# storr

#### 2020-10-12

library(storr)

storr provides very simple key/value stores for R. They attempt to provide the most basic set of key/value lookup functionality that is completely consistent across a range of different underlying storage drivers (in memory storage, filesystem and proper databases). All the storage is content addressable, so keys map onto hashes and hashes map onto data.

The rds driver stores contents at some path by saving out to rds files. Here I’m using a temporary directory for the path; the driver will create a number of subdirectories here.

path <- tempfile("storr_")
st <- storr::storr_rds(path)

Alternatively you can create the driver explicitly:

dr <- storr::driver_rds(path)

With this driver object we can create the storr object which is what we actually interact with:

st <- storr::storr(dr)

## Key-value store

The main way of interacting with a storr object is get/set/del for getting, setting and deleting data stored at some key. To store data:

st$set("mykey", mtcars) To get the data back head(st$get("mykey"))
##                    mpg cyl disp  hp drat    wt  qsec vs am gear carb
## Mazda RX4         21.0   6  160 110 3.90 2.620 16.46  0  1    4    4
## Mazda RX4 Wag     21.0   6  160 110 3.90 2.875 17.02  0  1    4    4
## Datsun 710        22.8   4  108  93 3.85 2.320 18.61  1  1    4    1
## Hornet 4 Drive    21.4   6  258 110 3.08 3.215 19.44  1  0    3    1
## Hornet Sportabout 18.7   8  360 175 3.15 3.440 17.02  0  0    3    2
## Valiant           18.1   6  225 105 2.76 3.460 20.22  1  0    3    1

What is in the storr?

st$list() ## [1] "mykey" Or, much faster, test for existance of a particular key: st$exists("mykey")
## [1] TRUE
st$exists("another_key") ## [1] FALSE To delete a key: st$del("mykey")

It’s gone!

st$list() ## character(0) though the actual data is still stored in the database: h <- st$list_hashes()
h
## [1] "a63c70e73b58d0823ab3bcbd3b543d6f"

The hash of an object is computed using the digest package, and can be done using the hash_object method of the storr.

st$hash_object(mtcars) ## [1] "a63c70e73b58d0823ab3bcbd3b543d6f" An object can be retrieved directly given its hash: head(st$get_value(h))
##                    mpg cyl disp  hp drat    wt  qsec vs am gear carb
## Mazda RX4         21.0   6  160 110 3.90 2.620 16.46  0  1    4    4
## Mazda RX4 Wag     21.0   6  160 110 3.90 2.875 17.02  0  1    4    4
## Datsun 710        22.8   4  108  93 3.85 2.320 18.61  1  1    4    1
## Hornet 4 Drive    21.4   6  258 110 3.08 3.215 19.44  1  0    3    1
## Hornet Sportabout 18.7   8  360 175 3.15 3.440 17.02  0  0    3    2
## Valiant           18.1   6  225 105 2.76 3.460 20.22  1  0    3    1

similarly, we can test to see if an object is present in the database using its hash:

st$exists_object(h) ## [1] TRUE though now that there are no keys pointing at the data it is subject to garbage collection: del <- st$gc()
del
## [1] "a63c70e73b58d0823ab3bcbd3b543d6f"
st$list_hashes() ## character(0) ## Namespaces At some point having everything stored in a great big bucket may become too unstructured. To help with this storr implements a very simple “namespace” system that may help provide some structure. It is a single layer of hierarchy above keys; so every key belongs to a namespace. The default namespace is “objects” but this can be configured when the storr is created. st$default_namespace
## [1] "objects"

The list_namespaces() method lists all known namespaces

st$list_namespaces() ## [1] "objects" To create a new namespace, simply assign an object into it: st$set("a", runif(5), namespace = "other_things")
st$list_namespaces() ## [1] "objects" "other_things" The list() method lists the contents of a single namespace st$list()
## character(0)
st$list("other_things") ## [1] "a" To get an object, you must use the correct namespace: st$get("a")
## Error: key 'a' ('objects') not found
st$get("a", "other_things") ## [1] 0.4612061 0.9240269 0.7259102 0.9884526 0.3504201 ## Bulk get/set If you have many values to get or set, for some databases it will be much more efficient to get and set them in bulk; this is particularly the case with high-latency databases (e.g., anything over a network connection, especially an internet connection). To help with this, storr implements mget and mset methods that allow multiple values to retrieved or set. The mset function allows multiple keys (and/or multiple namespaces) and multiple data elements. The data must have the same length() as the number of keys being set. st$mset(c("a", "b", "c"), list(1, 2, 3))
st$get("a") ## [1] 1 The mget function fetches zero or more elements. st$mget(c("a", "b", "c"))
## [[1]]
## [1] 1
##
## [[2]]
## [1] 2
##
## [[3]]
## [1] 3

mget always returns a list with the same number of elements as the number of keys

st$mget("a") ## [[1]] ## [1] 1 st$mget(character(0))
## list()

With both mset and mget, both key and namespace can be vectors; if either non-scalar, they must have the same length so the logic is fairly predictable

st$mset("x", list("a", "b"), namespace = c("ns1", "ns2")) st$mget("x", c("ns1", "ns2"))
## [[1]]
## [1] "a"
##
## [[2]]
## [1] "b"
st$mget(c("a", "b", "x"), c("objects", "objects", "ns1")) ## [[1]] ## [1] 1 ## ## [[2]] ## [1] 2 ## ## [[3]] ## [1] "a" ## Import / export Objects can be imported in and exported out of a storr: Import from a list, environment or another storr st$import(list(a = 1, b = 2))
st$list() ## [1] "a" "b" "c" st$get("a")
## [1] 1

Export to an environment (or another storr)

e <- st$export(new.env(parent = emptyenv())) ls(e) ## [1] "a" "b" "c" e$a
## [1] 1
st_copy <- st$export(storr_environment()) st_copy$list()
## [1] "a" "b" "c"
st$get("a") ## [1] 1 st2 <- storr::storr(driver = storr::driver_rds(tempfile("storr_"))) st2$list()
## character(0)
st2$import(st) st2$list()
## [1] "a" "b" "c"

## Supported backends

• environments (driver_environment) - mostly for debugging and transient storage, but by far the fastest.
• on disk with rds (driver_rds) - zero dependencies, quite fast, will suffer under high concurrency because there is no file locking.
• DBI (driver_dbi) - uses (abuses?) a relational database to store the data. This is not the fastest interface but allows for interprocess key/value stores where a relational database is supported. All databases supported by DBI are supported (so at least SQLite, MySQL and Postgres).
• Redis (driver_redis) - uses redux to store the data in a Redis (http://redis.io) database. About the same speed as rds (faster write, slower read at present), but can allow multiple R processes to share the same set of objects.
• rlite (driver_rlite) - stores data in an rlite database using rrlite. This is quite quick, but is stalled for general release because rrlite does not support windows.
• The in-development package thor provides an alternative on-disk storr that can handle multiple processes on a single machine.

## Implementation details

storr includes a few useful features that are common to all drivers.

The only thing that is stored against a key is the hash of some object. Each driver does this a different way, but for the rds driver it stores small text files that list the hash in them. So:

dir(file.path(path, "keys", "objects"))
## [1] "a" "b" "c"
readLines(file.path(path, "keys", "objects", "a"))
## [1] "6717f2823d3202449301145073ab8719"
st$get_hash("a") ## [1] "6717f2823d3202449301145073ab8719" Then there is one big pool of hash / value pairs: st$list_hashes()
## [1] "127a2ec00989b9f7faf671ed470be7f8" "6717f2823d3202449301145073ab8719"
## [3] "9a7ee5e71657f5de0c938757a774880a" "db8e490a925a60e62212cefc7674ca02"
## [5] "ddf100612805359cd81fdc5ce3b9fbba" "e5b57f323c7b3719bbaaf9f96b260d39"

in the rds driver these are stored like so:

dir(file.path(path, "data"))
## [1] "127a2ec00989b9f7faf671ed470be7f8.rds"
## [2] "6717f2823d3202449301145073ab8719.rds"
## [3] "9a7ee5e71657f5de0c938757a774880a.rds"
## [4] "db8e490a925a60e62212cefc7674ca02.rds"
## [5] "ddf100612805359cd81fdc5ce3b9fbba.rds"
## [6] "e5b57f323c7b3719bbaaf9f96b260d39.rds"

### Environment-based caching

Every time data passes across a get or set method, storr stores the data in an environment within the storr object. Because we store the content against its hash, it’s always in sync with what is saved to disk. That means that the look-up process goes like this:

1. Ask for a key, get returned the hash of the content
2. Check in the caching environment for that hash and return that if present
3. If not present, read content from disk/db/wherever the driver stores it and save it into the caching environment

Because looking up data in the environment is likely to be orders of magnitide faster than reading from disks or databases, this means that commonly accessed data will be accessed at a similar speed to native R objects, while still immediately reflecting changes to the content (because that would mean the hash changes)

To demonstrate:

st <- storr::storr(driver = storr::driver_rds(tempfile("storr_")))

This is the caching environent; currently empty

ls(st$envir) ## character(0) Set some key to some data: set.seed(2) st$set("mykey", runif(100))

The environment now includes an object with a name that is the same as the hash of its contents:

ls(st$envir) ## [1] "3386dd0f1a8a3fe4ed209420ea23c8eb" Extract the object from the environment and hash it st$hash_object(st$envir[[ls(st$envir)]])
## [1] "3386dd0f1a8a3fe4ed209420ea23c8eb"

When we look up the value stored against key mykey, the first step is to check the key/hash map; this returns the key above (this step does involve reading from disk)

st$get_hash("mykey") ## [1] "3386dd0f1a8a3fe4ed209420ea23c8eb" It then calls $get_value to extract the value associated with that hash - the first thing that function does is try to locate the hash in the environment, otherwise it reads the data from wherever the driver stores it.

st$get_value ## function (hash, use_cache = TRUE) ## { ## envir <- self$envir
##     if (use_cache && exists0(hash, envir)) {
##         value <- envir[[hash]]
##     }
##     else {
##         if (self$traits$throw_missing) {
##             value <- tryCatch(self$driver$get_object(hash), error = function(e) stop(HashError(hash)))
##         }
##         else {
##             if (!self$driver$exists_object(hash)) {
##                 stop(HashError(hash))
##             }
##             value <- self$driver$get_object(hash)
##         }
##         if (use_cache) {
##             envir[[hash]] <- value
##         }
##     }
##     value
## }
## <environment: 0x7fa1694f3c78>

The speed up is going to be fairly context dependent, but 5-10x seems pretty good in this case (some of the overhead is simply a longer code path as we call out to the driver). For big bits of data and slow network connections the difference will be much more pronounced.

hash <- st$get_hash("mykey") if (requireNamespace("rbenchmark")) { rbenchmark::benchmark(st$get_value(hash, use_cache = TRUE),
st$get_value(hash, use_cache = FALSE), replications = 1000, order = NULL)[1:4] } ## Loading required namespace: rbenchmark ## test replications elapsed relative ## 1 st$get_value(hash, use_cache = TRUE)         1000   0.015    1.000
## 2 st$get_value(hash, use_cache = FALSE) 1000 0.119 7.933 ### Classed exceptions storr uses R’s exception handling system and errors inspired from Python to make it easy to program with tryCatch. If a key is not in the database, storr will return a KeyError (not NULL because storing a NULL value is a perfectly reasonable thing to do). If you did want to return NULL when a key is requested but not present, use tryCatch in this way: tryCatch(st$get("no_such_key"),
KeyError = function(e) NULL)
## NULL

See ?tryCatch for details. The idea is that key lookup errors will have the class KeyError so will be caught here and run the given function (the argument e is the actual error object). Other errors will not be caught and will still throw.

HashErrors will be rarer, but could happen (they might occur if your driver supports expiry of objects). We can simulate that by setting a hash and deleting it:

st$set("foo", letters) ok <- st$driver$del_object(st$get_hash("foo"))
st$flush_cache() tryCatch(st$get("foo"),
KeyError = function(e) NULL,
HashError = function(e) message("Data is deleted"))
## Data is deleted

Here the HashError is triggered.

KeyError objects include key and namespace elements, HashError objects include a hash element. They both inherit from c("error", "condition").

Finally, when using an external storr (see ?driver_external) storr will throw a KeyErrorExternal if the fetch_hook function errors while trying to retrieve an external resource.