[Bitcoin-development] LevelDB benchmarking

Stefan Thomas moon at justmoon.de
Tue Jun 19 19:22:15 UTC 2012

Here are my 2 cents after using LevelDB as the default backend for
BitcoinJS for about a year.

LevelDB was written to power IndexedDB in Chrome which is a JavaScript
API. That means that LevelDB doesn't really give you a lot of options,
because they assume that on the C++ layer you don't know any more than
they do, because the actual application is on the JavaScript layer. For
example whereas BDB supports hashtables, b-trees, queues, etc., LevelDB
uses one database type, LSM trees which is an ordered data structure
that is pretty good at everything.

Another gotcha was the number of file descriptors, LevelDB defaults to
1000 per DB. We originally used multiple DBs, one for each of the
indices, but it was easy enough to combine everything into one table,
thereby solving the fd issue. (Lowering the file descriptor limit also
works of course, but if you lower it too much, LevelDB will start to
spend a lot of time opening and closing files, so I believe combining
your tables into one is the better option.)

Overall, LevelDB is a fantastic solution for desktop software that is
faced with multiple use cases that aren't known at compile time. It
isn't really designed for something like Bitcoin which doesn't need
ordered access, has relatively predictable characteristics and - at
least some of the time - runs on servers.

That said, it does seem to work well for the Bitcoin use case anyway.
Thanks to the LSM trees, It's very quick at doing bulk inserts and we
don't seem to need any of the bells and whistles that BDB offers. So I
can't think of a reason not to switch, just make sure you all understand
the deal, LevelDB unlike Tokyo/Kyoto Cabinet is *not* intended as a
competitor or replacement for BDB, it's something quite different.

On 6/19/2012 6:06 PM, Mike Hearn wrote:
>> What problem does it solve?
> Primarily that block verification and therefore propagation is too
> slow because it's very CPU and IO intensive. The CPU work can be
> multi-threaded. The IO work, not as much. As Bitcoin grows we need to
> scale the nodes. Eventually there may be multi-machine nodes, but for
> now we can buy more time by making the existing nodes faster.
> I don't see this as a replacement for moving users to SPV clients.
> Obviously, otherwise I would not be writing one ;)
>> If the problem it will solve is the "too easy to get a DB_RUNRECOVERY
>> error" because bdb is fragile when it comes to its environment... then
>> LevelDB looks very interesting.
> I have no experience with how robust LevelDB is. It has an API call to
> try and repair the database and I know from experience that BigTable
> is pretty solid. But that doesn't mean LevelDB is.
>> If the problem is bdb is creaky and old and has obscure semantics and
>> a hard-to-work-with API, then yes, lets switch (I'm easily seduced by
>> a pretty API and blazing fast performance).
> The code is a lot simpler for sure.
>> As long as it compiles and runs on mac/windows/linux that doesn't
>> really worry me.
> It was refactored out of BigTable and made standalone for usage in
> Chrome. Therefore it's as portable as Chrome is. Mac/Windows/Linux
> should all work. Solaris, I believe, may need 64 bit binaries to avoid
> low FD limits.
>> Lack of infrastructure because it is new does worry me; for example,
>> could I rework bitcointools to read the LevelDB blockchain?  (are
>> there python bindings for LevelDB?)
> Yes: http://code.google.com/p/py-leveldb/
> First look at the code is here, but it's not ready for a pull req yet,
> and I'll force push over it a few times to get it into shape. So don't
> branch:
> https://github.com/mikehearn/bitcoin/commit/2b601dd4a0093f834084241735d84d84e484f183
> It has misc other changes I made whilst profiling, isn't well
> commented enough, etc.
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