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From Nick Vatamaniuc <>
Subject Re: [DISCUSS] couchdb 4.0 transactional semantics
Date Mon, 13 Jul 2020 20:15:07 GMT
Thanks for bringing the topic up for the discussion!

For background, this topic was discussed on the mailing list starting
in February, 2019

The primary reason for restart_tx option is to provide compatibility
for _changes feeds to allow older replicators to handle 4.0 sources.
It starts a new transaction after 5 seconds or so (a current FDB
limitation, might go up in the future) and transparently continues to
stream data where it left off. Ex, streaming [a,b,c,d], times out
after b, then it will continue with c, d etc. Currently this is also
used for other streaming APIs as an alternative to returning mangled
JSON after emitting a 200 response and streaming some of the rows.
However it is not used for paginated responses, the new APIs developed
by Ilya. So users have an option to get the guaranteed snapshot
behavior option as well.

And for completeness, if we decide to remove the option, we should
specify what happens if we remove it and get a transaction_too_old
exception. Currently the behavior would be to restart the transaction,
resend all the headers and all the rows again down the socket, which I
don't think anyone wants, but is what we'd get if we just make
{restart_tx, false}

>  I understand that automatically resetting the FDB txn during a response is an attempt
to work around that and maintain "compatibility" with CouchDB < 4 semantics. I think it
fails to do so and is very misleading.

It is a trade-off in order to keep the same API shape as before. Sure,
streaming all the docs with _all_docs or _changes feeds is not a great
pattern but many applications are implemented that way already.
Letting them migrate to 4.0 without having to rewrite the application
with the caveat that they might see a document updated in the
_all_docs stream after the request has already started, is a nicer
choice, I think, than forcing them to rewrite their application, which
could lead to a python 2/3 scenario.

Due to having multiple shards (Q>1), as discussed in the original
mailing thread by Mike
we don't provide a strict read-only snapshot guarantee in 2.x and 3.x
anyway, so users would have to handle scenarios where a document might
appear in the stream that wasn't there at the start of the request
already. Though, granted, a much smaller corner case but I wonder how
many users care to handle that...

Currently users do have an option of using the new paginated API which
disables restart_tx behavior,
though I am not sure what happens when transaction_too_old exception
is thrown then (emit a bookmark?)

So based on the compatibility consideration, I'd vote to keep the
restart_tx option (configurable perhaps if we figure out what to do
when it is disabled) in order to allow users to migrate their
application to 4.0. At least informally we promised users to keep a
strong API compatibility when we released 3.0 with an eye towards 4.0
( I'd
think not emitting all the data in a _changes or _all_docs response
would break that compatibility more than using multiple transactions.

As for what happens when a transaction_too_old is thrown, I could see
an option passed in, something like, single_snapshot=true, and then
use Adam's suggestion to accumulate all the rows in memory and if we
hit the end of the transaction return a 400 error. We won't emit
anything out while rows are accumulated, so users don't get partial
data, it will be every row requested or a 400 error (so no chance of
perceived data loss). Users may retry if they think it was a temporary
hiccup or may use a small limit number.


On Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 2:05 PM Robert Samuel Newson <> wrote:
> Hi All,
> I'm concerned to see the restart_fold function in fabric2_fdb (
in the 4.0 development branch.
> The upshot of doing this is that a CouchDB response could be taken across multiple snapshots
of the database, which is not the behaviour of CouchDB 1 through 3.
> I don't think this is ok (with the obvious and established exception of a continuous
changes feed, where new snapshots are continuously visible at the end of the response).
> FoundationDB imposes certain limits on transactions, the most notable being the 5 second
maximum duration. I understand that automatically resetting the FDB txn during a response
is an attempt to work around that and maintain "compatibility" with CouchDB < 4 semantics.
I think it fails to do so and is very misleading.
> Discuss.
> B.

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