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Pipeline data partitioning design

What problem are we trying to solve?

We want to partition the CI/CD dataset, because some of the database tables are extremely large, which might be challenging in terms of scaling single node reads, even after we ship the CI/CD database decomposition.

We want to reduce the risk of database performance degradation by transforming a few of the largest database tables into smaller ones using PostgreSQL declarative partitioning.

See more details about this effort in the parent blueprint.

pipeline data time decay

How are CI/CD data decomposition, partitioning, and time-decay related?

CI/CD decomposition is an extraction of a CI/CD database cluster out of the "main" database cluster, to make it possible to have a different primary database receiving writes. The main benefit is doubling the capacity for writes and data storage. The new database cluster will not have to serve reads / writes for non-CI/CD database tables, so this offers some additional capacity for reads too.

CI/CD partitioning is dividing large CI/CD database tables into smaller ones. This will improve reads capacity on every CI/CD database node, because it is much less expensive to read data from small tables, than from large multi-terabytes tables. We can add more CI/CD database replicas to better handle the increase in the number of SQL queries that are reading data, but we need partitioning to perform a single read more efficiently. Performance in other aspects will improve too, because PostgreSQL will be more efficient in maintaining multiple small tables than in maintaining a very large database table.

CI/CD time-decay allows us to benefit from the strong time-decay characteristics of pipeline data. It can be implemented in many different ways, but using partitioning to implement time-decay might be especially beneficial. When implementing a time decay we usually mark data as archived, and migrate it out of a database to a different place when data is no longer relevant or needed. Our dataset is extremely large (tens of terabytes), so moving such a high volume of data is challenging. When time-decay is implemented using partitioning, we can archive the entire partition (or set of partitions) by updating a single record in one of our database tables. It is one of the least expensive ways to implement time-decay patterns at a database level.


Why do we need to partition CI/CD data?

We need to partition CI/CD data because our database tables storing pipelines, builds, and artifacts are too large. The ci_builds database table size is currently around 2.5 TB with an index of around 1.4 GB. This is too much and violates our principle of 100 GB max size. We also want to build alerting to notify us when this number is exceeded.

Large SQL tables increase index maintenance time, during which freshly deleted tuples cannot be cleaned by autovacuum. This highlight the need for small tables. We will measure how much bloat we accumulate when (re)indexing huge tables. Base on this analysis, we will be able to set up SLO (dead tuples / bloat), associated with (re)indexing.

We've seen numerous S1 and S2 database-related production environment incidents, over the last couple of months, for example:

We have approximately 50 ci_* prefixed database tables, and some of them would benefit from partitioning.

A simple SQL query to get this data:

WITH tables AS (SELECT table_name FROM information_schema.tables WHERE table_name LIKE 'ci_%')
  SELECT table_name,
    pg_size_pretty(pg_total_relation_size(quote_ident(table_name))) AS total_size,
    pg_size_pretty(pg_relation_size(quote_ident(table_name))) AS table_size,
    pg_size_pretty(pg_indexes_size(quote_ident(table_name))) AS index_size,
    pg_total_relation_size(quote_ident(table_name)) AS total_size_bytes
  FROM tables ORDER BY total_size_bytes DESC;

See data from March 2022:

Table name Total size Index size
ci_builds 3.5 TB 1 TB
ci_builds_metadata 1.8 TB 150 GB
ci_job_artifacts 600 GB 300 GB
ci_pipelines 400 GB 300 GB
ci_stages 200 GB 120 GB
ci_pipeline_variables 100 GB 20 GB
(...around 40 more)

Based on the table above, it is clear that there are tables with a lot of stored data.

While we have almost 50 CI/CD-related database tables, we are initially interested in partitioning only 6 of them. We can start by partitioning the most interesting tables in an iterative way, but we also should have a strategy for partitioning the remaining ones if needed. This document is an attempt to capture this strategy, describe as many details as possible, to share this knowledge among engineering teams.

How do we want to partition CI/CD data?

We want to partition the CI/CD tables in iterations. It might not be feasible to partition all of the 6 initial tables at once, so an iterative strategy might be necessary. We also want to have a strategy for partitioning the remaining database tables when it becomes necessary.

It is also important to avoid large data migrations. We store almost 6 terabytes of data in the biggest CI/CD tables, in many different columns and indexes. Migrating this amount of data might be challenging and could cause instability in the production environment. Due to this concern, we've developed a way to attach an existing database table as a partition zero without downtime and excessive database locking, what has been demonstrated in one of the first proofs of concept. This makes creation of a partitioned schema possible without a downtime (for example using a routing table p_ci_pipelines), by attaching an existing ci_pipelines table as partition zero without exclusive locking. It will be possible to use the legacy table as usual, but we can create the next partition when needed and the p_ci_pipelines table will be used for routing queries. To use the routing table we need to find a good partitioning key.

Our plan is to use logical partition IDs. We want to start with the ci_pipelines table and create a partition_id column with a DEFAULT value of 100 or 1000. Using a DEFAULT value avoids the challenge of backfilling this value for every row. Adding a CHECK constraint prior to attaching the first partition tells PostgreSQL that we've already ensured consistency and there is no need to check it while holding an exclusive table lock when attaching this table as a partition to the routing table (partitioned schema definition). We will increment this value every time we create a new partition for p_ci_pipelines, and the partitioning strategy will be LIST partitioning.

We will also create a partition_id column in the other initial 6 database tables we want to iteratively partition. After a new pipeline is created, it will get a partition_id assigned, and all the related resources, like builds and artifacts, will share the same value. We want to add the partition_id column into all 6 problematic tables because we can avoid backfilling this data when we decide it is time to start partitioning them.

We want to partition CI/CD data iteratively. We plan to start with the ci_builds_metadata table, because this is the fastest growing table in the CI database and want to contain this rapid growth. This table has also the most simple access patterns - a row from it is being read when a build is exposed to a runner, and other access patterns are relatively simple too. Starting with p_ci_builds_metadata will allow us to achieve tangible and quantifiable results earlier, and will become a new pattern that makes partitioning the largest table possible. We will partition builds metadata using the LIST partitioning strategy.

Once we have many partitions attached to p_ci_builds_metadata, with many partition_ids we will choose another CI table to partition next. In that case we might want to use RANGE partitioning in for that next table because p_ci_builds_metadata will already have many physical partitions, and therefore many logical partition_ids will be used at that time. For example, if we choose ci_builds as the next partitioning candidate, after having partitioned p_ci_builds_metadata, it will have many different values stored in ci_builds.partition_id. Using RANGE partitioning in that case might be easier.

Physical partitioning and logical partitioning will be separated, and a strategy will be determined when we implement physical partitioning for the respective database tables. Using RANGE partitioning works similarly to using LIST partitioning in database tables, but because we can guarantee continuity of partition_id values, using RANGE partitioning might be a better strategy.

Multi-project pipelines

Parent-child pipeline will always be part of the same partition because child pipelines are considered a resource of the parent pipeline. They can't be viewed individually in the project pipeline list page.

On the other hand, multi-project pipelines can be viewed in the pipeline list page. They can also be accessed from the pipeline graph as downstream/upstream links when created via the trigger token or the API using a job token. They can also be created from other pipelines by using trigger tokens, but in this case we don't store the source pipeline.

While partitioning ci_builds we need to update the foreign keys to the ci_sources_pipelines table:

Foreign-key constraints:
    "fk_be5624bf37" FOREIGN KEY (source_job_id) REFERENCES ci_builds(id) ON DELETE CASCADE
    "fk_d4e29af7d7" FOREIGN KEY (source_pipeline_id) REFERENCES ci_pipelines(id) ON DELETE CASCADE
    "fk_e1bad85861" FOREIGN KEY (pipeline_id) REFERENCES ci_pipelines(id) ON DELETE CASCADE

A ci_sources_pipelines record references two ci_pipelines rows (parent and the child). Our usual strategy has been to add a partition_id to the table, but if we do it here we will force all multi-project pipelines to be part of the same partition.

We should add two partition_id columns for this table, a partition_id and a source_partition_id:

Foreign-key constraints:
    "fk_be5624bf37" FOREIGN KEY (source_job_id, source_partition_id) REFERENCES ci_builds(id, source_partition_id) ON DELETE CASCADE
    "fk_d4e29af7d7" FOREIGN KEY (source_pipeline_id, source_partition_id) REFERENCES ci_pipelines(id, source_partition_id) ON DELETE CASCADE
    "fk_e1bad85861" FOREIGN KEY (pipeline_id, partition_id) REFERENCES ci_pipelines(id, partition_id) ON DELETE CASCADE

This solution is the closest to a two way door decision because:

  • We retain the ability to reference pipelines in different partitions.
  • If we later decide that we want to force multi-project pipelines in the same partition we could add a constraint to validate that both columns have the same value.

Why do we want to use explicit logical partition ids?

Partitioning CI/CD data using a logical partition_id has several benefits. We could partition by a primary key, but this would introduce much more complexity and additional cognitive load required to understand how the data is being structured and stored in partitions.

CI/CD data is hierarchical data. Stages belong to pipelines, builds belong to stages, artifacts belong to builds (with rare exceptions). We are designing a partitioning strategy that reflects this hierarchy, to reduce the complexity and therefore cognitive load for contributors. With an explicit partition_id associated with a pipeline, we can cascade the partition ID number when trying to retrieve all resources associated with a pipeline. We know that for a pipeline 12345 with a partition_id of 102, we are always able to find associated resources in logical partitions with number 102 in other routing tables, and PostgreSQL will know in which partitions these records are being stored in for every table.

Another interesting benefit for using a single and incremental latest partition_id number, associated with pipelines, is that in theory we can cache it in Redis or in memory to avoid excessive reads from the database to find this number, though we might not need to do this.

The single and uniform partition_id value for pipeline data gives us more choices later on than primary-keys-based partitioning.

Altering partitioned tables

It will still be possible to run ALTER TABLE statements against partitioned tables, similarly to how the tables behaved before partitioning. When PostgreSQL runs an ALTER TABLE statement against a parent partitioned table, it acquires the same lock on all child partitions and updates each to keep them in sync. This differs from running ALTER TABLE on a non-partitioned table in a few key ways:

  • PostgreSQL acquires ACCESS EXCLUSIVE locks against a larger number of tables, but not a larger amount of data, than it would were the table not partitioned. Each partition will be locked similarly to the parent table, and all will be updated in a single transaction.
  • Lock duration will be increased based on the number of partitions involved. All ALTER TABLE statements executed on the GitLab database (other than VALIDATE CONSTRAINT) take small constant amounts of time per table modified. PostgreSQL will need to modify each partition in sequence, increasing the runtime of the lock. This time will still remain very small until there are many partitions involved.
  • If thousands of partitions are involved in an ALTER TABLE, we will need to verify that the value of max_locks_per_transaction is high enough to support all of the locks that need to be taken during the operation.

Splitting large partitions into smaller ones

We want to start with the initial partition_id number 100 (or higher, like 1000, depending on our calculations and estimations). We do not want to start from 1, because existing tables are also large already, and we might want to split them into smaller partitions. If we start with 100, we will be able to create partitions for partition_id of 1, 20, 45, and move existing records there by updating partition_id from 100 to a smaller number.

PostgreSQL will move these records into their respective partitions in a consistent way, provided that we do it in a transaction for all pipeline resources at the same time. If we ever decide to split large partitions into smaller ones (it's not yet clear if we will need to do this), we might be able to just use background migrations to update partition IDs, and PostgreSQL is smart enough to move rows between partitions on its own.

Naming conventions

A partitioned table is called a routing table and it will use the p_ prefix which should help us with building automated tooling for query analysis.

A table partition will be called partition and it can use the a physical partition ID as suffix, for example ci_builds_101. Existing CI tables will become zero partitions of the new routing tables. Depending on the chosen partitioning strategy for a given table, it is possible to have many logical partitions per one physical partition.

Attaching first partition and acquiring locks

We learned when partitioning the first table that PostgreSQL requires an AccessExclusiveLock on the table and all of the other tables that it references through foreign keys. This can cause a deadlock if the migration tries to acquire the locks in a different order from the application business logic.

To solve this problem, we introduced a priority locking strategy to avoid further deadlock errors. This allows us to define the locking order and then try keep retrying aggressively until we acquire the locks or run out of retries. This process can take up to 40 minutes.

With this strategy, we successfully acquired a lock on ci_builds table after 15 retries during a low traffic period(after 00:00 UTC).

See an example of this strategy in our partition tooling).

Partitioning steps

The database partition tooling docs contain a list of steps to partition a table, but the steps are not enough for our iterative strategy. As our dataset continues to grow we want to take advantage of partitioning performance right away and not wait until all tables are partitioned. For example, after partitioning the ci_builds_metadata table we want to start writing and reading data to/from a new partition. This means that we will increase the partition_id value from 100, the default value, to 101. Now all of the new resources for the pipeline hierarchy will be persisted with partition_id = 101. We can continue following the database tooling instructions for the next table that will be partitioned, but we require a few extra steps:

  • add partition_id column for the FK references with default value of 100 since the majority of records should have that value.

  • change application logic to cascade the partition_id value

  • correct partition_id values for recent records with a post deploy/background migration, similar to this:

    UPDATE ci_pipeline_metadata
           SET partition_id = ci_pipelines.partition_id
           FROM ci_pipelines
                WHERE = ci_pipeline_metadata.pipeline_id
                  AND ci_pipelines.partition_id in (101, 102);
  • change the foreign key definitions

  • ...

Storing partitions metadata in the database

To build an efficient mechanism that will be responsible for creating new partitions, and to implement time decay we want to introduce a partitioning metadata table, called ci_partitions. In that table we would store metadata about all the logical partitions, with many pipelines per partition. We may need to store a range of pipeline ids per logical partition. Using it we will be able to find the partition_id number for a given pipeline ID and we will also find information about which logical partitions are "active" or "archived", which will help us to implement a time-decay pattern using database declarative partitioning.

Doing that will also allow us to use a Unified Resource Identifier for partitioned resources, that will contain a pointer to a pipeline ID, we could then use to efficiently lookup a partition the resource is stored in. It might be important when a resources can be directly referenced by an URL, in UI or API. We could use an ID like 1e240-5ba0 for pipeline 123456, build 23456. Using a dash - can prevent an identifier from being highlighted and copied with a mouse double-click. If we want to avoid this problem, we can use any character of written representation that is not present in base-16 numeral system - any letter from g to z in Latin alphabet, for example x. In that case an example of an URI would look like 1e240x5ba0. If we decide to update the primary identifier of a partitioned resource (today it is just a big integer) it is important to design a system that is resilient to migrating data between partitions, to avoid changing identifiers when rebalancing happens.

ci_partitions table will store information about a partition identifier, pipeline ids range it is valid for and whether the partitions have been archived or not. Additional columns with timestamps may be helpful too.

Implementing a time-decay pattern using partitioning

We can use ci_partitions to implement a time-decay pattern using declarative partitioning. By telling PostgreSQL which logical partitions are archived we can stop reading from these partitions using a SQL query like the one below.

SELECT * FROM ci_builds WHERE partition_id IN (
  SELECT id FROM ci_partitions WHERE active = true

This query will make it possible to limit the number of partitions we will read from, and therefore will cut access to "archived" pipeline data, using our data retention policy for CI/CD data. Ideally we do not want to read from more than two partitions at once, so we need to align the automatic partitioning mechanisms with the time-decay policy. We will still need to implement new access patterns for the archived data, presumably through the API, but the cost of storing archived data in PostgreSQL will be reduced significantly this way.

There are some technical details here that are out of the scope of this description, but by using this strategy we can "archive" data, and make it much less expensive to reside in our PostgreSQL cluster by toggling a boolean column value.

Accessing partitioned data

It will be possible to access partitioned data whether it has been archived or not, in most places in GitLab. On a merge request page, we will always show pipeline details even if the merge request was created years ago. We can do that because ci_partitions will be a lookup table associating a pipeline ID with its partition_id, and we will be able to find the partition that the pipeline data is stored in.

We will need to constrain access to searching through pipelines, builds, artifacts etc. Search cannot be done through all partitions, as it would not be efficient enough, hence we will need to find a better way of searching through archived pipelines data. It will be necessary to have different access patterns to access archived data in the UI and API.

There are a few challenges in enforcing usage of the partition_id partitioning key in PostgreSQL. To make it easier to update our application to support this, we have designed a new queries analyzer in our proof of concept merge request. It helps to find queries that are not using the partitioning key.

In a separate proof of concept merge request and related issue we demonstrated that using the uniform partition_id makes it possible to extend Rails associations with an additional scope modifier so we can provide the partitioning key in the SQL query.

Using instance dependent associations, we can easily append a partitioning key to SQL queries that are supposed to retrieve associated pipeline resources, for example:

has_many :builds, -> (pipeline) { where(partition_id: pipeline.partition_id) }

The problem with this approach is that it makes preloading much more difficult as instance dependent associations cannot be used with preloads:

ArgumentError: The association scope 'builds' is instance dependent (the
scope block takes an argument). Preloading instance dependent scopes is not

Query analyzers

We implemented 2 query analyzers to detect queries that need to be fixed so that everything keeps working with partitioned tables:

  • One analyzer to detect queries not going through a routing table.
  • One analyzer to detect queries that use routing tables without specifying the partition_id in the WHERE clauses.

We started by enabling our first analyzer in test environment to detect existing broken queries. It is also enabled on production environment, but for a small subset of the traffic (0.1%) because of scalability concerns.

The second analyzer will be enabled in a future iteration.

Primary key

Primary key must include the partitioning key column to partition the table.

We first create a unique index including the (id, partition_id). Then, we drop the primary key constraint and use the new index created to set the new primary key constraint.

ActiveRecord does not support composite primary keys, so we must force it to treat the id column as a primary key:

class Model < ApplicationRecord
  self.primary_key = 'id'

The application layer is now ignorant of the database structure and all of the existing queries from ActiveRecord continue to use the id column to access the data. There is some risk to this approach because it is possible to construct application code that results in duplicate models with the same id value, but on a different partition_id. To mitigate this risk we must ensure that all inserts use the database sequence to populate the id since they are guaranteed to allocate distinct values and rewrite the access patterns to include the partition_id value. Manually assigning the ids during inserts must be avoided.

Foreign keys

Foreign keys must reference columns that either are a primary key or form a unique constraint. We can define them using these strategies:

Between routing tables sharing partition ID

For relations that are part of the same pipeline hierarchy it is possible to share the partition_id column to define the foreign key constraint:

 - id
 - partition_id

 - id
 - partition_id
 - pipeline_id

In this case, p_ci_builds.partition_id indicates the partition for the build and also for the pipeline. We can add a FK on the routing table using:

ALTER TABLE ONLY p_ci_builds
    ADD CONSTRAINT fk_on_pipeline_and_partition
    FOREIGN KEY (pipeline_id, partition_id)
    REFERENCES p_ci_pipelines(id, partition_id) ON DELETE CASCADE;

Between routing tables with different partition IDs

It's not possible to reuse the partition_id for all relations in the CI domain, so in this case we'll need to store the value as a different attribute. For example, when canceling redundant pipelines we store on the old pipeline row the ID of the new pipeline that cancelled it as auto_canceled_by_id:

 - id
 - partition_id
 - auto_canceled_by_id
 - auto_canceled_by_partition_id

In this case we can't ensure that the canceling pipeline is part of the same hierarchy as the canceled pipelines, so we need an extra attribute to store its partition, auto_canceled_by_partition_id, and the FK becomes:

ALTER TABLE ONLY p_ci_pipelines
    ADD CONSTRAINT fk_cancel_redundant_pipelines
    FOREIGN KEY (auto_canceled_by_id, auto_canceled_by_partition_id)
    REFERENCES p_ci_pipelines(id, partition_id) ON DELETE SET NULL;

Between routing tables and regular tables

Not all of the tables in the CI domain will be partitioned, so we'll have routing tables that will reference non-partitioned tables, for example we reference external_pull_requests from ci_pipelines:

FOREIGN KEY (external_pull_request_id)
REFERENCES external_pull_requests(id)

In this case we only need to move the FK definition from the partition level to the routing table so that new pipeline partitions may use it:

ALTER TABLE p_ci_pipelines
  ADD CONSTRAINT fk_external_request
  FOREIGN KEY (external_pull_request_id)
  REFERENCES external_pull_requests(id) ON DELETE SET NULL;

Between regular tables and routing tables

Most of the tables from the CI domain reference at least one table that will be turned into a routing tables, for example ci_pipeline_messages references ci_pipelines. These definitions will need to be updated to use the routing tables and for this they will need a partition_id column:

 - id
 - partition_id

 - id
 - pipeline_id
 - pipeline_partition_id

The foreign key can be defined by using:

ALTER TABLE ci_pipeline_messages ADD CONSTRAINT fk_pipeline_partitioned
  FOREIGN KEY (pipeline_id, pipeline_partition_id)
  REFERENCES p_ci_pipelines(id, partition_id) ON DELETE CASCADE;

The old FK definition will need to be removed, otherwise new inserts in the ci_pipeline_messages with pipeline IDs from non-zero partition will fail with reference errors.


We learned that PostgreSQL does not allow to create a single index (unique or otherwise) across all partitions of a table.

One solution to solve this problem is to embed the partitioning key inside the uniqueness constraint.

This might mean prepending the partition ID in a hexadecimal format before the token itself and storing the concatenated string in a database. To do that we would need to reserve an appropriate number of leading bytes in a token to accommodate for the maximum number of partitions we may have in the future. It seems that reserving four characters, what would translate into 16-bits number in base-16, might be sufficient. The maximum number we can encode this way would be FFFF, what is 65535 in decimal.

This would provide a unique constraint per-partition which is sufficient for global uniqueness.

We have also designed a query analyzer that makes it possible to detect direct usage of zero partitions, legacy tables that have been attached as first partitions to routing tables, to ensure that all queries are targeting partitioned schema or partitioned routing tables, like p_ci_pipelines.

Why not partition using the project or namespace ID?

We do not want to partition using project_id or namespace_id because sharding and podding is a different problem to solve, on a different layer of the application. It doesn't solve the original problem statement of performance growing worse over time as we build up infrequently read data. We may want to introduce pods in the future, and that might become the primary mechanism of separating data based on the group or project the data is associated with.

In theory we could use either project_id or namespace_id as a second partitioning dimension, but this would add more complexity to a problem that is already very complex.

Partitioning builds queuing tables

We also want to partition our builds queuing tables. We currently have two: ci_pending_builds and ci_running_builds. These tables are different from other CI/CD data tables, as there are business rules in our product that make all data stored in them invalid after 24 hours.

As a result, we will need to use a different strategy to partition those database tables, by removing partitions entirely after these are older than 24 hours, and always reading from two partitions through a routing table. The strategy to partition these tables is well understood, but requires a solid Ruby-based automation to manage the creation and deletion of these partitions. To achieve that we will collaborate with the Database team to adapt existing database partitioning tools to support CI/CD data partitioning.

Iterating to reduce the risk

This strategy should reduce the risk of implementing CI/CD partitioning to acceptable levels. We are also focusing on implementing partitioning for reading only from two partitions initially to make it possible to detach zero partitions in case of problems in our production environment. Every iteration phase, described below has a revert strategy and before shipping database changes we want to test them in our benchmarking environment.

The main way of reducing risk in case of this effort is iteration and making things reversible. Shipping changes, described in this document, in a safe and reliable way is our priority.

As we move forward with the implementation we will need to find even more ways to iterate on the design, support incremental rollouts and have better control over reverting changes in case of something going wrong. It is sometimes challenging to ship database schema changes iteratively, and even more difficult to support incremental rollouts to the production environment. This can, however, be done, it just sometimes requires additional creativity, that we will certainly need here. Some examples of how this could look like:

Incremental rollout of partitioned schema

Once we introduce a first partitioned routing table (presumably p_ci_pipelines) and attach its zero partition (ci_pipelines), we will need to start interacting with the new routing table, instead of a concrete partition zero. Usually we would override the database table the Ci::Pipeline Rails model would use with something like self.table_name = 'p_ci_pipelines'. Unfortunately this approach might not support incremental rollout, because self.table_name will be read upon application boot up, and later we might be unable revert this change without restarting the application.

One way of solving this might be introducing Ci::Partitioned::Pipeline model, that will inherit from Ci::Pipeline. In that model we would set self.table_name to p_ci_pipeline and return its meta class from Ci::Pipeline.partitioned as a scope. This will allow us to use feature flags to route reads from ci_pipelines to p_ci_pipelines with a simple revert strategy.

Incremental experimentation with partitioned reads

Another example would be related to the time when we decide to attach another partition. The goal of Phase 1 will be have two partitions per partitioned schema / routing table, meaning that for p_ci_pipelines we will have ci_pipelines attached as partition zero, and a new ci_pipelines_p1 partition created for new data. All reads from p_ci_pipelines will also need to read data from the p1 partition and we should also iteratively experiment with reads targeting more than one partition, to evaluate performance and overhead of partitioning.

We can do that by moving old data to ci_pipelines_m1 (minus 1) partition iteratively. Perhaps we will create partition_id = 1 and move some really old pipelines there. We can then iteratively migrate data into m1 partition to measure the impact, performance and increase our confidence before creating a new partition p1 for new (still not created) data.


We want to focus on Phase 1 iteration first. The goal and the main objective of this iteration is to partition the biggest 6 CI/CD database tables into 6 routing tables (partitioned schema) and 12 partitions. This will leave our Rails SQL queries mostly unchanged, but it will also make it possible to perform emergency detachment of "zero partitions" if there is a database performance degradation. This will cut users off their old data, but the application will remain up and running, which is a better alternative to application-wide outage.

  1. Phase 0: Build CI/CD data partitioning strategy: Done.

  2. Phase 1: Partition the 6 biggest CI/CD database tables.

    1. Create partitioned schemas for all 6 database tables.
    2. Design a way to cascade partition_id to all partitioned resources.
    3. Implement initial query analyzers validating that we target routing tables.
    4. Attach zero partitions to the partitioned database tables.
    5. Update the application to target routing tables and partitioned tables.
    6. Measure the performance and efficiency of this solution.

    Revert strategy: Switch back to using concrete partitions instead of routing tables.

  3. Phase 2: Add a partitioning key to add SQL queries targeting partitioned tables.

    1. Implement query analyzer to check if queries targeting partitioned tables are using proper partitioning keys.
    2. Modify existing queries to make sure that all of them are using a partitioning key as a filter.

    Revert strategy: Use feature flags, query by query.

  4. Phase 3: Build new partitioned data access patterns.

    1. Build a new API or extend an existing one to allow access to data stored in partitions that are supposed to be excluded based on the time-decay data retention policy.

    Revert strategy: Feature flags.

  5. Phase 4: Introduce time-decay mechanisms built on top of partitioning.

    1. Build time-decay policy mechanisms.
    2. Enable the time-decay strategy on
  6. Phase 5: Introduce mechanisms for creating partitions automatically.

    1. Make it possible to create partitions in an automatic way.
    2. Deliver the new architecture to self-managed instances.

The diagram below visualizes this plan on Gantt chart. The dates on the chart below are just estimates to visualize the plan better, these are not deadlines and can change at any time.

  title CI Data Partitioning Timeline
  dateFormat  YYYY-MM-DD
  axisFormat  %m-%y

  section Phase 0
    Build data partitioning strategy :done, 0_1, 2022-06-01, 90d
  section Phase 1
    Partition biggest CI tables :1_1, after 0_1, 200d
    Biggest table partitioned :milestone, metadata, 2023-03-01, 1min
    Tables larger than 100GB partitioned :milestone, 100gb, after 1_1, 1min
  section Phase 2
    Add paritioning keys to SQL queries :2_1, 2023-01-01, 120d
    Emergency partition detachment possible :milestone, detachment, 2023-04-01, 1min
    All SQL queries are routed to partitions :milestone, routing, after 2_1, 1min
  section Phase 3
    Build new data access patterns :3_1, 2023-05-01, 120d
    New API endpoint created for inactive data :milestone, api1, 2023-07-01, 1min
    Filtering added to existing API endpoints :milestone, api2, 2023-09-01, 1min
  section Phase 4
    Introduce time-decay mechanisms :4_1, 2023-08-01, 120d
    Inactive partitions are not being read :milestone, part1, 2023-10-01, 1min
    Performance of the database cluster improves :milestone, part2, 2023-11-01, 1min
  section Phase 5
    Introduce auto-partitioning mechanisms :5_1, 2023-09-01, 120d
    New partitions are being created automatically :milestone, part3, 2023-12-01, 1min
    Partitioning is made available on self-managed :milestone, part4, 2024-01-01, 1min


We want to build a solid strategy for partitioning CI/CD data. We are aware of the fact that it is difficult to iterate on this design, because a mistake made in managing the database schema of our multi-terabyte PostgreSQL instance might not be easily reversible without potential downtime. That is the reason we are spending a significant amount of time to research and refine our partitioning strategy. The strategy, described in this document, is subject to iteration as well. Whenever we find a better way to reduce the risk and improve our plan, we should update this document as well.

We've managed to find a way to avoid large-scale data migrations, and we are building an iterative strategy for partitioning CI/CD data. We documented our strategy here to share knowledge and solicit feedback from other team members.



Role Who
Author Grzegorz Bizon, Principal Engineer
Recommender Kamil Trzciński, Senior Distinguished Engineer
Product Leadership Jackie Porter, Director of Product Management
Engineering Leadership Caroline Simpson, Engineering Manager / Cheryl Li, Senior Engineering Manager
Lead Engineer Marius Bobin, Senior Backend Engineer
Senior Engineer Maxime Orefice, Senior Backend Engineer
Senior Engineer Tianwen Chen, Senior Backend Engineer