Storage model

QuestDB uses a column-based storage model. Data is stored in tables with each column stored in its own file and its own native format. New data is appended to the bottom of each column to allow data to be organically retrieved in the same order that it was ingested.

Append model#

QuestDB appends one column at a time and each one is updated using the same method. The tail of column file is mapped into the memory page in RAM and the column append is effectively a memory write at an address. Once the memory page is exhausted it is unmapped and a new page is mapped.

This method ensures minimum resource churn and consistent append latency.

Architecture of the file storing a column

Read model#

Table columns are randomly accessible. Columns with fixed size data types are read by translating the record number into a file offset by a simple bit shift. The offset in the column file is then translated into an offset in a lazily mapped memory page, where the required value is read from.

Diagram showing how the data from a column file is mapped to the memory

Consistency and durability#

QuestDB ensures table level isolation and consistency by applying table updates atomically. Updates to a table are applied in the context of a table transaction which is either committed or rolled back in an atomic operation. Queries that are concurrent with table updates are consistent in the sense that they will return data either as it was before or after the table transaction was committed โ€” no intermediate uncommitted data will be shown in a query result.

To guarantee atomicity, each table maintains a last_committed_record_count in a separate file. By convention, any table reader will never read more records than the transaction count. This enables the isolation property: where uncommitted data cannot be read. Since uncommitted data is appended directly to the table, the transaction size is only limited by the available disk space.

Once all data is appended, QuestDB commit() ensures that the transaction count is updated atomically both in multi-threaded and multi-process environments. It does so lock-free to ensure minimal impact on concurrent reads.

The consistency assurance of the data stored is limited to QuestDB auto-repairing abnormally terminated transactions. We do not yet support user-defined constraints, checks and triggers.

By default QuestDB relies on OS-level data durability leaving the OS to write dirty pages to disk. Data durability can be also configured with commit() optionally being able to invoke msync() with a choice of synchronous or asynchronous IO. The msync() calls are made for column files only, so while the sync/async commit modes improve the overall durability, they don't guarantee durability in the face of OS errors or power loss.

Diagram of a commit across several column files


The QuestDB storage model uses memory mapped files and cross-process atomic transaction updates as a low overhead method of inter-process communication. Data committed by one process can be instantaneously read by another process, either randomly (via queries) or incrementally (as a data queue). QuestDB provides a variety of reader implementations.

Architecture of the storage model with column files, readers/writers and the mapped memory