Everything in Materialize is currently handled by the
(pronounced materialize-dee; the “
d” is for daemon), which interacts with
the outside world by interfacing with:
- SQL shells for interacting with clients, including defining sources, creating views, and querying data.
- Sources to ingest data, i.e. writes. We’ll focus on streaming sources like Kafka, though Materialize also supports file sources.
Above: Materialize deployed with multiple Kafka feeds as sources.
Below: Zooming in on Materialize’s internal structure in the above deployment.
SQL shell: interacting with clients
Right now, Materialize provides its interactive interface through
locally on a client machine; this uses the PostgreSQL wire protocol (
to communicate with
materialized. We have a client called
mzcli that we recommend using, but
it’s just a modified wrapper around
Because this is a SQL shell, Materialize lets you interact with your server
through SQL statements sent over
pgwire to an internal
queue, where they are
dequeued by a
sql thread that parses the statement.
Broadly, there are three classes of statements in Materialize:
- Creating sources to ingest data from a Kafka topic, which is how data gets inserted into Materialize
- Reading data from sources
- Creating views to maintain the output of some query
When Materialize receives a
CREATE SOURCE... statement, it connects to some
destination to read data. You can find more information about how that works in the
As with any SQL API, you read data from Materialize using
SELECT statements. When
sql thread parses a
SELECT statement, it generates a
plan. Plans in Materialize are dataflows which can be executed by Differential.
The plan gets passed to the
dataflow package, which works as the glue between
Materialize and its internal Differential engine.
Differential then passes this new dataflow to all of its workers, which begin processing. Once Differential determines that the computation is complete, the results are passed back to the client, and the dataflow is terminated.
Unfortunately, if the user passes the same query to Materialize again, it must repeat the entire process––creating a new dataflow, waiting for its execution, etc. The inefficiency of this is actually Materialize’s raison d'être, and leads us to the thing you actually want to do with the software: creating views.
If you know that you are routinely interested in knowing the answer to a specific query (how many widgets were sold in Oklahoma today?), you can do something much smarter than repeatedly ask Materialize to tabulate the answer from a blank slate. Instead, you can create a materialized view of the query, which Materialize will persist and continually keep up to date.
When users define views (that is,
CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW some_view AS SELECT...), the internal
SELECT statement is parsed––just as it is for ad hoc
queries––but instead of only executing a single time, the generated dataflow
persists. Then, as data comes in from Kafka, Differential workers collaborate to
maintain the dataflow and its attendant view.
To read data from views (as opposed to ad hoc queries), users target the view
SELECT * FROM some_view; from here, Materialize can simply return the
result from the already-up-to-date view. No substantive processing necessary.
Reading data vs. creating views
The difference between simply reading data and creating a view is how long the generated dataflow persists.
- When you perform an ad hoc
SELECT, the dataflow only sticks around long enough to generate an answer once before being terminated.
- For views, the dataflows persist indefinitely and are kept up to date. This means you can get an answer an indefinite number of times from the generated dataflow. Though getting these answers isn’t “free” because of the incremental work required to maintain the dataflow, it is dramatically faster to perform a read on this data at any given time than it is to create an answer from scratch.
In some cases, when the queries are relatively simple, Materialize can avoid creating a new dataflow and instead serves the result from an existing dataflow.
Sources: Ingesting data
For Materialize to ingest data, it must read it from a source or a table. Sources come in two varieties:
- Streaming sources, like Kafka
- File sources, like
.csvor generic log files
File sources are more straightforward, so we’ll focus on streaming sources.
When using a streaming source, Materialize subscribes to Kafka topics and monitors the stream for data it should ingest.
As this data streams in, all Differential workers receive updates and determine which––if any––of their dataflows should process this new data. This works because each Differential worker determines the partitions it’s responsible for; the isolation that this self-election process provides prevents contention. Phrased another way, you don’t have to worry about two workers both trying to process the same piece of data.
The actual processing of Differential workers maintaining materialized views is also very interesting and one day we hope to explain it to you here. In the meantime, more curious readers can take the first step towards enlightenment themselves.
Implicit in this design are a few key points:
- State is all in totally volatile memory; if
materializeddies, so does all of the data.
- Streaming sources must receive all of their data from the stream itself; there is no way to “seed” a streaming source with static data. However, you can union streaming and file sources in views, which accomplishes a similar outcome.