Version 11.0.1
Data StructuresSource Location

Caution: the Architecture Guide is not updated in lockstep with the code base and is not necessarily correct or complete for any specific release.

Compaction is a cooperative process between the Btree layer and the Block Manager to reduce the on-disk footprint of WT tables. The compaction process is initiated by the user application by calling WT_SESSION::compact method. Overall, the compaction process involves rewriting disk blocks from the end of the on-disk file to the start of the file, hence giving an opportunity to reclaim the space from the end of the file through truncation and effectively reducing the file system reported file size. Note that the compaction is a "best-effort" process and does not guarantee a reduction in file size.

Before understanding the compaction process, we need to understand how disk blocks are referenced by the checkpoints. Each checkpoint references a certain set of disk blocks for a table. When a dirty btree page is reconciled, a new disk block is assigned for the page and a new checkpoint starts referencing the new block used for the page. Once the checkpoint referencing the old block is deleted, the old disk block becomes available for reuse. The compaction process copies over the data from the blocks at the end of the file to the reusable blocks at the start of the file.

The compaction process starts with a system-wide checkpoint. There are potentially many dirty blocks in the cache, and the intention here is to write them out and then discard previous checkpoints so that there are as many blocks as possible on the file's "available for reuse" list when the compaction starts. The compaction logic then starts examining the files that need to be compacted. Compaction ignores files smaller than 1MB and computes the available bytes in the initial 80% and 90% of the file. Compaction doesn't proceed if at least 1MB worth of space can not be recovered. If at least 20% of the space is available in the first 80% of the file, the compaction process will try to rewrite the last 20% of the file. Else if at least 10% of the total file is available in the first 90% of the file, compaction is tried on the last 10% of the file. Else the file is skipped.

Compacting the object is done 10% at a time, that is, compaction tries to move blocks from the last 10% of the file into the beginning of the file (the 10% is hard-coded in the block manager). The reason for this is because compaction walks the file in a logical order, not block offset order, and compaction of a file can fail if the block from the end of the file is not written first. Note that the block manager uses a first-fit block selection algorithm during compaction to maximize block movement. The process is repeated multiple times until the block manager detects that there are no blocks from the last 10% of the file that can be moved.

Diving deep into the compaction process, the btree layer walks the internal pages for a given table to identify leaf pages that can be rewritten. For each leaf page referenced by the internal page, we use a block manager API to assess whether it will be beneficial to rewrite the leaf page. If the block manager recognizes that rewriting the page will be beneficial, it rewrites the disk block to a new disk location. The new disk address is placed into the parent internal page and the page is marked dirty. In this way, the leaf page is rewritten without being brought into the cache. If the leaf page is already in the cache, the leaf page is simply marked dirty and the subsequent checkpoint or eviction rewrites the page. When a leaf page is rewritten by compaction, the parent internal page is marked dirty so that the chain of internal pages from root to the leaf page is rewritten by the next checkpoint or eviction.

After each 10% compaction, a checkpoint is performed two more times. The second and third checkpoints are because the block manager checkpoints in two steps: blocks made available for reuse during a checkpoint are put on a special checkpoint-available list and only moved to the real available list after the metadata has been updated with the new checkpoint's information. For this reason, blocks allocated to write the checkpoint itself cannot be taken from the blocks made available by the checkpoint. To say it another way, the second checkpoint puts the blocks from the end of the file that were made available by compaction onto the checkpoint-available list, but then potentially writes the checkpoint itself at the end of the file, which would prevent any file truncation. When the metadata is updated for the second checkpoint, the blocks freed by compaction become available for the third checkpoint, so the third checkpoint's blocks are written towards the beginning of the file, and then the file can be truncated.

Compaction is a time-consuming operation and therefore logs have been added in compaction logic to track current progress. Some of the verbose logs for compaction can be activated by setting "verbose=[compact,compact_progress]" configuration option for wiredtiger_open() method. Apart from verbose logs, WT also records statistics about compact progress that can be used to debug issues with the compaction process.