, everything else become an issue of just managing the pages. In particular, because LMDB only allows a single writer, it doesn’t really have to worry about concurrency issues. It has mapped all the data into memory, and then it is just a matter of creating the appropriate data structure.

A lot of the code is dedicated to managing pages of data, and now that I have gone through enough of the codebase to be sure that I sort of have a vague idea about what is going on I can still say that I think that this is way denser than it should. And I shudder to think what it would take to make any sort of change to this codebase.

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Published at DZone with permission of Ayende Rahien, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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