This blog post describes a new feature
in stack. Until now, multiple projects using the same snapshot
could share the binary builds of packages. However, two separate
snapshots could not share the binary builds of their packages, even
if they were substantially identical. That's now changing.
tl;dr: stack will now be able to install new snapshots much more
quickly, with less disk space usage, than previously.
This has been a known shortcoming since stack was first
released. It's not coincidental that this support is being added
not long after
a similar project completed for Cabal. Ryan Trinkle- Vishal's
mentor on the project- described the work to me a few months back,
and I decided to wait to see the outcome of the project before
working on the feature in stack.
The improvements to Cabal here are superb, and I'm thrilled to
see them happening. However, after reviewing and discussing with a
few stack developers and users, I decided to implement a different
approach that doesn't take advantage of the new Cabal changes. The
very aptly pointed out on Reddit:
Since Stack sandboxes everything maximum sharing between LTS
versions can easily be implemented going back to GHC 7.0
without this new multi-instance support.
This multi-instance support is needed if you want to accomplish
the same thing without isolated sandboxes in a single package
There are some usability concerns around a single massive
database with all packages in it. Specifically, there are potential
problems around getting GHC to choose a coherent set of packages
when using something like
Hopefully some concept of views will be added (as Duncan described
in the original proposal), but the implications still need to
be worked out.
stack users are impatient (and I mean that in the best way
possible). Why wait for a feature when we could have it now? While
the Cabal Google Summer of Code project is complete, the changes
are not yet merged to master, much less released. stack would need
to wait until those changes are readily available to end users
before relying on them.
I came up with some complicated approaches to the problem, but
comment from Aaron Wolf rang true:
check the version differences and just copy compiled binaries
from previous LTS for unchanged items
It turns out that this is really easy. The implementation ends
up having two components:
- Whenever a snapshot package is built, write a precompiled
cache file containing the filepaths of the library's .conf file
(from inside the package database) and all of the executables
- Before building a snapshot package, check for a precompiled
cache file. If the file exists, copy over the executables and
register the .conf file into the new snapshots database.
That precompiled cache file's path looks something like
This encodes the GHC version, Cabal version, package name, and
package version. The last bit is a hash of all of the configuration
information, including flags, GHC options, and dependencies. We
then hash those flags and put them in the filepath, ensuring that
when we look up a precompiled package, we're getting something that
matches what we'd be building ourselves now.
The reason we can get away with this approach in stack is
because of the invariants of a snapshot, namely: each snapshot has
precisely one version of a package available, and therefore we have
no need to deal with the new multi-instance installations GHC 7.10
supports. This also means no concern around views: a snapshot
database is by its very nature a view.
- Decreased compile times
- Decreased disk space usage
You can't reliably delete a single snapshot, as there can be
files shared between different snapshots. Deleting a single
snapshot was never an officially supported feature previously, but
if you knew what you were doing, you could do it safely.
After discussing with others: this trade-off seems acceptable:
the overall decrease in disk space usage means that the desire to
delete a single snapshot will be reduced. When real disk space
reclaiming needs to happen, the recommended approach will be to
wipe all snapshots and start over, which (1) will be an infrequent
occurrence, and (2) due to the faster compile times, will be less
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