Git Commit Graph Design Notes
Git walks the commit graph for many reasons, including:
1. Listing and filtering commit history.
2. Computing merge bases.
These operations can become slow as the commit count grows. The merge
base calculation shows up in many user-facing commands, such as 'merge-base'
or 'status' and can take minutes to compute depending on history shape.
There are two main costs here:
1. Decompressing and parsing commits.
2. Walking the entire graph to satisfy topological order constraints.
The commit graph file is a supplemental data structure that accelerates
commit graph walks. If a user downgrades or disables the 'core.commitGraph'
config setting, then the existing ODB is sufficient. The file is stored
as "commit-graph" either in the .git/objects/info directory or in the info
directory of an alternate.
The commit graph file stores the commit graph structure along with some
extra metadata to speed up graph walks. By listing commit OIDs in lexi-
cographic order, we can identify an integer position for each commit and
refer to the parents of a commit using those integer positions. We use
binary search to find initial commits and then use the integer positions
for fast lookups during the walk.
A consumer may load the following info for a commit from the graph:
1. The commit OID.
2. The list of parents, along with their integer position.
3. The commit date.
4. The root tree OID.
5. The generation number (see definition below).
Values 1-4 satisfy the requirements of parse_commit_gently().
Define the "generation number" of a commit recursively as follows:
* A commit with no parents (a root commit) has generation number one.
* A commit with at least one parent has generation number one more than
the largest generation number among its parents.
Equivalently, the generation number of a commit A is one more than the
length of a longest path from A to a root commit. The recursive definition
is easier to use for computation and observing the following property:
If A and B are commits with generation numbers N and M, respectively,
and N <= M, then A cannot reach B. That is, we know without searching
that B is not an ancestor of A because it is further from a root commit
Conversely, when checking if A is an ancestor of B, then we only need
to walk commits until all commits on the walk boundary have generation
number at most N. If we walk commits using a priority queue seeded by
generation numbers, then we always expand the boundary commit with highest
generation number and can easily detect the stopping condition.
This property can be used to significantly reduce the time it takes to
walk commits and determine topological relationships. Without generation
numbers, the general heuristic is the following:
If A and B are commits with commit time X and Y, respectively, and
X < Y, then A _probably_ cannot reach B.
This heuristic is currently used whenever the computation is allowed to
violate topological relationships due to clock skew (such as "git log"
with default order), but is not used when the topological order is
required (such as merge base calculations, "git log --graph").
In practice, we expect some commits to be created recently and not stored
in the commit graph. We can treat these commits as having "infinite"
generation number and walk until reaching commits with known generation
- The commit graph file is stored in a file named 'commit-graph' in the
.git/objects/info directory. This could be stored in the info directory
of an alternate.
- The core.commitGraph config setting must be on to consume graph files.
- The file format includes parameters for the object ID hash function,
so a future change of hash algorithm does not require a change in format.
- The commit graph feature currently does not honor commit grafts. This can
be remedied by duplicating or refactoring the current graft logic.
- The 'commit-graph' subcommand does not have a "verify" mode that is
necessary for integration with fsck.
- The file format includes room for precomputed generation numbers. These
are not currently computed, so all generation numbers will be marked as
0 (or "uncomputed"). A later patch will include this calculation.
- After computing and storing generation numbers, we must make graph
walks aware of generation numbers to gain the performance benefits they
enable. This will mostly be accomplished by swapping a commit-date-ordered
priority queue with one ordered by generation number. The following
operations are important candidates:
- 'log --topo-order'
- Currently, parse_commit_gently() requires filling in the root tree
object for a commit. This passes through lookup_tree() and consequently
lookup_object(). Also, it calls lookup_commit() when loading the parents.
These method calls check the ODB for object existence, even if the
consumer does not need the content. For example, we do not need the
tree contents when computing merge bases. Now that commit parsing is
removed from the computation time, these lookup operations are the
slowest operations keeping graph walks from being fast. Consider
loading these objects without verifying their existence in the ODB and
only loading them fully when consumers need them. Consider a method
such as "ensure_tree_loaded(commit)" that fully loads a tree before
- The current design uses the 'commit-graph' subcommand to generate the graph.
When this feature stabilizes enough to recommend to most users, we should
add automatic graph writes to common operations that create many commits.
For example, one could compute a graph on 'clone', 'fetch', or 'repack'
- A server could provide a commit graph file as part of the network protocol
to avoid extra calculations by clients. This feature is only of benefit if
the user is willing to trust the file, because verifying the file is correct
is as hard as computing it from scratch.
Chromium work item for: Serialized Commit Graph
An abandoned patch that introduced generation numbers.
Discussion about generation numbers on commits and how they interact
More discussion about generation numbers and not storing them inside
commit objects. A valuable quote:
"I think we should be moving more in the direction of keeping
repo-local caches for optimizations. Reachability bitmaps have been
a big performance win. I think we should be doing the same with our
properties of commits. Not just generation numbers, but making it
cheap to access the graph structure without zlib-inflating whole
commit objects (i.e., packv4 or something like the "metapacks" I
proposed a few years ago)."
A patch to remove the ahead-behind calculation from 'status'.