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This library provides node bindings for the Berkely Database (BDB).

What's BDB?

Here's a 100% plagerized answer from the BDB docs:

BDB is a general-purpose embedded database engine that is capable of providing a wealth of data management services. It is designed from the ground up for high-throughput applications requiring in-process, bullet-proof management of mission-critical data. BDB can gracefully scale from managing a few bytes to terabytes of data. For the most part, BDB is limited only by your system's available physical resources.

Why BDB and node.js?

BDB is a proven technology that gives you great read/write performance and offers you real durability (since it's transactional write-ahead-logging).

It seems a popular pattern for node.js is to maintain smaller services that are offloading some performance or scaling critical portion of your webapp, but node doesn't come with any way for you to store data, leaving you with the problem of what to do with it. BDB is an extremely effecient in-process database, that you can wed to node.js to get high-throughput storage with full ACID guarantees.

How do I install it?

npm install bdb

(You can also install it by doing node-waf configure build and then linking or copying the folder into your project's node_modules directory.)

Note that this will also build a static version of BDB, and will place BDB utilities in your $NODE_PATH/bin. So, if you've already got a BDB on your system in that path (like, oh say /usr/bin), this is going to end badly for you. If you've got a version of BDB on your system, there are --shared-bdb-[include/libpath] options you can pass in at configure time. That will skip the static library compilation, and not lay down any of the BDB utilities.

Usage/Node-specific information

So, if that crazy awesome intro got you all fired up on BDB, by now you've gone and already looked at the BDB documentation. Assuming that you have some knowledge of the C API, the node bindings are a pretty thin JS wrapper over them. However, there are a few important notes to be aware of with the node environment; since node is written to abstract away concurrency from you, and BDB is written to assume you have complete control over your concurrency model, there are some complications:

  • Since environment/database open/close can only be done by one thread of control, these bindings don't have an asynchronous open/close. Best practice is to open everything at startup time (e.g., before you do a listen()).
  • Transactions can't be active in more than one thread at a time. That pretty much screws the pooch for node, unless I did something like what the erlang driver does, and maintain a thread pool that "routes" any request involving a transaction to the same thread. Possible, but that's going to bring a lot of context switches, and I would need a compelling reason to add in all that complexity. For now, all operations in DB are protected by a transaction (assuming you opened the DB transactionally), and I plan on adding a conditionalUpdate API in the near future.
  • Because of transactional complications, there is not yet cursor support. This is on my list to add with something like an EventEmitter.

Other information:

  • Everything is setup in the library to use the BDB transactional store against the BTREE access method unless you take some other action. You will get better performance out of the CDS product, but you're prone to bad failure modes. So, in general, BDB is most usable in high-concurrency applications in TDS mode, so that's what's defaulted.
  • The TDS settings are configured for optimal durability (e.g., everything is set up for WRITE SYNC). BDB's transaction model uses write ahead logs, and in with synchronous writes you get optimum durability, but you're going to care about IOPs. You will get better performance if you relax that constraint. But you lose durability. Since I'm the author, I get to pick the defaults. I care very much about data durability, and the applications I work tend to be higher read than write. So, there you go. YMMV.
  • There's not 100% parity with the BDB API (yet). Specifically missing are:
    • Secondary indices. This is top of my list to add.
    • Conditional updates
    • Cursors
    • The many BDB APIs supporting configuration/stats. (notice an order here?)
    • BDB encryption support. I'll get to this too.
    • Replication: I don't really have plans to add this. It's complicated, and hard to make work. In my experience, you're better off doing this in your application; contrast something like slurpd in the plethora of LDAP systems using BDB to BDB replication with Paxos. One is not like the other.


To load the library:

var bdb = require('bdb');

Note that most any API supported here that in BDB has 'flags' or NULL parameters is wrapped up with an options Object. You'll of course be taking my defaults if you don't specify a given field. In every case the convention is that you can directly get at the underlying bdb api by prefacing the method name with an _. For example: db.getSync({key: key}); ==> db._getSync(undefined, key, 0);



var env = new bdb.DbEnv();
env.openSync({home: '/path/to/your/env'});

What's supported:

  • openSync(options)
  • closeSync(options)
  • setLockDetect(policy)
  • setLockTimeout(timeout)
  • setMaxLocks(max)
  • setMaxLockers(max)
  • setMaxLockObjects(max)
  • setShmKey(key)
  • setTxnMax(max)
  • setTxnTimeout(timeout)
  • txnCheckpoint(options, callback)



var db = new bdb.Db();
db.openSync({env: env, file: 'db_file_name'});

What's supported:

  • openSync(options)
  • closeSync(options)
  • put(options, callback)
  • get(options, callback)
  • del(options, callback)
  • putSync(options)
  • getSync(options)
  • delSync(options)


All the bindings I'm putting out as MIT, but you really need to be aware of the BDB license. BDB is put out under a dual-license model: Sleepycat and commercial. IANAL, but effectively the sleepycat license has a copy-left clause in it that makes any linking to BDB require your application to be open sourced if you redistribute it. You can opt to license BDB under a commercial license if those terms don't suit you.


  • Secondary indicies
  • Testing with shared-memory segments and in-memory DBs
  • Parity with config/stat APIs
  • Higher-level K/V store optimized for node (why do you think I wrote these in the first place?)



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