[bitcoin-dev] Using a storage engine without UTXO-index

Eric Voskuil eric at voskuil.org
Fri Apr 7 23:51:08 UTC 2017

Hash: SHA256

On 04/07/2017 02:44 PM, Tomas via bitcoin-dev wrote:
> Hi Eric,
> On Fri, Apr 7, 2017, at 21:55, Eric Voskuil via bitcoin-dev wrote:
>> Optimization for lower memory platforms then becomes a process
>> of reducing the need for paging. This is the purpose of a cache.
>> The seam between disk and memory can be filled quite nicely by a
>> small amount of cache. On high RAM systems any cache is actually
>> a de-optimization but on low RAM systems it can prevent excessive
>> paging. This is directly analogous to a CPU cache.
> I am not entirely sure I agree with that, or understand it
> correctly.
> If -for example - the data of some application is a set  of
> records which can be sorted from least frequently used to most
> frequently used then doing just that sort will beat any
> application-layer cache. Regardless of size of data and size of
> RAM, you simply allow the OS to use disk caching or memory map
> caching to work its  magic .

It's a reasonable assumption, and given that the no-explicit-cache
implementation is a subset of the optionally-cached implementation,
was of course the initial implementation.

> In fact, I would argue that an application-layer cache *only*
> makes sense if the data model shows a *hard* distinction between
> often and not often used data. If usage-frequency is a continuous
> line, caching is best left to the OS by focussing on proper spatial
> and temporal locality of reference of your data, because the OS has
> much more information to make the right decision.

In practice this is not the case. The Bitcoin data model is neither
continuous nor strictly segregated by usage.

It is true that with sufficient RAM a cache is totally
counterproductive. It is also my experience that an independent UTXO
store is not a reasonable/necessary trade of disk space, memory
scalability, and/or code complexity in exchange for speed.

But on lower memory systems a explicit cache is beneficial. The
difference is clearly measurable in production code by simply changing
the cache limit and testing on various configurations.

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