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#1183 in Command line utilities

GPL-3.0 license

370 lines

What are Melda Tools?

Melda Tools are command line utilities to work with libmelda.

What is Melda?

Melda is a Delta-State JSON CRDT. CRDTs, which stand for Conflict-free Replicated Data Types, are data structures which can be replicated (copied) across multiple computers in a network. Each replica can be individually and concurrently updated without the need for central coordination or synchronization. Updates made on each replica can be merged at any time.

There exist different types of CRDTs: operation-based CRDTs (which generate and exchange update operations between replicas), state-based CRDTS (which exchange and merge the full state of each replica) and delta-state CRDT, such as Melda, (which exchange only the differences between versions, or states, of the data type).

Melda natively supports the JSON data format and provides a way to synchronize changes made to arbitrary JSON documents.

How do I use Melda Tools?

You need to clone this repository and then compile the CLI tool executable:

git clone https://github.com/slashdotted/libmelda-tools
cd libmelda-tools
cargo build

To understand how to use Melda using the CLI tools, we consider the following situation, where a shared JSON document used by a fictitious activity planning software (i.e. a todo management software) is concurrently updated by multiple parties. The provided JSON is generated by the application (by serializing its data model). We assume that user Alice creates the first version of the shared JSON document, which will be named v1_alice.json. This first version contains the following data:

	"software" : "MeldaDo",
	"version" : "1.0.0",
	"items♭" : []

The root object contains three fields: a software field which defines the name of the application, a version field, which sets the version of the software, and an items♭ field, which maps to an array of JSON objects (one for each todo). Since this is the first version, the array of items is empty. The suffix is used to ask Melda to flatten the contents of the array, by extracting the contained JSON objects in order to keep track of their changes individually.

To better understand the purpose of the flattening procedure, consider how Melda processes the following two JSON files. The first one, named v2_alice_noflat.json contains:

	"software" : "MeldaDo",
	"version" : "1.0.0",
	"items" : [
	   {"_id" : "alice_todo_01", "title" : "Buy milk", "description" : "Go to the grocery store"}

In this case, Melda will keep the root object as is, and the changes made to the items array by one user will not merge with changes made by other users. So, for example, if two users add an element to the array on their replica and later merge those replicas, only one of the elements will be visible. On the contrary, consider now another version of the document, named v2_alice.json, which contains:

	"software" : "MeldaDo",
	"version" : "1.0.0",
	"items♭" : [
	   {"_id" : "alice_todo_01", "title" : "Buy milk", "description" : "Go to the grocery store"}

In this case the object within the items♭ array will be extracted and tracked individually. In particular, two JSON objects results from the above document:

	"_id" : "",
	"software" : "MeldaDo",
	"version" : "1.0.0",
	"items♭" : [

And the todo item itself:

	"_id" : "alice_todo_01",
	"title" : "Buy milk",
	"description" : "Go to the grocery store"

Please notice that each object has its own unique identifier stored in the _id field. If an identifier is not provided by the client application, Melda will auto-generate one. The root object is always identified by (this identifier cannot be changed by the client application). Since each object of the items♭ array is tracked individually, if an user adds an element to the array and later merges his/her replica with another user all changes will be preserved.

If the collection of items becomes too large we can ask Melda to only store difference arrays between the newest revision of the document and the previous one. For that we simply need to prefix the key of the items field with the Δ character (greek capital letter delta). Version delta_alice.json might therefore become:

	"software" : "MeldaDo",
	"version" : "1.0.0",
	"Δitems♭" : [
	   {"_id" : "alice_todo_01", "title" : "Buy milk", "description" : "Go to the grocery store"}

To keep things simple, in the following we will not use difference arrays. Let's go back to our example situation... Up until this point we only considered some JSON data, but we have yet to see how we can interact with Melda in order to update the data structure.


Melda implements a modular design where the logic of the CRDT is separated from the data storage. Storing the data (in our case, delta states) is achieved by means of Adapters. Melda already provides different types of adapters, supporting in-memory storage (MemoryAdapter), filesystem storage (FilesystemAdapter) and Solid Pods (SolidAdapter). Furthermore, it is possible to use a meta-adapter to compress data using the Flate2 algorithm (Flate2Adapter): such an adapter can be composed with other adapters.

With Melda Tools we can choose an an adapter that will store data on the filesystem (in the todolist directory) by specifying a path like file://$(pwd)/todolist (where $(pwd) returns the absolute path of the current directory). If we want to used compression we would add the Flate2Adapter we would use file+flate://$(pwd)/todolist.

Creating the CRDT

In order to create the first state or update the state of the CRDT we use the update command. Suppose that the first version of the document is stored in file v1.json and contains:

{ "software" : "MeldaDo", "version" : "1.0.0", "items♭" : []}

Alice can create / update the CRDT inside the todolist directory with:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools update -a "Alice" -d "First commit" -j v1.json -t file://$(pwd)/todolist

Please note that we assume that Melda Tools have been compiled in debug mode and that the executable is ./target/debug/libmelda-tools.

Updates made to the CRDT are committed to disk. We can pass an optional author (-a option) and description (-d option) with additional information that will be stored along with the updates.

The result of the update is either an error message or the identifier of the committed block.

Upon success, on disk (in the todolist directory) the following content should have been created:

├── 49
│   └── 49ccea4d5797250208edf9bc5d0b89edf23c30a61f5cb3fafb87069f07276a62.delta
└── b4
    └── b4e50e445542c4737f4cfd7a9193ffd3be3794049d361d114a44f36434257cb3.pack

The .delta file is called delta block, and contains the versioning information of each object in the CRDT, wherease the .pack file is the data pack which stores the actual JSON content of each object. Each commit produces a new delta block (with a different name, which corresponds to the hash digest of its content) and possibly a data pack (if new JSON values are produced). The directory structure of the todolist directory organizes files into sub-directories according to their prefix.

Alice can perform another update using (again) the update method. First, the contents of a new version are stored in v2.json:

{ "software" : "MeldaDo", "version" : "1.0.0", "items♭" : [
       {"_id" : "alice_todo_01", "title" : "Buy milk", "description" : "Go to the grocery store"}

Then the CRDT is updated and changes are committed:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools update -a "Alice" -d "Add buy milk" -j v2.json -t file://$(pwd)/todolist

The changes will reflect on disk (with new packs and blocks created in the corresponding directories):

├── 2b
│   └── 2b0a463fcba92d5cf7dae531a5c40b67aaa0f45ab351c15613534fb5bba28564.pack
├── 49
│   └── 49ccea4d5797250208edf9bc5d0b89edf23c30a61f5cb3fafb87069f07276a62.delta
├── b4
│   └── b4e50e445542c4737f4cfd7a9193ffd3be3794049d361d114a44f36434257cb3.pack
└── b6
    └── b6297035f06f13186160577099759dea843addcd1fbd05d24da87d9ac071da3b.delta

Reading the data

At any time it is possible to read the state of the CRDT back into a JSON document using the read command:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools read -s file://$(pwd)/todolist

This will print the following on the terminal:

{"_id":"","items♭":[{"_id":"alice_todo_01","description":"Go to the grocery store","title":"Buy milk"}],"software":"MeldaDo","version":"1.0.0"}

Each object managed by Melda will contain the _id field with the corresponding unique identifier.

Sharing data

We now suppose that Alice shares the current state of the todolist directory with Bob (she can simply zip the contents and send the compressed file by e-mail to Bob). We assume that Bob saves the contents in the todolist_bob directory. Bob can perform some updates (which we assume are stored in v3_bob.json):

{ "software" : "MeldaDo", "version" : "1.0.0", "items♭" : [
       {"_id" : "alice_todo_01", "title" : "Buy milk", "description" : "Go to the grocery store"},
       {"_id" : "bob_todo_01", "title" : "Pay bills", "description" : "Withdraw 500 to pay bill"},
       {"_id" : "bob_todo_02", "title" : "Call mom", "description" : "Call mom to schedule dinner"}

Bob updates his own replica with:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools update -a "Bob" -d "Add some todos" -j v3_bob.json -t file://$(pwd)/todolist_bob

As you might notice, two new items have been added by Bob. In the meantime, Alice continues to work on her replica, by removing one item (alice_todo_01) and adding a new item (alice_todo_02). The file used by Alice is called v3_alice.json and contains the following:

{ "software" : "MeldaDo", "version" : "1.0.0", "items♭" : [
        {"_id" : "alice_todo_02", "title" : "Take picture of our dog", "description" : "It must be a nice one"}

To update her own copy, Alice uses the following command line:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools update -a "Alice" -d "Some more stuff to do" -j v3_alice.json -t file://$(pwd)/todolist

Finally, Bob shares his own copy with Alice: now Alice simply needs to merge the content of the directory (as received from Bob) with the local directory (using something like cp -r todolist_bob/ todolist/*). Alternatively, suppose that the data modified by Bob is in the todolist_bob directory on Alice's computer. To merge changes back into the todolist directory, Alice can use the meld method:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools meld -t file://$(pwd)/todolist -s file://$(pwd)/todolist_bob

Alice can then read the new state of the CRDT with:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools read -s file://$(pwd)/todolist

The result, printed on the terminal should look like:

{"_id":"","items♭":[{"_id":"bob_todo_01","description":"Withdraw 500 to pay bill","title":"Pay bills"},{"_id":"bob_todo_02","description":"Call mom to schedule dinner","title":"Call mom"},{"_id":"alice_todo_02","description":"It must be a nice one","title":"Take picture of our dog"}],"software":"MeldaDo","version":"1.0.0"}

As you can see, there is only one todo from Alice, as well as the two todos added by Bob.

Both Alice and Bob can see the history of changes made to their replica using the log command:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools log -s file://$(pwd)/todolist

For Alice the result will look like:

(A) Block: d0d23eeaf013b216a32386e708fb37489743cb2c9c8153082fc8e944a91eedf6
		Information: {"author":"Bob","description":"Add some todos"}
		Packs: ["515ebf5ebd96fe8210945856d09b53fa673434291a598c893db76bed117b243e"]
		Parents: ["460b4dd46257efbb018201d9c1ada3e165174241b8ef9a30f8f0f0b77a551283"]
(A) Block: ec11159e3497a89d1f0cb23db2600239535c70cc35a4f4b5a96e1d561d2bead3
		Information: {"author":"Alice","description":"Some more stuff to do"}
		Packs: ["967e769c2b65c0a30a9aeed1350ed78c46e98073c61a23421e8a7c4b721e61d0"]
		Parents: ["460b4dd46257efbb018201d9c1ada3e165174241b8ef9a30f8f0f0b77a551283"]
(-) Block: 460b4dd46257efbb018201d9c1ada3e165174241b8ef9a30f8f0f0b77a551283
		Information: {"author":"Alice","description":"Add buy milk"}
		Packs: ["2b0a463fcba92d5cf7dae531a5c40b67aaa0f45ab351c15613534fb5bba28564"]
		Parents: ["49ccea4d5797250208edf9bc5d0b89edf23c30a61f5cb3fafb87069f07276a62"]
(O) Block: 49ccea4d5797250208edf9bc5d0b89edf23c30a61f5cb3fafb87069f07276a62
		Information: {"author":"Alice","description":"First commit"}
		Packs: ["b4e50e445542c4737f4cfd7a9193ffd3be3794049d361d114a44f36434257cb3"]

The list of delta blocks contains origin blocks ((O)) and anchor blocks ((A)). Origin blocks are the first one that have been created: in our scenario there is only one origin, since the CRDT was created on one replica only (by Alice). There are however two anchor blocks, namely d0d23eeaf013b216a32386e708fb37489743cb2c9c8153082fc8e944a91eedf6 (created by Bob) and ec11159e3497a89d1f0cb23db2600239535c70cc35a4f4b5a96e1d561d2bead3 (created by Alice). This is due to the merge/meld operation that was performed by Alice. Multiple anchors will be referenced by the next commit.

Concurrent modifications made by Alice and Bob also resulted in a conflict. By default this is automatically hidden, since Melda can cope with this situation without problems. We can nonetheless show the conflicting information using the conflicts command:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools conflicts -s file://$(pwd)/todolist

This will show that the root document (√) has a conflict, and the conflicting versions will be shown (the one with 🏆 is the version currently chosen by Melda as the winner, conflicts are shown with 🗲):

	🏆 3-8f147f811da66dccc212b3147a185c7c68d365e02ae84614e6533b7857d4744a_6258b20: {"items♭":["alice_todo_01","bob_todo_01","bob_todo_02","alice_todo_02"],"software":"MeldaDo","version":"1.0.0"}
	🗲 3-5bf6651423be2df90bf3a7250a5b8d7e457da397ab7a31bd24f96c099c183711_6258b20: {"items♭":["alice_todo_02","alice_todo_01","bob_todo_01","bob_todo_02"],"software":"MeldaDo","version":"1.0.0"}

Further updates will always consider the winner. We can however resolve the conflict (and make it disappear from the conflict view) using the resolve command:

./target/debug/libmelda-tools resolve -t file://$(pwd)/todolist

This command by default resolves all conflicts in all objects using the current winner. Different strategies can be chosen, in order to promote a different winner. The conflicts command will confirm that there are no conflicts.



Amos Brocco "Melda: A General Purpose Delta State JSON CRDT". 9th Workshop on Principles and Practice of Consistency for Distributed Data (PaPoC'22). April 2022. (Accepted)


Amos Brocco "Delta-State JSON CRDT: Putting Collaboration on Solid Ground". (Brief announcement). 23rd International Symposium on Stabilization, Safety, and Security of Distributed Systems (SSS 2021). November 2021.


(c)2021-2022 Amos Brocco, GPL v3 (for now... but I will evaluate a change of license - to something like BSD3/MIT/... in the near future)


~275K SLoC