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Maintaining Berkeley DB Repositories

In theory, the maintenance of a BDB-backed repository involves essentially the same steps used to maintain an FSFS-backed repository. Historically, though, Berkeley DB repositories have need a little extra TLC[89] in order to stay operational. This section will cover some of the unique aspects of Berkeley DB administration.

Berkeley DB Recovery

As mentioned in the section called “Fault Tolerance and the Need for Recovery”, a Berkeley DB repository can sometimes be left in a frozen state if not closed properly. When this happens, an administrator needs to rewind the database back into a consistent state. This is unique to BDB-backed repositories, though—if you are using FSFS-backed ones instead, this won't apply to you. And for those of you using Subversion 1.4 with Berkeley DB 4.4 or later, you should find that Subversion has become much more resilient in these types of situations. Still, wedged Berkeley DB repositories do occur, and an administrator needs to know how to safely deal with this circumstance.

To protect the data in your repository, Berkeley DB uses a locking mechanism. This mechanism ensures that portions of the database are not simultaneously modified by multiple database accessors, and that each process sees the data in the correct state when that data is being read from the database. When a process needs to change something in the database, it first checks for the existence of a lock on the target data. If the data is not locked, the process locks the data, makes the change it wants to make, and then unlocks the data. Other processes are forced to wait until that lock is removed before they are permitted to continue accessing that section of the database. (This has nothing to do with the locks that you, as a user, can apply to versioned files within the repository; we try to clear up the confusion caused by this terminology collision in the sidebar The Many Meanings of Lock.)

In the course of using your Subversion repository, fatal errors or interruptions can prevent a process from having the chance to remove the locks it has placed in the database. The result is that the backend database system gets wedged. When this happens, any attempts to access the repository hang indefinitely (since each new accessor is waiting for a lock to go away—which isn't going to happen).

If this happens to your repository, don't panic. The Berkeley DB filesystem takes advantage of database transactions, checkpoints, and prewrite journaling to ensure that only the most catastrophic of events[90] can permanently destroy a database environment. A sufficiently paranoid repository administrator will have made off-site backups of the repository data in some fashion, but don't head off to the tape backup storage closet just yet.

Instead, use the following recipe to attempt to unwedge your repository:

  1. Make sure no processes are accessing (or attempting to access) the repository. For networked repositories, this also means shutting down the Apache HTTP Server or svnserve daemon.

  2. Become the user who owns and manages the repository. This is important, as recovering a repository while running as the wrong user can tweak the permissions of the repository's files in such a way that your repository will still be inaccessible even after it is unwedged.

  3. Run the svnadmin recover command:

    $ svnadmin recover /var/svn/repos
    Repository lock acquired.
    Please wait; recovering the repository may take some time...
    
    Recovery completed.
    The latest repos revision is 19.
    $
    

    This command may take many minutes to complete.

  4. Restart the server process.

This procedure fixes almost every case of repository wedging. Make sure that you run this command as the user that owns and manages the database, not just as root. Part of the recovery process might involve re-creating from scratch various database files (shared memory regions, e.g.). Recovering as root will create those files such that they are owned by root, which means that even after you restore connectivity to your repository, regular users will be unable to access it.

Purging unused Berkeley DB logfiles

Prior to the release of Berkeley DB 4.2, the largest offender of disk space usage with respect to BDB-backed Subversion repositories were the logfiles in which Berkeley DB performs its prewrites before modifying the actual database files. These files capture all the actions taken along the route of changing the database from one state to another—while the database files, at any given time, reflect a particular state, the logfiles contain all of the many changes along the way between states. Thus, they can grow and accumulate quite rapidly.

Fortunately, beginning with the 4.2 release of Berkeley DB, the database environment has the ability to remove its own unused logfiles automatically. Any repositories created using svnadmin when compiled against Berkeley DB version 4.2 or later will be configured for this automatic logfile removal. If you don't want this feature enabled, simply pass the --bdb-log-keep option to the svnadmin create command. If you forget to do this or change your mind at a later time, simply edit the DB_CONFIG file found in your repository's db directory, comment out the line that contains the set_flags DB_LOG_AUTOREMOVE directive, and then run svnadmin recover on your repository to force the configuration changes to take effect.

Without some sort of automatic logfile removal in place, logfiles will accumulate as you use your repository. This is actually somewhat of a feature of the database system—you should be able to recreate your entire database using nothing but the logfiles, so these files can be useful for catastrophic database recovery. But typically, you'll want to archive the logfiles that are no longer in use by Berkeley DB, and then remove them from disk to conserve space. Use the svnadmin list-unused-dblogs command to list the unused logfiles:

$ svnadmin list-unused-dblogs /var/svn/repos
/var/svn/repos/log.0000000031
/var/svn/repos/log.0000000032
/var/svn/repos/log.0000000033
…
$ rm `svnadmin list-unused-dblogs /var/svn/repos`
## disk space reclaimed!
[Warning] Warning

BDB-backed repositories whose logfiles are used as part of a backup or disaster recovery plan should not make use of the logfile autoremoval feature. Reconstruction of a repository's data from logfiles can only be accomplished only when all the logfiles are available. If some of the logfiles are removed from disk before the backup system has a chance to copy them elsewhere, the incomplete set of backed-up logfiles is essentially useless.

Berkeley DB Utilities

If you're using a Berkeley DB repository, all of your versioned filesystem's structure and data live in a set of database tables within the db/ subdirectory of your repository. This subdirectory is a regular Berkeley DB environment directory and can therefore be used in conjunction with any of the Berkeley database tools, typically provided as part of the Berkeley DB distribution.

For day-to-day Subversion use, these tools are unnecessary. Most of the functionality typically needed for Subversion repositories has been duplicated in the svnadmin tool. For example, svnadmin list-unused-dblogs and svnadmin list-dblogs perform a subset of what is provided by the Berkeley db_archive utility, and svnadmin recover reflects the common use cases of the db_recover utility.

However, there are still a few Berkeley DB utilities that you might find useful. The db_dump and db_load programs write and read, respectively, a custom file format that describes the keys and values in a Berkeley DB database. Since Berkeley databases are not portable across machine architectures, this format is a useful way to transfer those databases from machine to machine, irrespective of architecture or operating system. As we describe later in this chapter, you can also use svnadmin dump and svnadmin load for similar purposes, but db_dump and db_load can do certain jobs just as well and much faster. They can also be useful if the experienced Berkeley DB hacker needs to do in-place tweaking of the data in a BDB-backed repository for some reason, which is something Subversion's utilities won't allow. Also, the db_stat utility can provide useful information about the status of your Berkeley DB environment, including detailed statistics about the locking and storage subsystems.

For more information on the Berkeley DB tool chain, visit the documentation section of the Berkeley DB section of Oracle's web site, located at http://www.oracle.com/technology/documentation/berkeley-db/db/.



[89] Tender loving care, Baby.

[90] For example, hard drive + huge electromagnet = disaster.