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[RFC PATCH 01/18] docs: Multi-Pack Index (MIDX) Design Notes




Commentary: This file format uses the large offsets from the pack-index
version 2 format, but drops the CRC32 hashes from that format.

Also: I included the HASH footer at the end only because it is already in
the pack and pack-index formats, but not because it is particularly useful
here. If possible, I'd like to remove it and speed up MIDX writes.

-- >8 --

Add a technical documentation file describing the design
for the multi-pack index (MIDX). Includes current limitations
and future work.

Signed-off-by: Derrick Stolee <dstolee@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
---
 Documentation/technical/multi-pack-index.txt | 149 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 1 file changed, 149 insertions(+)
 create mode 100644 Documentation/technical/multi-pack-index.txt

diff --git a/Documentation/technical/multi-pack-index.txt b/Documentation/technical/multi-pack-index.txt
new file mode 100644
index 0000000000..d31b03dec5
--- /dev/null
+++ b/Documentation/technical/multi-pack-index.txt
@@ -0,0 +1,149 @@
+Multi-Pack-Index (MIDX) Design Notes
+====================================
+
+The Git object directory contains a 'pack' directory containing
+packfiles (with suffix ".pack") and pack-indexes (with suffix
+".idx"). The pack-indexes provide a way to lookup objects and
+navigate to their offset within the pack, but these must come
+in pairs with the packfiles. This pairing depends on the file
+names, as the pack-index differs only in suffix with its pack-
+file. While the pack-indexes provide fast lookup per packfile,
+this performance degrades as the number of packfiles increases,
+because abbreviations need to inspect every packfile and we are
+more likely to have a miss on our most-recently-used packfile.
+For some large repositories, repacking into a single packfile
+is not feasible due to storage space or excessive repack times.
+
+The multi-pack-index (MIDX for short, with suffix ".midx")
+stores a list of objects and their offsets into multiple pack-
+files. It contains:
+
+- A list of packfile names.
+- A sorted list of object IDs.
+- A list of metadata for the ith object ID including:
+  - A value j referring to the jth packfile.
+  - An offset within the jth packfile for the object.
+- If large offsets are required, we use another list of large
+  offsets similar to version 2 pack-indexes.
+
+Thus, we can provide O(log N) lookup time for any number
+of packfiles.
+
+A new config setting 'core.midx' must be enabled before writing
+or reading MIDX files.
+
+The MIDX files are updated by the 'midx' builtin with the
+following common parameter combinations:
+
+- 'git midx' gives the hash of the current MIDX head.
+- 'git midx --write --update-head --delete-expired' writes a new
+  MIDX file, points the MIDX head to that file, and deletes the
+  existing MIDX file if out-of-date.
+- 'git midx --read' lists some basic information about the current
+  MIDX head. Used for basic tests.
+- 'git midx --clear' deletes the current MIDX head.
+
+Design Details
+--------------
+
+- The MIDX file refers only to packfiles in the same directory
+  as the MIDX file.
+
+- A special file, 'midx-head', stores the hash of the latest
+  MIDX file so we can load the file without performing a dirstat.
+  This file is especially important with incremental MIDX files,
+  pointing to the newest file.
+
+- If a packfile exists in the pack directory but is not referenced
+  by the MIDX file, then the packfile is loaded into the packed_git
+  list and Git can access the objects as usual. This behavior is
+  necessary since other tools could add packfiles to the pack
+  directory without notifying Git.
+
+- The MIDX file should be only a supplemental structure. If a
+  user downgrades or disables the `core.midx` config setting,
+  then the existing .idx and .pack files should be sufficient
+  to operate correctly.
+
+- The file format includes parameters for the object id length
+  and hash algorithm, so a future change of hash algorithm does
+  not require a change in format.
+
+- If an object appears in multiple packfiles, then only one copy
+  is stored in the MIDX. This has a possible performance issue:
+  If an object appears as the delta-base of multiple objects from
+  multiple packs, then cross-pack delta calculations may slow down.
+  This is currently only theoretical and has not been demonstrated
+  to be a measurable issue.
+
+Current Limitations
+-------------------
+
+- MIDX files are managed only by the midx builtin and is not
+  automatically updated on clone or fetch.
+
+- There is no '--verify' option for the midx builtin to verify
+  the contents of the MIDX file against the pack contents.
+
+- Constructing a MIDX file currently requires the single-pack
+  index for every pack being added to the MIDX.
+
+- The fsck builtin does not check MIDX files, but should.
+
+- The repack builtin is not aware of the MIDX files, and may
+  invalidate the MIDX files by deleting existing packfiles. The
+  MIDX may also be extended in the future to store metadata about
+  a packfile that can be used for faster repack commands.
+
+- The naive Git HTTP server advertises lists of packfiles using
+  the file system directly.
+
+Future Work
+-----------
+
+- The current file-format requires between 28 and 36 bytes per
+  object. As the repository grows, the MIDX file can become
+  very large and become a bottleneck when updating the file. To
+  fix this "big write" problem, we can make the MIDX file
+  incremental. Instead of just one MIDX file, we will have a
+  sequence of MIDX files that can be unioned together. Then
+  on write we take the new objects to add and consider how many
+  existing files should be merged into a new file containing
+  the latest objects.
+
+  This list of "base indexes" will be presented as an optional
+  chunk in the MIDX format and contains the OIDs for the base
+  files. Thus, the `midx_head` file only stores the OID for the
+  "tip" MIDX file and then the rest are loaded based on those
+  pointers, such as the following figure:
+
+  [     BIG     ] <- [ MEDIUM ] <- [tiny] <- midx_head
+	 ^___________________________|
+
+  The plan being that every write replaces the "tiny" index,
+  and when that index becomes large enough it merges with the
+  "medium" index and a new tiny index is created in the next
+  write. Very rarely, the "big" index would be updated, causing
+  a slow write.
+
+- After the MIDX feature is sufficiently hardened and widely used,
+  consider making Git more fully depend on the MIDX file. If MIDX
+  is the default, then we can delete the single-pack-indexes from
+  the pack directory. We could also allow thin packs in the pack
+  directory.
+
+- The MIDX could be extended to store a "stable object order" such
+  that adding objects to the order does not change the existing
+  objects. This would enable re-using the reachability bitmaps after
+  repacking and updating the MIDX file.
+
+Related Links
+-------------
+
+[0] https://bugs.chromium.org/p/git/issues/detail?id=6
+    Chromium work item for: Multi-Pack Index (MIDX)
+
+[1] https://public-inbox.org/git/CB5074CF.3AD7A%25joshua.redstone@xxxxxx/T/#u
+    Subject: Git performance results on a large repository
+    Date: 3 Feb 2012
+
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