Two Years of BonsaiDb: A retrospective and looking to the future

Written by Jonathan Johnson. Published 2023-03-19.

What is BonsaiDb?

BonsaiDb is a new database aiming to be the most developer-friendly Rust database. BonsaiDb has a unique feature set geared at solving many common data problems. We have a page dedicated to answering the question: What is BonsaiDb?. All source code is dual-licensed under the MIT and Apache License 2.0 licenses.

Today marks two years since the initial commit to BonsaiDb. It has also been nearly a full year since the last release. I want to take some time to highlight the major events for BonsaiDb over the past year, as well as discuss what is coming for BonsaiDb in the next year.

Why hasn't there been a new release?

Last May, I discovered mistakes in my benchmarks and set off on a journey to improve BonsaiDb's transactional performance. BonsaiDb and its underlying architecture are largely maintained by me. I focused on trying to solve the speed issue by creating a new storage layer, and in the meantime, I had been continuing to work on BonsaiDb off and on.

Last October I hit some burnout, and I thought it was time to try to release an update to BonsaiDb without the new storage layer. While trying to update the currently-hidden benchmarks page, I was running into a panic that I only could reproduce on a virtual machine after letting it run for nearly an hour. My attempts to simplify were often met with the panic vanishing -- a classic symptom of a "rare" race condition. Simply running the benchmark with debug = true in the Cargo.toml prevented the bug from occurring.

When coupled with the burnout I had at the time, I needed a break. At the beginning of January, I released the first version of OkayWAL, and in early February, I finished my rewrite of Sediment (more on that later). Still, I knew there was a lot of remaining work.

So I resolved to diagnose and fix the issue. It took a few days, but I identified a bug that I had already fixed in Nebari's main branch. I released Nebari v0.5.5 with the fix backported. This finally unblocked my ability to release an update: no known issues!

Since then, I've been working on a couple of projects dogfooding BonsaiDb. One of those projects, Dossier, served the page you're reading! Not only has it been fun using my own database, it has helped me find a few rough edges and fix them in the process. I'm also feeling more and more confident in the huge list of unreleased changes.

When will BonsaiDb v0.5 be available?

I'm currently hoping to have a new version of BonsiaDb released in the next few weeks. Some notable changes include:

I will be publishing a blog post going into more details when the new release is out.

Looking back on the year

In last year's anniversary post, I discussed some goals. The storage layer rewrite definitely impacted my goals. Despite this, I wanted to review my previous goals before talking about what I hope to accomplish this year.

The first goal was to implement a lot of features. Of the list, I only completed two:

One of the biggest features I really wanted to complete when writing last year's post was replication. To me, it's somewhat irresponsible for a production application to run without at least the ability to fail-over to a "warm-standby". Replication was the path I hoped to enable a form of high-availability, which was the underlying inspiration of having replication on the goals list.

I had begun looking at this feature, and realized that to make it efficient, I would need to change how documents are stored. This work has been completed in the branch that is working towards improving transactional write performance. So, while replication hasn't been completed, some prerequisite work has been completed.

The second goal from last year was stability. is a site that is powered by BonsaiDb. It's a simple site that shows off the GitHub activity across all of our projects. I realized the other day I hadn't even checked to see if it was still running. Sure enough, it's been working great without any maintenance being done. systemd reports that the service last was launched on Mon 2023-03-06 10:02:50 UTC -- over a year of uptime!

The remaining two goals were tooling and community. The tooling for BonsaiDb hasn't changed much, but there are features and changes to APIs in v0.5 that are aimed at making more kinds of tooling possible. Our community has been growing steadily. I must admit I shied away from growing the community. I hadn't felt comfortable promoting BonsaiDb due to the looming storage rewrite.

Despite my lack of effort, our Discord server has continued to grow, and I find myself hanging out in the #coworking channel with people from the community several times a week. Additionally, BonsaiDb and its related projects have gained a few more contributors this year. I'm always so grateful when others take their time to help improve any of our projects.

Year Three: My Goals

The major goals I have for the next year are:

Trying out BonsaiDb

Our homepage has basic setup instructions and a list of examples. We have started writing a user's guide, and we have tried to maintain good documentation.

I would love to hear from you if you have questions or feedback. We have community Discourse forums and a Discord server, but also welcome anyone to open an issue with any questions or feedback.

Lastly, if you build something with one of our libraries, we would love to hear about it. Nothing makes us happier than hearing people are building things with our crates!

Want to get involved or follow along more closely?

If you're interested in contributing to an open-source Rust project, I have been keeping a list of "Good First Issue" tasks. Working on BonsaiDb can feel surprisingly high-level. Regardless of your experience level, if you are interested in contributing, please reach out!

If you want to hear more frequent updates, I post shorter updates occasionally on our community Discord. I also stream in the #coworking channel several times a week. I've also been trying to be more active on Mastodon.

Regardless of whether you're looking to contribute or are just interested in something we've written, I am always happy to answer any questions and greatly appreciate hearing any constructive feedback.