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From Robert Newson <>
Subject Re: Could CouchDB 2.0 fix actual read quorum?
Date Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:15:04 GMT

If a way can be found that doesn't break things that can be sent in all or most cases, sure.
It's what a user can really infer from that which I focused on. Not as much, I think, as users
that want that info really want. 

> On 31 Mar 2015, at 21:08, Adam Kocoloski <> wrote:
> I hope we can all agree that CouchDB should inform the user when it is unable to satisfy
the requested read "quorum".
> Adam
>> On Mar 31, 2015, at 3:20 PM, Paul Davis <> wrote:
>> Sounds like there's a bit of confusion here.
>> What Nathan is asking for is the ability to have Couch respond with some
>> information on the actual number of replicas that responded to a read
>> request. That way a user could tell that they issued an r=2 request when
>> only r=1 was actually performed. Depending on your point of view in an MVCC
>> world this is either a bug or a feature. :)
>> It was generally agreed upon that if we could return this information it
>> would be beneficial. Although what happened when I started implementing
>> this patch was that we are either only able to return it in a subset of
>> cases where it happens, return it inconsistently between various responses,
>> or break replication.
>> The three general methods for this would be to either include a new
>> "_r_met" key in the doc body that would be a boolean indicating if the
>> requested read quorum was actually met for the document. The second was to
>> return a custom X-R-Met type header, and lastly was the status code as
>> described.
>> The _r_met member was thought to be the best, but unfortunately that breaks
>> replication with older clients because we throw an error rather than ignore
>> any unknown underscore prefixed field name. Thus having something that was
>> just dynamically injected into the document body was a non-starter.
>> Unfortunately, if we don't inject into the document body then we limit
>> ourselves to only the set of APIs where a single document is returned. This
>> is due to both streaming semantics (we can't buffer an entire response in
>> memory for large requests to _all_docs) as well as multi-doc responses (a
>> single boolean doesn't say which document may have not had a properly met
>> R).
>> On top of that, the other confusing part of meeting the read quorum is that
>> given MVCC semantics it becomes a bit confusing on how you respond to
>> documents with different revision histories. For instance, if we read two
>> docs, we have technically made the r=2 requirement, but what should our
>> response be if those two revisions are different (technically, in this case
>> we wait for the third response, but the decision on what to return for the
>> "r met" value is still unclear).
>> While I think everyone is in agreement that it'd be nice to return some of
>> the information about the copies read, I think its much less clear what and
>> how it should be returned in the multitude of cases that we can specify an
>> value for R.
>> While that doesn't offer a concrete path forward, hopefully it clarifies
>> some of the issues at hand.
>> On Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 1:47 PM, Robert Samuel Newson <>
>> wrote:
>>> It’s testament to my friendship with Mike that we can disagree on such
>>> things and remain friends. I am sorry he misled you, though.
>>> CouchDB 2.0 (like Cloudant) does not have read or write quorums at all, at
>>> least in the formal sense, the only one that matters, this is unfortunately
>>> sloppy language in too many places to correct.
>>> The r= and w= parameters control only how many of the n possible responses
>>> are collected before returning an http response.
>>> It’s not true that returning 202 in the situation where one write is made
>>> but fewer than 'r' writes are made means we’ve chosen availability over
>>> consistency since even if we returned a 500 or closed the connection
>>> without responding, a subsequent GET could return the document (a
>>> probability that increases over time as anti-entropy makes the missing
>>> copies). A write attempt that returned a 409 could, likewise, introduce a
>>> new edit branch into the document, which might then 'win', altering the
>>> results of a subsequent GET.
>>> The essential thing to remember is this: the ’n’ copies of your data are
>>> completely independent when written/read by the clustered layer (fabric).
>>> It is internal replication (anti-entropy) that converges those copies,
>>> pair-wise, to the same eventual state. Fabric is converting the 3
>>> independent results into a single result as best it can. Older versions did
>>> not expose the 201 vs 202 distinction, calling both of them 201. I do agree
>>> with you that there’s little value in the 202 distinction. About the only
>>> thing you could do is investigate your cluster for connectivity issues or
>>> overloading if you get a sustained period of 202’s, as it would be an
>>> indicator that the system is partitioned.
>>> In order to achieve your goals, CouchDB 2.0 would have to ensure that the
>>> result of a write did not change after the fact. That is, anti-entropy
>>> would need to be disabled, or somehow agree to roll forward or backward
>>> based on the initial circumstances. In short, we’d have to introduce strong
>>> consistency (paxos or raft or zab, say). While this would be a great
>>> feature to add, it’s not currently present, and no amount of twiddling the
>>> status codes will achieve it. We’d rather be honest about our position on
>>> the CAP triangle.
>>> B.
>>>>> On 30 Mar 2015, at 22:37, Nathan Vander Wilt <>
>>>> wrote:
>>>> A technical co-founder of Cloudant agreed that this was a bug when I
>>> first hit it a few years ago. I found back the original thread here — this
>>> is the discussion I was trying to recall in my OP:
>>>> It sounds like perhaps there is a related issue tracked internally at
>>> Cloudant as a result of that conversation.
>>>> JamesM, thanks for your support here and tracking this down. 203 seemed
>>> like the best status code to "steal" for this to me too. Best wishes in
>>> getting this fixed!
>>>> regards,
>>>> -natevw
>>>>> On Mar 25, 2015, at 4:49 AM, Robert Newson <>
>>>>> 2.0 is explicitly an AP system, the behaviour you describe is not
>>> classified as a bug.
>>>>> Anti-entropy is the main reason that you cannot get strong consistency
>>> from the system, it will transform "failed" writes (those that succeeded on
>>> one node but fewer than R nodes) into success (N copies) as long as the
>>> nodes have enough healthy uptime.
>>>>> True of cloudant and 2.0.
>>>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>>>>> On 24 Mar 2015, at 15:14, Mutton, James <>
>>>>>> Funny you should mention it.  I drafted an email in early February
>>> queue up the same discussion whenever I could get involved again (which I
>>> promptly forgot about).  What happens currently in 2.0 appears unchanged
>>> from earlier versions.  When R is not satisfied in fabric,
>>> fabric_doc_open:handle_message eventually responds with a {stop, …}  but
>>> leaves the acc-state as the original r_not_met which triggers a read_repair
>>> from the response handler.  read_repair results in an {ok, …} with the only
>>> doc available, because no other docs are in the list.  The final doc
>>> returned to chttpd_db:couch_doc_open and thusly to chttpd_db:db_doc_req is
>>> simply {ok, Doc}, which has now lost the fact that the answer was not
>>> complete.
>>>>>> This seems straightforward to fix by a change in
>>> fabric_open_doc:handle_response and read_repair.  handle_response knows
>>> whether it has R met and could pass that forward, or allow read-repair to
>>> pass it forward if read_repair is able to satisfy acc.r.  I can’t speak for
>>> community interest in the behavior of sending a 202, but it’s something I’d
>>> definitely like for the same reasons you cite.  Plus it just seems
>>> disconnected to do it on writes but not reads.
>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>> </JamesM>
>>>>>>> On Mar 24, 2015, at 14:06, Nathan Vander Wilt <
>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>> Sorry, I have not been following CouchDB 2.0 roadmap but I was
>>> extending my fermata-couchdb plugin today and realized that perhaps the
>>> Apache release of BigCouch as CouchDB 2.0 might provide an opportunity to
>>> fix a serious issue I had using Cloudant's implementation.
>>>>>>> See
>>> for
>>> some additional background/explanation, but my understanding is that
>>> Cloudant for all practical purposes ignores the read durability parameter.
>>> So you can write with ?w=N to attempt some level of quorum, and get a 202
>>> back if that quorum is unment. _However_ when you ?r=N it really doesn't
>>> matter if only <N nodes are available…if even just a single available node
>>> has some version of the requested document you will get a successful
>>> response (!).
>>>>>>> So in practice, there's no way to actually use the quasi-Dynamo
>>> features to dynamically _choose_ between consistency or availability — when
>>> it comes time to read back a consistent result, BigCouch instead just
>>> always gives you availability* regardless of what a given request actually
>>> needs. (In my usage I ended up treating a 202 write as a 500, rather than
>>> proceeding with no way of ever knowing whether a write did NOT ACTUALLY
>>> conflict or just hadn't YET because $who_knows_how_many nodes were still
>>> down…)
>>>>>>> IIRC, this was both confirmed and acknowledged as a serious bug
by a
>>> Cloudant engineer (or support personnel at least) but could not be quickly
>>> fixed as it could introduce backwards-compatibility concerns. So…
>>>>>>> Is CouchDB 2.0 already breaking backwards compatibility with
>>> BigCouch? If true, could this read durability issue now be fixed during the
>>> merge?
>>>>>>> thanks,
>>>>>>> -natevw
>>>>>>> * DISCLAIMER: this statement has not been endorsed by actual
>>> of *any* Couch fork…

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