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Diviner Flavor Text Why does Phorge need so many databases?

Why does Phorge need so many databases?
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Phorge uses about 60 databases (and we may have added more by the time you read this document). This sometimes comes as a surprise, since you might assume it would only use one database.

The approach we use is designed to work at scale for huge installs with many thousands of users. We care a lot about working well for large installs, and about scaling up gracefully to meet the needs of growing organizations. We want small startups to be able to install Phorge and have it grow with them as they expand to many thousands of employees.

A cost of this approach is that it makes Phorge more difficult to install on shared hosts which require a lot of work to create or authorize access to each database. However, Phorge does a lot of advanced or complex things which are difficult to configure or manage on shared hosts, and we don't recommend installing it on a shared host. The install documentation explicitly discourages installing on shared hosts.

Broadly, in cases where we must choose between operating well at scale for growing organizations and installing easily on shared hosts, we prioritize operating at scale.

Listing Databases

You can get a full list of the databases Phorge needs with `bin/storage databases`. It will look something like this:

$ /core/lib/phorge/bin/storage databases
...<dozens more databases>...

Roughly, each application has its own database, and then there are some databases which support internal systems or shared infrastructure.

Operating at Scale

This storage design is aimed at large installs that may need more than one physical database server to handle the load the install generates.

The primary reason we use a separate database for each application is to allow large installs to scale up by spreading database load across more hardware. A large organization with many thousands of active users may find themselves limited by the capacity of a single database backend.

If so, they can launch a second backend, move some applications over to it, and continue piling on more users.

This can't continue forever, but provides a substantial amount of headroom for large installs to spread the workload across more hardware and continue scaling up.

To make this possible, we put each application in its own database and use database boundaries to enforce the logical constraints that the application must have in order for this to work. For example, we can not perform joins between separable tables, because they may not be on the same hardware.

Establishing boundaries with application databases is a simple, straightforward way to partition storage and make administrative operations like spreading load realistic.

Ease of Development

This design is also easier for us to work with, and easier for users who want to work with the raw data in the database.

We have a large number of tables (more than 400) and we can not reasonably reduce the number of tables very much (each table generally represents some meaningful type of object in some application). It's easier to develop with tables which are organized into separate application databases, just like it's easier to work with a large project if you organize source files into directories.

If you aren't developing Phorge and never look at the data in the database, you probably won't benefit from this organization. However, if you are a developer or want to extend Phorge or look under the hood, it's easier to find what you're looking for and work with the tables when they're organized by application.

More Databases Cost Nothing

In almost all cases, creating more databases has zero cost, just like organizing source code into directories has zero cost. Even if we didn't derive enormous benefits from this approach at scale, there is little reason not to organize storage like this.

There are a handful of administrative tasks which are very slightly more complex to perform on multiple databases, but these are all either automated with bin/storage or easy to build on top of the list of databases emitted by bin/storage databases.

For example, you can dump all the databases with bin/storage dump, and you can destroy all the databases with bin/storage destroy.

As mentioned above, an exception to this is that if you're installing on a shared host and need to jump through hoops to individually authorize access to each database, databases do cost something.

However, this cost is an artificial cost imposed by the selected environment, and this is only the first of many issues you'll run into trying to install and run Phorge on a shared host. These issues are why we strongly discourage using shared hosts, and recommend against them in the install guide.

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