Storage Layer

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CockroachDB v19.2 is no longer supported as of May 12, 2021. For more details, refer to the Release Support Policy.

The storage layer of CockroachDB's architecture reads and writes data to disk.


If you haven't already, we recommend reading the Architecture Overview.


Each CockroachDB node contains at least one store, specified when the node starts, which is where the cockroach process reads and writes its data on disk.

This data is stored as key-value pairs on disk using RocksDB, which is treated primarily as a black-box API. Internally, each store contains two instances of RocksDB:

  • One for storing temporary distributed SQL data
  • One for all other data on the node

In addition, there is also a block cache shared amongst all of the stores in a node. These stores in turn have a collection of range replicas. More than one replica for a range will never be placed on the same store or even the same node.

Interactions with other layers

In relationship to other layers in CockroachDB, the storage layer:

  • Serves successful reads and writes from the replication layer.



CockroachDB uses RocksDB––an embedded key-value store––to read and write data to disk. You can find more information about it on the RocksDB Basics GitHub page.

RocksDB integrates really well with CockroachDB for a number of reasons:

  • Key-value store, which makes mapping to our key-value layer simple
  • Atomic write batches and snapshots, which give us a subset of transactions

Efficient storage for the keys is guaranteed by the underlying RocksDB engine by means of prefix compression.


CockroachDB relies heavily on multi-version concurrency control (MVCC) to process concurrent requests and guarantee consistency. Much of this work is done by using hybrid logical clock (HLC) timestamps to differentiate between versions of data, track commit timestamps, and identify a value's garbage collection expiration. All of this MVCC data is then stored in RocksDB.

Despite being implemented in the storage layer, MVCC values are widely used to enforce consistency in the transaction layer. For example, CockroachDB maintains a timestamp cache, which stores the timestamp of the last time that the key was read. If a write operation occurs at a lower timestamp than the largest value in the read timestamp cache, it signifies there’s a potential anomaly and the transaction must be restarted at a later timestamp.


As described in the SQL:2011 standard, CockroachDB supports time travel queries (enabled by MVCC).

To do this, all of the schema information also has an MVCC-like model behind it. This lets you perform SELECT...AS OF SYSTEM TIME, and CockroachDB uses the schema information as of that time to formulate the queries.

Using these tools, you can get consistent data from your database as far back as your garbage collection period.

Garbage collection

CockroachDB regularly garbage collects MVCC values to reduce the size of data stored on disk. To do this, we compact old MVCC values when there is a newer MVCC value with a timestamp that's older than the garbage collection period. The garbage collection period can be set at the cluster, database, or table level by configuring the gc.ttlseconds replication zone variable. For more information about replication zones, see Configure Replication Zones.

Interactions with other layers

Storage and replication layers

The storage layer commits writes from the Raft log to disk, as well as returns requested data (i.e., reads) to the replication layer.

What's next?

Now that you've learned about our architecture, start a local cluster and start building an app with CockroachDB.

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