Tag Archives: Marten

Marten 1.3 is Out: Bugfixes, Usability Improvements, and a lot less Memory Usage

I just uploaded Marten 1.3.0 to Nuget (but note that Nuget has had issues today with the index updating being delayed). This release is mostly bugfixes, but there’s some new functionality, and significant improvements to performance on document updates and bulk inserts. You can see the entire list of changes here with some highlights below.

I’d like to thank Marten contributors Eric Green, James Hopper, Michał Gajek, Barry Hagan, and Babu Annamalai for their contributions in this release. A special thanks goes out to Szymon Kulec for all his efforts in both Marten and Npgsgl to reduce Marten’s memory allocations.

Thanks to Phillip Haydon There’s a slew of new documentation on our website about Postgresql for Sql Server folks.

What’s New?

It wasn’t a huge release for new features, but these were added:

  1. New “AsPagedList()” helper for fetching documents by page
  2. Query for deleted, not deleted, or all documents marked as “soft deleted
  3. Indexes on Marten’s metadata columns
  4. Querying by the document metadata

What’s Next?

The next release is going to be Marten 2.0 because we need to make a handful of breaking API changes (don’t worry, it’s very unlikely that most users would hit this). The big ticket item is a lot more work to reduce memory allocations throughout Marten. The other, not-in-the-slightest-bit-sexy change is to standardize and streamline Marten’s facilities for database change tracking with the hope that this work will make it far easier to start adding new features again.

Marten 1.2 — Improved Linq support and way more polish

Marten is a library for .Net that turns Postgresql into a document database and event store.

I just published the Marten 1.2 release to Nuget. While I hoped to fit a lot more new functionality into this release, 1.2 really just adds a lot more polish to Marten by fixing several bugs, makes some performance improvements based on my company’s trial by fire usage of Marten during our peak “season”, and by largely reworking the internals of the Linq support.

Marten continues to have a vibrant community of interested folks and contributors that are helping push the project on. Probably missing some names, but I’d like to call out James Hopperjokokko, Barry Hagan,  Alexander Langer, and Robin van der Knaap for their contributions to this release. I’d also like to thank all of you who have opened and commented on Github issues to help improve Marten. If this all keeps up long enough, I may finally stop being so cynical about OSS on the .Net platform;)

Here’s the entire list of changes from the GitHub milestone. The highlights of the 1.2 release are:

  • Support for the SelectMany() operator in Linq queries (this story spurred an absurd amount of rework in our Linq support that I think will make it easier to add more features in subsequent releases)
  • Distinct() Linq query support
  • Named parameter usage in user supplied queries
  • Better logging and exception messages
  • Marten’s sequential Guid algorithm was corrected to order consistently with Postgresql. This should result in better write performance in Marten usage with Guid id’s.
  • Marten tries harder to warn you when you use unsupported Linq operators
  • Several improvements to querying against child collections
  • The ability to use event metadata in the built in aggregation projections
  • Cleaned up some of the database connection mechanics to stop mixing blocking and async calls and makes Marten much more aggressive about closing database connections


What’s Next?

I’m not 100% sure I want to commit to another new release before the holiday season, but 1.3 is looking like it’s going to be a lot of improvements for querying against multiple documents, new types of Select() transformations, and working over the internals to optimize performance.

The tentative list of 1.3 enhancements can be seen here.



Marten 1.1 Release Notes

Marten 1.1 was released just now (as in, hold your horses until Nuget gets done indexing it) with an assortment of bug fixes, performance & reliability improvements, and a couple of new convenience methods. As our teams have used Marten more at work, we’ve also had to make some adjustments for running Marten under reduced Postgresql security privileges and with the “AutoCreateSchemaObjects == None” mode. Finally, we had to add a couple new public members to existing API’s, so SemVer rules mean this had to be a minor point bump.

So what’s new or different? You can find the entire 1.1 issue and pull request list in GitHub. The highlights are described below:

Distinct() Support in Linq

From a pull request by John Campion, Marten now supports the Linq Distinct() keyword:

public void use_distinct(IQuerySession session)
    var surnames = session
        .Select(x => x.LastName)

Better Connection and Transaction Hygiene

I’m a little embarrassed by this one, but at least we got it before it did too much harm. Marten had been too aggressive in starting transactions in sessions which has had the effect of making Npgsql send extraneous ROLLBACK; messages to Postgresql to close out the empty transactions. In some failure cases, our team at work was seeing this cause a connection to hang. We made two fixes for this behavior:

First off, if you IDocumentSession.SaveChanges(Async) is called when there are no outstanding changes queued up, Marten does absolutely nothing. No connection opened, no transaction started, just nothing.

Secondly, Marten now starts transactions lazily within an IDocumentSession. So instead of starting a transaction on the first time a session opens a connection to Postgresql, it defers that until SaveChanges() or SaveChangesAsync() is called.

public void lazy_tx(IDocumentSession session)
    // Executing this query will *not* start
    // a new transaction
    var users = session
        .Where(x => x.Internal)

    session.Store(new User {UserName = "lebron"});

    // This starts a transaction against the open
    // connection before doing any writes

Data Migration Improvements

From our work on moving document storage from RavenDb to Marten (and other users too), we’ve bumped into a little bit of friction in Marten. The bulk inserts in either of the non-default modes left out the last modified data. That impacts either of these options:

public void bulk_inserts(IDocumentStore store, Target[] documents)
    store.BulkInsert(documents, BulkInsertMode.IgnoreDuplicates);

    // or

    store.BulkInsert(documents, BulkInsertMode.OverwriteExisting);

To make it easier to migrate data in documents that uses a Hilo sequence for identity assignment, we added a convenience method to establish a new “floor” in the sequence to avoid conflicting with the existing data being brought over from a new system.

public void reset_hilo(IDocumentStore store)
    // This resets the Hilo state in the database
    // for the IntDoc document type so that
    // all id's assigned will be greater than the floor
    // value.

Do note that it’s possible and even likely that there will be gaps in the id sequence in the database when you do this.








Building Marten’s Async Daemon

A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog post on the new “Async Daemon” feature in Marten. This post is a bit that I cut out of that post just describing the challenges I faced and what I did to slide around the problems. For all Marten users that have been asking me about writing their own subsystem to read and process events offline, you really want to read this post to understand why that’s much harder than you’d think and why you do probably want to just help make the async daemon solid.

The first challenge for the async daemon was “knowing” when there are new events that need to be processed by async projections. When a projection runs, it needs to process the events in the same order that they were captured in. Since the async daemon was inevitably going to use some sort of polling (NOTIFY/LISTEN in Postgresql was not adequate by itself) to read events out of the event table, we needed a very efficient way to be able to page the event fetching without missing events.

We started Marten with the thought that we would try to accomplish that by having the event store enqueue the events in a rolling buffer table that some kind of offline process would poll and read, but we were talked out of that approach in discussions with a Postgresql consultant who was helping us at work. Moreover, as I worked through other use cases to rebuild projections from scratch or add new projections later, we realized that the rolling buffer table would never have worked for the async daemon.

We also experimented with using sequential Guid’s as the global identifier for events in the event store with the idea that we would be able to use that to key off of for the projections by always querying for “Id > [last event id encountered].” In my testing I was unable to get the sequential Guid algorithm to accurately order the event id’s, especially under a heavy parallel load.

In the end, we opted to make the event store table in Marten use a sequential long integer as its primary key, and backed that with a database SEQUENCE. That gave us a more reliable way to “know” what events were new for each individual projection. In testing I figured out pretty quickly that the async daemon was missing events when there’s a lot of concurrent events streaming in because of event sequence id’s being reserved from in flight transactions. To counteract that problem, I ended up taking a two step process:

  1. Limit the async daemon to only querying against events that were captured before some time of threshold (3 seconds is the default) to avoid missing events that are still in flight
  2. When the async daemon fetches a new page of events, it actually tries to check that there are no gaps in the event sequence, and if there is, it pauses a little bit, and tries again until there are no gaps in the sequence or if the subsequent fetch turns up the exact same data (leading the async daemon to believe that the missing events were rejected).

Those two steps — as far as I can tell — have eliminated the problems I was seeing before about missing events in flight. It did completely ruin a family dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant when I couldn’t make myself stop thinking about how to slide around the problems in event ordering;)

The other killer problem was in trying to make the async daemon resilient in the face of potential connectivity problems and occasional projection failures without losing any results. I’ll try to blog about that in a later post.




Proposed Roadmap for Marten 1.0 and Beyond

I’m just thinking out loud here and hoping for some usable feedback.

I feel like Marten is getting very close to an official 1.0 release, and the latest Nuget is marked as 1.0-alpha. The Marten community voted on our minimum feature set for 1.0 earlier this year and we’ve finished everything on that list as of late July (right before I went on a long family vacation;)).

Some thoughts on the big 1.0:

  • I’m a big believer in semantic versioning, so an OSS tool reaching 1.0 is a big deal because that starts the draconian versioning rules about backward compatibility. You want to get pretty close to a livable API before you throw that switch to 1.0.
  • It’s a chicken and egg kind of conundrum. What we need right now is more users spawning yet more feedback about Marten. I’d love to have more usage before flipping Marten to 1.0, but we’ll get a lot more users after we release it as 1.0.
  • In this day and age of package managers like Nuget, it’s a lot less friction to make more frequent releases and update your dependencies, so going 1.0 now knowing that 1.0.* bug fix releases and 1.* feature releases will be coming soon just isn’t that worrisome.
  • I feel pretty good about the document database side of Marten, but the event store functionality is still churning and it’s less mature.
  • We’re basically out of low hanging fruit kind of features on the document storage and Linq support
  • My shop is doing the work right now to transition a very large web application from RavenDb to Marten. Right now I’m thinking that the first version of Marten that goes into production across all of that application will be declared to be 1.0.

All that being said, my best guess for an official Marten 1.0 release is around October 1st. Right now my biggest issues on my plate are really all around schema management and our database team’s requirements for the DDL generation. And more documentation, but that battle never ends. Plenty of pull requests are still flowing in, but I think I’m personally done with any kind of major feature work for awhile unless there’s noticeable demand from the community for specific features.


Marten 1.1 and Beyond

Based on our current issue list and requests from the Marten Gitter room, I think this list is where Marten goes next after the 1.0 release:

  • Better support for child collections on documents
  • More types of event store projections — if you’re looking to get into doing some OSS work, I think these are our most approachable stories in the backlog
    • Project to a flat table for better reporting?
    • Projections that use the output of other projections
    • Arbitrary categorization of projected views (by customer, by region, etc.). Some of our users have already done this themselves, but it’s not in Marten itself yet
  • Multi-tenancy support. My thinking right now is that we don’t directly put this into Marten, but make sure that there are adequate hooks to do this easily yourself. There’s a lot more information in the GitHub issue linked to above.
  • Possibly try to support the Linq GroupBy() operator. That might also lead into some kind of map/reduce capability within Marten. We’ve had the feedback that “Marten isn’t a real document db because it doesn’t have map/reduce.” I think that’s nonsense, but we might very well need to have a better story for creating aggregated views into the document state — which may or may not be best done as some kind of formal map/reduce strategy.
  • More support on document structural changes. Marten can already handle transformations of a single document type, but we’ll need to be able to later address document type names being changed, multiple document types getting combined (this is potentially a big deal for one of our systems), and whatever else we bump into next spring when we start optimizing a big system at work;)
  • Being able to do document transformation with more than one document at time. This would mean being able to use related documents in the same Select() transformation. Also, we’ll probably need to be able to use Javascript transformations across multiple document types.

There’s some other things in the GitHub issue list, but the above is what I’m thinking about right now for 1.1 and beyond.

Thoughts? Concerns? Requests? Let us know either here, the GitHub issue list, or the Marten Gitter room.


Proposed Marten Tooling for Database Management

This is an update to an earlier post on schema management using Marten.

At this point, I think the biggest challenges facing us at work for using Marten are strictly in the realm of database change management. To that end, we’re adding what will be a new package for command line tooling around Marten schema management and investigating possible usage of Sqitch to handle database migrations in our ecosystem. The command line usage shown in this post is in Marten master, but not pushed up to Nuget in any way yet. The Sqitch usage here is purely hypothetical.

When you’re using Marten, all the data definition language (DDL) for the underlying Postgresql database is generated to match by code within Marten. In development, you’d just run with the setting to auto-create database objects on the fly to match the code for faster iteration. For production deployment, however, you probably don’t get to do that and you’ll need some kind of database migration strategy to get the changes that your Marten application needs to the real database. That’s the gap that this post is trying to fill.


Command Line Tooling

My concept for supporting command line tooling suitable for build automation at this point is to publish a new library package called Marten.CommandLine that you can use to expose your own application and database through the command line. To use this tooling, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new console application in your solution
  2. Add the forthcoming Marten.CommandLine nuget
  3. Add a reference to the projects in your system that would express the configuration for your Marten-enabled application
  4. In the “Main()” entry point of your new console application, add code like this below to build up your Marten configuration via the StoreOptions class and then delegate to Marten to parse the command line arguments and execute the proper command:
    public class Program
        public static int Main(string[] args)
            var options = buildStoreOptions();

            return MartenCommands.Execute(options, args);

        private static StoreOptions buildStoreOptions()
            // build your own StoreOptions that 
            // establishes the configuration of your
            // Marten application

You can see an example of building the console application from the SampleConsoleApp project I used in the Marten codebase to test this functionality.

Once you have the code above, you’re actually ready to go. If you’re using the new dotnet CLI, running “dotnet run” in the root of your console application project yields this output listing the valid commands:


  Available commands:

   apply -> Applies all outstanding changes to the database based on the current configuration
  assert -> Assert that the existing database matches the current Marten configuration
    dump -> Dumps the entire DDL for the configured Marten database
   patch -> Evaluates the current configuration against the database and writes a patch and drop file if there are any differences


If you’re not using the dotnet CLI yet, you’d just need to compile your new console application like you’ve always done and call the exe directly. If you’re familiar with the *nix style of command line interfaces ala Git, you should feel right at home with the command line usage in Marten.

For the sake of usability, let’s say that you stick a file named “marten.cmd” (or the *nix shell file equivalent) at the root of your codebase like so:

dotnet run --project src/MyConsoleApp %*

All the example above does is delegate any arguments to your console application. Once you have that file, some sample usages are shown below:

# Assert that the database matches the current database. This
# command will fail if there are differences
marten assert --log log.txt

# This command tries to update the database
# to reflect the application configuration
marten apply --log log.txt

# This dumps a single file named "database.sql" with 
# all the DDL necessary to build the database to
# match the application configuration
marten dump database.sql

# This dumps the DDL to separate files per document
# type to a folder named "scripts"
marten dump scripts --by-type

# Create a patch file called "patch1.sql" and
# the corresponding rollback file "patch.drop.sql" if any
# differences are found between the application configuration
# and the database
marten patch patch1.sql --drop patch1.drop.sql

In all cases, the commands expose usage help through “marten help [command].” Each of the commands also exposes a “–conn” (or “-c” if you prefer) flag to override the database connection string and a “–log” flag to record all the command output to a file.


My Current Thinking about Marten + Sqitch

Our team doing the RavenDb to Marten transition work has turned us on to using Sqitch for database migrations. From my point of view, I like this choice because Sqitch just uses script files in whatever the underlying database’s SQL dialect is. That means that Marten can use our existing “WritePatch()” schema management to tie into Sqitch’s migration scheme.

The way that I think this could work for us is first to have a Sqitch project established in our codebase with its folders for updates, rollbacks, and verify’s. In our build script that runs in our master continuous integration (CI) build, we would:

  1. Call sqitch to update the CI database (or whatever database we declare to be the source of truth) with the latest known migrations
  2. Call the “marten assert” command shown above to detect if there are outstanding differences between the application configuration and the database by examining the exit code from that command
  3. If there are any differences detected, figure out what the next migration name would be based on our naming convention and use sqitch to start a new migration with that name
  4. Run the “marten patch” command to write the update and rollback scripts to the file locations previously determined in steps 2 & 3
  5. Commit the new migration file back to the underlying git repository

I’m insisting on doing this on our CI server instead of making developers do it locally because I think it’ll lead to less duplicated work and fewer problems from these migrations being created against work in progress feature branches.

For production (and staging/QA) deployments, we’d just use sqitch out of the box to bring the databases up to date.

I like this approach because it keeps the monotony of repetitive database change tracking out of our developer’s hair, while also allowing them to integrate database changes from outside of Marten objects into the database versioning.