#snowflake #id #lock-free #lightweight


A lightweight thread-safe snowflake ID implementation for Rust

2 unstable releases

0.2.0 Jul 27, 2023
0.1.0 Jun 14, 2023

#185 in Concurrency

Apache-2.0 OR MIT

1.5K SLoC


Snowdon is a lightweight snowflake ID implementation in Rust. It offers a simple blocking and a lock-free thread-safe generator implementation. Moreover, it supports custom Snowflake formats and epochs.

Snowflake IDs

Snowflake IDs are unique IDs that include the timestamp of their "birth" (milliseconds since a fixed epoch) and a sequence number to allow the creation of multiple snowflakes in a single millisecond. They can also include a machine or generator ID for unique IDs across multiple generating instances without synchronization.

Twitter originally introduced snowflakes as IDs for tweets. While their implementation had a fixed epoch and snowflake layout, most other services that adopted snowflakes have changed the epoch or layout (e.g. by using all 42 bits to store the timestamp or by omitting the machine ID). Thus, when referring to "snowflake IDs", we mean timestamps associated with a sequence number and, optionally, (instance-specific) constant data like a machine ID or the leading 0 in Twitter's snowflakes.

Project goals and non-goals

Snowdon aims to be a general-purpose snowflake ID implementation. We have the following goals:

  • Provide a correct thread-safe implementation of snowflake IDs.
    The IDs generated by Snowdon should be unique, monotonic, and consistent with other machines in a deployment. You can learn more about correctness in the section below.
  • Efficiently generate snowflake IDs.
    Snowflake IDs should work everywhere in an application. As this forces the ID generator to generate countless snowflakes, it must be as efficient as possible.
  • Support custom snowflake formats.
    Unlike other ID formats, snowflakes usually differ from the original implementation, e.g. by using a different epoch or changing the number of bits used to store the various parts of a snowflake. Snowdon makes it easy to define and use these custom formats without requiring users to re-implement snowflakes from scratch.
  • Be lightweight.
    Snowdon aims to be usable across various applications, so it's crucial to keep it lightweight to avoid unnecessarily increasing the resulting binary size or compile time.

However, we define the following non-goals to outline what Snowdon is not:

  • Provide specific implementations for the various types of snowflakes used in existing software.
    Countless services have adopted snowflake IDs, and most of them use custom epochs, machine IDs, or even custom bit counts to represent the various parts of a snowflake in the 64-bit integer. Supporting specific implementations by providing a default implementation in Snowdon adds unnecessary clutter to the library that most users won't need. Instead, we aim to make custom snowflake formats as simple as possible. However, we do support the original Twitter layout of Snowflakes combined with a custom epoch, as many projects default to this layout.
  • Provide macros or a DSL to make snowflake specifications easier to write.
    While we could create macros to remove some boilerplate from custom snowflake implementations, this would unnecessarily increase the compile time while only slightly reducing the overall level of boilerplate, as generators only need to be specified once.
  • Provide coordination for multi-instance deployments.
    Snowflakes are designed to allow uncoordinated unique IDs by including a machine ID in each snowflake. If IDs must be unique across a multi-generator deployment, users must add a unique generator ID/machine ID to their snowflake format. It is up to the user to verify that the machine ID they pass to Snowdon generators is unique.
  • Provide a means to automatically generate unique machine IDs e.g. by using the machine's IP address.
    The format of the machine ID highly depends on the application. Most simple approaches don't work for every deployment, and more general ways to assign machine IDs require cross-instance synchronization. Thus, it's up to the user to derive machine IDs in a way that suits their application.
  • Provide a tool to specify snowflake layouts or epochs dynamically. Snowdon's primary focus is creating and using "real" snowflake IDs. Its API is designed to work with instance-wide constant layouts and epochs to avoid having to specify them with every call to one of the library's functions. However, this doesn't mean that all constants must be defined at compile time. E.g., it's fine to obtain the application's epoch at runtime before the first snowflake is generated.


To use this crate, simply add the following line to your Cargo.toml file in the dependencies table:

snowdon = "^0.2"

If you want to use the lock-free implementation, it's recommended to disable the blocking feature (enabled by default) by disabling this crate's default features:

snowdon = { version = "^0.2", default-features = false, features = ["lock-free"] }

To enable Serde support for snowflakes and snowflake comparators, enable the serde feature:

snowdon = { version = "^0.2", default-features = false, features = ["serde"] }

The types of this library are designed to make it hard to misuse them. Specifically, snowflakes have two type parameters that represent their layout (the composition of a snowflake - this defines how many bits are used for the individual parts of the snowflake) and their epoch (the timestamp that the individual timestamps in snowflakes are based on). Because of this, it's impossible to use snowflakes in an API that expects a different layout or epoch.

Moreover, this crates doesn't provide an (easy) way to convert timestamps into snowflakes. Instead, it provides a comparator type that can be compared with snowflakes directly. However, users of this crate can't accidentally use those comparators in places that expect snowflakes.

Our documentation includes various examples for all complex methods. When implementing a trait, refer to the function's documentation for detailed requirements and examples.

SemVer compatibility

Snowdon takes Semantic Versioning compatibility seriously. In addition to the SemVer specification, we guarantee that patch releases for versions starting with 0 (e.g. 0.1.1) don't include breaking changes. I.e., you should be able to (automatically) update from version 0.1.0 to version 0.1.1 without having to check for breaking changes. This behaviour effectively matches Cargo's SemVer compatibility.

Minimum Rust version policy

Our current minimum supported Rust version is 1.56.1. We might increase our MSRV in the future, but we try to only do so if there's a good reason for it. Only having a few dependencies that each have a stable MSRV policy, we shouldn't need to increase our MSRV transitively because of a dependency update.

Note that benchmarks and tests require a higher Rust version, as they add dependencies that don't support the MSRV above.


As detailed in Project goals and non-goals, Snowdon aims to be a correct implementation of Twitter's Snowflake algorithm. All generators this crate implements should be safe to use across multiple threads. More specifically, we try to ensure the following behaviour:

  • All snowflakes returned by the same generator are unique. I.e., no snowflake will be returned twice.
  • There are no "gaps" in the sequence number. If a snowflake with the sequence number 1 exists, another snowflake with the same timestamp and the sequence number 0 must also exist.
  • Snowflakes are strictly monotonic. If the snowflake b was generated after the snowflake a, a < b.
  • Snowdon uses the current system time for the snowflake. While this should be an obvious correctness requirement, all snowflake-generating instances in a deployment must adhere to this rule.

Note that "before" and "after" in the list above refer to the actual time. I.e., even if the system clock is not monotonic, Snowdon only returns a snowflake b after producing the snowflake a for all subsequent invocations if a < b.

In an attempt to verify the lock-free algorithm, a PROMELA implementation for it is provided in the spin directory. Refer to the README in that directory for more information about the model and our lock-free snowflake implementation.

Please note that while we try to provide a correct and efficient implementation, there's no mathematical proof that Snowdon's implementation is indeed correct. We do our best to ensure that our code is correct, but if you're planning to use Snowdon in a production environment, you should verify that our implementation meets your expectations. If you find any bugs or potential efficiency improvements, please open an issue as described in CONTRIBUTING.md.


Snowdon provides benchmarks in benches. You can run them with

cargo bench --all-features

When running the test on an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X with Linux 6.3.5, we get the following results:

Benchmark Average time per snowflake (in ns) Estimated snowflake IDs per second
Lock-free generator (sequential) 29.188 34260655
Blocking generator (sequential) 29.038 34437633
Lock-free generator (10 threads) 84.954 11771076
Blocking generator (10 threads) 1594.4 627195

The last two entries in the table above are for an extreme scenario where ten threads concurrently generate snowflakes in a loop. It's meant to simulate severe contention between threads, and with most applications, the actual times per snowflake should be closer to the sequential benchmarks. Moreover, most implementations outperform the limitations of snowflake layouts with 12 sequence number bits. Under almost all circumstances, the generators are fast enough for a regular application's ID requirements. This includes applications that need to generate more than 100000 IDs per second.


Copyright (C) 2023 Archer archer@nefarious.dev

Snowdon is licensed under either of

at your option.

Unless you explicitly state otherwise, any contribution intentionally submitted for inclusion in the work by you, as defined in the Apache-2.0 licence, shall be dual licensed as above, without any additional terms or conditions.


~415K SLoC