This document is for a development version of Ceph.

Ceph SQLite VFS

This SQLite VFS may be used for storing and accessing a SQLite database backed by RADOS. This allows you to fully decentralize your database using Ceph’s object store for improved availability, accessibility, and use of storage.

Note what this is not: a distributed SQL engine. SQLite on RADOS can be thought of like RBD as compared to CephFS: RBD puts a disk image on RADOS for the purposes of exclusive access by a machine and generally does not allow parallel access by other machines; on the other hand, CephFS allows fully distributed access to a file system from many client mounts. SQLite on RADOS is meant to be accessed by a single SQLite client database connection at a given time. The database may be manipulated safely by multiple clients only in a serial fashion controlled by RADOS locks managed by the Ceph SQLite VFS.


Normal unmodified applications (including the sqlite command-line toolset binary) may load the ceph VFS using the SQLite Extension Loading API.


or during the invocation of sqlite3

sqlite3 -cmd '.load'

A database file is formatted as a SQLite URI:


The RADOS namespace is optional. Note the triple /// in the path. The URI authority must be empty or localhost in SQLite. Only the path part of the URI is parsed. For this reason, the URI will not parse properly if you only use two //.

A complete example of (optionally) creating a database and opening:

sqlite3 -cmd '.load' -cmd '.open file:///foo:bar/baz.db?vfs=ceph'

Note you cannot specify the database file as the normal positional argument to sqlite3. This is because the .load command is applied after opening the database, but opening the database depends on the extension being loaded first.

An example passing the pool integer id and no RADOS namespace:

sqlite3 -cmd '.load' -cmd '.open file:///*2:/baz.db?vfs=ceph'

Like other Ceph tools, the ceph VFS looks at some environment variables that help with configuring which Ceph cluster to communicate with and which credential to use. Here would be a typical configuration:

export CEPH_CONF=/path/to/ceph.conf
export CEPH_KEYRING=/path/to/ceph.keyring
export CEPH_ARGS='--id myclientid'
# or
sqlite3 -cmd '.load' -cmd '.open file:///foo:bar/baz.db?vfs=ceph'

The default operation would look at the standard Ceph configuration file path using the client.admin user.


The ceph VFS requires a user credential with read access to the monitors, the ability to blocklist dead clients of the database, and access to the OSDs hosting the database. This can be done with authorizations as simply as:

ceph auth get-or-create client.X mon 'allow r, allow command "osd blocklist" with blocklistop=add' osd 'allow rwx'


The terminology change from blacklist to blocklist; older clusters may require using the old terms.

You may also simplify using the simple-rados-client-with-blocklist profile:

ceph auth get-or-create client.X mon 'profile simple-rados-client-with-blocklist' osd 'allow rwx'

To learn why blocklisting is necessary, see How to Corrupt Your Database.

Page Size

SQLite allows configuring the page size prior to creating a new database. It is advisable to increase this config to 65536 (64K) when using RADOS backed databases to reduce the number of OSD reads/writes and thereby improve throughput and latency.

PRAGMA page_size = 65536

You may also try other values according to your application needs but note that 64K is the max imposed by SQLite.


The ceph VFS does not do any caching of reads or buffering of writes. Instead, and more appropriately, the SQLite page cache is used. You may find it is too small for most workloads and should therefore increase it significantly:

PRAGMA cache_size = 4096

Which will cache 4096 pages or 256MB (with 64K page_cache).

Journal Persistence

By default, SQLite deletes the journal for every transaction. This can be expensive as the ceph VFS must delete every object backing the journal for each transaction. For this reason, it is much faster and simpler to ask SQLite to persist the journal. In this mode, SQLite will invalidate the journal via a write to its header. This is done as:

PRAGMA journal_mode = PERSIST

The cost of this may be increased unused space according to the high-water size of the rollback journal (based on transaction type and size).

Exclusive Lock Mode

SQLite operates in a NORMAL locking mode where each transaction requires locking the backing database file. This can add unnecessary overhead to transactions when you know there’s only ever one user of the database at a given time. You can have SQLite lock the database once for the duration of the connection using:

PRAGMA locking_mode = EXCLUSIVE

This can more than halve the time taken to perform a transaction. Keep in mind this prevents other clients from accessing the database.

In this locking mode, each write transaction to the database requires 3 synchronization events: once to write to the journal, another to write to the database file, and a final write to invalidate the journal header (in PERSIST journaling mode).

WAL Journal

The WAL Journal Mode is only available when SQLite is operating in exclusive lock mode. This is because it requires shared memory communication with other readers and writers when in the NORMAL locking mode.

As with local disk databases, WAL mode may significantly reduce small transaction latency. Testing has shown it can provide more than 50% speedup over persisted rollback journals in exclusive locking mode. You can expect around 150-250 transactions per second depending on size.

Performance Notes

The filing backend for the database on RADOS is asynchronous as much as possible. Still, performance can be anywhere from 3x-10x slower than a local database on SSD. Latency can be a major factor. It is advisable to be familiar with SQL transactions and other strategies for efficient database updates. Depending on the performance of the underlying pool, you can expect small transactions to take up to 30 milliseconds to complete. If you use the EXCLUSIVE locking mode, it can be reduced further to 15 milliseconds per transaction. A WAL journal in EXCLUSIVE locking mode can further reduce this as low as ~2-5 milliseconds (or the time to complete a RADOS write; you won’t get better than that!).

There is no limit to the size of a SQLite database on RADOS imposed by the Ceph VFS. There are standard SQLite Limits to be aware of, notably the maximum database size of 281 TB. Large databases may or may not be performant on Ceph. Experimentation for your own use-case is advised.

Be aware that read-heavy queries could take significant amounts of time as reads are necessarily synchronous (due to the VFS API). No readahead is yet performed by the VFS.

Parallel Access

The VFS does not yet support concurrent readers. All database access is protected by a single exclusive lock.

Export or Extract Database out of RADOS

The database is striped on RADOS and can be extracted using the RADOS cli toolset.

rados --pool=foo --striper get bar.db local-bar.db
rados --pool=foo --striper get bar.db-journal local-bar.db-journal
sqlite3 local-bar.db ...

Keep in mind the rollback journal is also striped and will need to be extracted as well if the database was in the middle of a transaction. If you’re using WAL, that journal will need to be extracted as well.

Keep in mind that extracting the database using the striper uses the same RADOS locks as those used by the ceph VFS. However, the journal file locks are not used by the ceph VFS (SQLite only locks the main database file) so there is a potential race with other SQLite clients when extracting both files. That could result in fetching a corrupt journal.

Instead of manually extracting the files, it would be more advisable to use the SQLite Backup mechanism instead.

Temporary Tables

Temporary tables backed by the ceph VFS are not supported. The main reason for this is that the VFS lacks context about where it should put the database, i.e. which RADOS pool. The persistent database associated with the temporary database is not communicated via the SQLite VFS API.

Instead, it’s suggested to attach a secondary local or In-Memory Database and put the temporary tables there. Alternatively, you may set a connection pragma:

PRAGMA temp_store=memory

Breaking Locks

Access to the database file is protected by an exclusive lock on the first object stripe of the database. If the application fails without unlocking the database (e.g. a segmentation fault), the lock is not automatically unlocked, even if the client connection is blocklisted afterward. Eventually, the lock will timeout subject to the configurations:

cephsqlite_lock_renewal_timeout = 30000

The timeout is in milliseconds. Once the timeout is reached, the OSD will expire the lock and allow clients to relock. When this occurs, the database will be recovered by SQLite and the in-progress transaction rolled back. The new client recovering the database will also blocklist the old client to prevent potential database corruption from rogue writes.

The holder of the exclusive lock on the database will periodically renew the lock so it does not lose the lock. This is necessary for large transactions or database connections operating in EXCLUSIVE locking mode. The lock renewal interval is adjustable via:

cephsqlite_lock_renewal_interval = 2000

This configuration is also in units of milliseconds.

It is possible to break the lock early if you know the client is gone for good (e.g. blocklisted). This allows restoring database access to clients immediately. For example:

$ rados --pool=foo --namespace bar lock info baz.db.0000000000000000 striper.lock

$ rados --pool=foo --namespace bar lock break baz.db.0000000000000000 striper.lock client.4463 --lock-cookie 555c7208-db39-48e8-a4d7-3ba92433a41a

How to Corrupt Your Database

There is the usual reading on How to Corrupt Your SQLite Database that you should review before using this tool. To add to that, the most likely way you may corrupt your database is by a rogue process transiently losing network connectivity and then resuming its work. The exclusive RADOS lock it held will be lost but it cannot know that immediately. Any work it might do after regaining network connectivity could corrupt the database.

The ceph VFS library defaults do not allow for this scenario to occur. The Ceph VFS will blocklist the last owner of the exclusive lock on the database if it detects incomplete cleanup.

By blocklisting the old client, it’s no longer possible for the old client to resume its work on the database when it returns (subject to blocklist expiration, 3600 seconds by default). To turn off blocklisting the prior client, change:

cephsqlite_blocklist_dead_locker = false

Do NOT do this unless you know database corruption cannot result due to other guarantees. If this config is true (the default), the ceph VFS will cowardly fail if it cannot blocklist the prior instance (due to lack of authorization, for example).

One example where out-of-band mechanisms exist to blocklist the last dead holder of the exclusive lock on the database is in the ceph-mgr. The monitors are made aware of the RADOS connection used for the ceph VFS and will blocklist the instance during ceph-mgr failover. This prevents a zombie ceph-mgr from continuing work and potentially corrupting the database. For this reason, it is not necessary for the ceph VFS to do the blocklist command in the new instance of the ceph-mgr (but it still does so, harmlessly).

To blocklist the ceph VFS manually, you may see the instance address of the ceph VFS using the ceph_status SQL function:

SELECT ceph_status();

You may easily manipulate that information using the JSON1 extension:

SELECT json_extract(ceph_status(), '$.addr');

This is the address you would pass to the ceph blocklist command:

ceph osd blocklist add

Performance Statistics

The ceph VFS provides a SQLite function, ceph_perf, for querying the performance statistics of the VFS. The data is from “performance counters” as in other Ceph services normally queried via an admin socket.

SELECT ceph_perf();

You may easily manipulate that information using the JSON1 extension:

SELECT json_extract(ceph_perf(), '$.libcephsqlite_vfs.opf_sync.avgcount');

That tells you the number of times SQLite has called the xSync method of the SQLite IO Methods of the VFS (for all open database connections in the process). You could analyze the performance stats before and after a number of queries to see the number of file system syncs required (this would just be proportional to the number of transactions). Alternatively, you may be more interested in the average latency to complete a write:

SELECT json_extract(ceph_perf(), '$.libcephsqlite_vfs.opf_write');

Which would tell you there have been 7873 writes with an average time-to-complete of 85 microseconds. That clearly shows the calls are executed asynchronously. Returning to sync:

SELECT json_extract(ceph_perf(), '$.libcephsqlite_vfs.opf_sync');

6 milliseconds were spent on average executing a sync call. This gathers all of the asynchronous writes as well as an asynchronous update to the size of the striped file.


Debugging libcephsqlite can be turned on via:


If running the sqlite3 command-line tool, use:

env CEPH_ARGS='--log_to_file true --log-file sqlite3.log --debug_cephsqlite 20 --debug_ms 1' sqlite3 ...

This will save all the usual Ceph debugging to a file sqlite3.log for inspection.

Brought to you by the Ceph Foundation

The Ceph Documentation is a community resource funded and hosted by the non-profit Ceph Foundation. If you would like to support this and our other efforts, please consider joining now.