Serve archived static files over HTTP
Say you want to store a huge number of very small files
that you will only access over HTTP.
You are using
rustdoc to render the documentation of a library.
Without much work you’ll end up with about 100k HTML files
that are about 10kB each.
As it turns out,
this number of small files is very annoying for any kind of file system performance.
Best case: making copies/backups is slow.
Worst case: You’re using an anti virus software and it takes ages.
Except for convenience when implementing software, and people being used to having folders of files they can look into, there is little reason to store these files individually. Indeed, it will save much space and time to store files like these in compressed form in one continuous archive. All that is needed to make this work is some well-designed and discoverable software.
static-filez is a prototype for that piece of software.
- Storing and serving compressed data
- Current implementation of the index/archive format
- Allow larger files
- How to update files
- Multiple data sources
- Use case: Central doc server
- Downloadable documentation
- Experiment: Self-containing binary
- To consider: File formats
Storing and serving compressed data
The way you use static-filez is twofold: First, you tell it to create an archive file from a directory, that will contain all the individual files in compressed form. Then, you use the same tool to start a server that takes an archive file as input and serves its content.
One main insight was this: You never need to decompress the individual files. If we store the files inside the archive as individual gzip or deflate streams we can serve them directly over HTTP. (Using the Content-Encoding and Content-Disposition headers.)
Current implementation of the index/archive format
I used bincode to serialize a
HashMap<FilePath, CompressedFileContent> to a file.
This means that to deserialize from the file
we also have to use bincode,
and it’ll read the whole archive into memory
(at least in my implementation).
While this works for a prototype, to make this work with larger archives, it makes sense to use another file structure. My initial idea was to have an index that gets loaded into memory, and which maps from a file path to a slice (offset + length) in a “content” file. The content file can be mmap’d to read. Should we ever want to add data to the archive, we can append to the content file, and write a new index (see below).
Some time ago,
Andrew Gallant wrote a blog post
called Index 1,600,000,000 Keys with Automata and Rust.
In it, Gallant describes the fst crate,
which supports building and storing index maps
in a very efficient way.
– as the name suggests –
finite state transducers,
the idea of representing the key of the map
as the state transitions
so the bytes of the key drive the transducer.
However, it has some limitations:
It can currently only carry a
u64 as value,
and the key-value pairs have to be added in lexicographical order.
Luckily, we can make this work with the design described above:
Our index is a
that maps from file path to
(offset as u32, len as u32)
(using bit shifts to store both in a u64),
and is build by
first having the directory walker we currently use put all paths in a Vec,
and then adding entries to the index
while compressing and writing file contents to another file.
This means we end up with two files:
An “index” file,
and an an “archive” file.
This is not the ideal solution,
but doesn’t matter in practice
(the CLI always writes
.archive files and normalizes inputs to also use these file extensions),
and even allows us to extend the archive files
and use them with multiple indices
Now, I don’t really want to post benchmarks here. I have done some, but quit as soon as I saw the following: On my machine, static-filez serving its own API documentation is 2% slower than hyper (the HTTP server library that static-filez uses) serving “Hello world”. This is much faster than any other static file server that I could easily set up and that uses the file system. You can find more details in this pull request.
Allow larger files
(The following section is copied from issue #6, which includes this important note: “Please correct my math, it’s late and I had a few beers.”)
u64 values that the index gives us is split into two 32-bit integers:
32 bit for the position in the archive,
and 32 bit to specify the length of the file.
This means 4 GB for the archive in general,
and 4 GB max size per file.
Here are some ways to change these limits.
Increase addressable archive size by enforcing write alignment
If we align the start of each file written to the archive
n more bits to use for addressing.
Align files so their address ends with
and we can shift all addresses by 4 bits,
2^4=16 times the addressable archive size.
This of course introduces zero-ed gaps in the archive files.
Using more bits for addressing
Instead of splitting the 64 bit integer into two 32 bit integers, we might as split it into chunks of varying size, for example 40 bit and 24 bit – shifting the limits to 1 TB archives containing files up to 16 MB. This should work very well for the rustdoc use case.
This can of course be combined with the alignment option described above,
2^36 * 2^4 = 1 TB archive files
containing 4 byte aligned files up to
2^28 = 268 MB.
Store the length in the archive
As pointed out by Josh, we could also store the length of the data at the start of the data block. That means no bit fiddling in the index file, but to build the slice of the data we’ll have to read and parse the first 8 bytes in the archive file.
Patching fst to allow other value types
The fst docs mention that in the future,
it should be possible to map to something other than a
We can make that future happen.
This seems to most complicated and time-consuming of all the options, though. :)
How to update files
In a regular static file server it is trivial to change the files. All you have to do is to, well, change the files. If you do this in atomic write operations, the users should always receive the correct contents. But how would this be implemented in static-filez?
As described above,
we have two files:
One “index file”
containing a map from paths to
(index, size) pairs,
and another “archive” file
containing the content that these pairs refer to.
In the current implementation
the archive file is mmap’d at the start of the server.
If we wanted to change the files the server sends us – without downtime – we could append new/changed files to the archive file. Then, we generate a new, separate index file, and tell the server process to load that.
What does “tell the server to load that” mean, exactly? It’s not implemented yet. I imagine it working like this:
- The server receives a message on a socket
stdin): “Load index file
- It reads the file as a
- It atomically adds the new map to the top of a list of “sites” it consults when trying to resolve a path.
This is not the most trivial approach: We introduce a “list of sites” instead of just replacing the one index map we use for lookups. The reason is this: Eventually, we want to load multiple sets of index/archive files (see next section).
Multiple data sources
We should support having multiple index/archive pairs loaded and using them to resolve files.
Imagine this scenario:
You generate the documentation for a library
while on a plane,
and every link to a type in the standard library
points to some external website
At the same time you know
that you have the current standard library locally installed
(and you can access them with
Wouldn’t it be neat if the links would point to that?
That’s indeed possible:
If instead of
cargo doc, you do
env RUSTDOCFLAGS="-Z unstable-options --extern-html-root-url std=file:///Users/pascal/.rustup/toolchains/nightly-x86_64-apple-darwin/share/doc/rust/html/" cargo doc
(with the adjusted path to your current toolchain)
it will use that as base path for the std lib links.
You’ll probably also want to set this for
core and other built-in libraries.
How would that work if you used static-filez to serve these docs? We could try to also put all these files in our single archive. Or, as you might have guessed after reading the previous section, we load a second archive.
the server loads one
a simple data type with two fields,
the index map, and the mmap’d archive file.
If we were to extend this to a list of sites, and go through them one after another looking for a match on our path (stopping when we found it), we can load a generic but toolchain-specific archive of the standard library and always use that.
The next step is then to
allow the server to receive messages
on separate channel
stdin as mentioned above)
that tell it to change this list of sites.
This will allow us to load updates to archives
and also add more archive/index pairs.
Use case: Central doc server
One specific use case I have in mind that makes all this talk about “updatable list of known index/archive pairs” more reasonable is this: I want to have a server that I can start on my machine that serves all the API docs I have for a project.
(Or maybe even all projects I have! But that is way more tricky because of optional features and toolchain versions.)
cargo doc-server was to start a server
that automatically served the documentation of your project/workspace
and also updated it when you save a file,
I would be very happy.
One last step we could go
was to skip generating documentation for dependencies at all
and instead link to
I mean download, of course!
docs.rs was using static-filez
it would be easy to offer the index and archives files as downloads
and instead of generating documentation locally,
we could just download it.
There are, of course, a few issues to consider: We need to assert that the toolchain and used cargo features match with what we need. And someone’s gonna have to pay for the bandwidth.
Experiment: Self-containing binary
Using a bit of linker magic
it might be possible for
to generate only one file
the index, the archive,
and, most importantly,
also the executable
so that you can execute this single file.
This is a neat experiment
to make this easier to distribute.
To consider: File formats
I invented binary formats. Well, not precisely. I actually didn’t invent formats, but just wrote bytes into files and used whatever fst does. And this lack of thought might be a problem.
I feel like it might be prudent
to reconsider this approach
and add some metadata to each of the files.
the index file should contain
information on the layout of the values.
This is right now hardcoded to
(offset as u32, index as u32)
but could also be
(offset as u32 shifted by 4 bits, index as u32)
in the future
The archive file is just the file contents right now;
with no way to even get the path of the file.
If this was a use case,
it would be trivial to add the path before the file content.
Using tar for the archive
After reading up on archive formats,
I noticed that we might actually be able to use the well known
with one requirement:
Each block of file content will need to be its own GZIP stream.
(Little known fact: GZIP files can be composed of different stream
where each stream can be its own self-contained GZIP file.)