Add Documentation/technical/commit-graph.txt with details of the planned
commit graph feature, including future plans.

Signed-off-by: Derrick Stolee <>
 Documentation/technical/commit-graph.txt | 185 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 1 file changed, 185 insertions(+)
 create mode 100644 Documentation/technical/commit-graph.txt

diff --git a/Documentation/technical/commit-graph.txt 
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+Git Commit Graph Design Notes
+Git walks the commit graph for many reasons, including:
+1. Listing and filtering commit history.
+2. Computing merge bases.
+These operations can become slow as the commit count grows. The merge
+base calculation shows up in many user-facing commands, such as 'merge-base'
+or 'status' and can take minutes to compute depending on history shape.
+There are two main costs here:
+1. Decompressing and parsing commits.
+2. Walking the entire graph to avoid topological order mistakes.
+The commit graph file is a supplemental data structure that accelerates
+commit graph walks. If a user downgrades or disables the 'core.commitGraph'
+config setting, then the existing ODB is sufficient. The file is stored
+either in the .git/objects/info directory or in the info directory of an
+The commit graph file stores the commit graph structure along with some
+extra metadata to speed up graph walks. By listing commit OIDs in lexi-
+cographic order, we can identify an integer position for each commit and
+refer to the parents of a commit using those integer positions. We use
+binary search to find initial commits and then use the integer positions
+for fast lookups during the walk.
+A consumer may load the following info for a commit from the graph:
+1. The commit OID.
+2. The list of parents, along with their integer position.
+3. The commit date.
+4. The root tree OID.
+5. The generation number (see definition below).
+Values 1-4 satisfy the requirements of parse_commit_gently().
+Define the "generation number" of a commit recursively as follows:
+ * A commit with no parents (a root commit) has generation number one.
+ * A commit with at least one parent has generation number one more than
+   the largest generation number among its parents.
+Equivalently, the generation number of a commit A is one more than the
+length of a longest path from A to a root commit. The recursive definition
+is easier to use for computation and observing the following property:
+    If A and B are commits with generation numbers N and M, respectively,
+    and N <= M, then A cannot reach B. That is, we know without searching
+    that B is not an ancestor of A because it is further from a root commit
+    than A.
+    Conversely, when checking if A is an ancestor of B, then we only need
+    to walk commits until all commits on the walk boundary have generation
+    number at most N. If we walk commits using a priority queue seeded by
+    generation numbers, then we always expand the boundary commit with highest
+    generation number and can easily detect the stopping condition.
+This property can be used to significantly reduce the time it takes to
+walk commits and determine topological relationships. Without generation
+numbers, the general heuristic is the following:
+    If A and B are commits with commit time X and Y, respectively, and
+    X < Y, then A _probably_ cannot reach B.
+This heuristic is currently used whenever the computation can make
+mistakes with topological orders (such as "git log" with default order),
+but is not used when the topological order is required (such as merge
+base calculations, "git log --graph").
+In practice, we expect some commits to be created recently and not stored
+in the commit graph. We can treat these commits as having "infinite"
+generation number and walk until reaching commits with known generation
+Design Details
+- A graph file is stored in a file named 'graph-<hash>.graph' in the
+  .git/objects/info directory. This could be stored in the info directory
+  of an alternate.
+- The latest graph file name is stored in a 'graph-latest' file next to
+  the graph files. This allows atomic swaps of latest graph files without
+  race conditions with concurrent processes.
+- The core.commitGraph config setting must be on to consume graph files.
+- The file format includes parameters for the object ID hash function,
+  so a future change of hash algorithm does not require a change in format.
+Current Limitations
+- Only one graph file is used at one time. This allows the integer position
+  to seek into the single graph file. It is possible to extend the model
+  for multiple graph files, but that is currently not part of the design.
+- .graph files are managed only by the 'commit-graph' builtin. These are not
+  updated automatically during clone, fetch, repack, or creating new commits.
+- There is no 'verify' subcommand for the 'commit-graph' builtin to verify
+  the contents of the graph file agree with the contents in the ODB.
+- Generation numbers are not computed in the current version. The file
+  format supports storing them, along with a mechanism to upgrade from
+  a file without generation numbers to one that uses them.
+Future Work
+- The file format includes room for precomputed generation numbers. These
+  are not currently computed, so all generation numbers will be marked as
+  0 (or "uncomputed"). A later patch will include this calculation.
+- The commit graph is currently incompatible with commit grafts. This can be
+  remedied by duplicating or refactoring the current graft logic.
+- After computing and storing generation numbers, we must make graph
+  walks aware of generation numbers to gain the performance benefits they
+  enable. This will mostly be accomplished by swapping a commit-date-ordered
+  priority queue with one ordered by generation number. The following
+  operations are important candidates:
+    - paint_down_to_common()
+    - 'log --topo-order'
+- The graph currently only adds commits to a previously existing graph.
+  When writing a new graph, we could check that the ODB still contains
+  the commits and choose to remove the commits that are deleted from the
+  ODB. For performance reasons, this check should remain optional.
+- Currently, parse_commit_gently() requires filling in the root tree
+  object for a commit. This passes through lookup_tree() and consequently
+  lookup_object(). Also, it calls lookup_commit() when loading the parents.
+  These method calls check the ODB for object existence, even if the
+  consumer does not need the content. For example, we do not need the
+  tree contents when computing merge bases. Now that commit parsing is
+  removed from the computation time, these lookup operations are the
+  slowest operations keeping graph walks from being fast. Consider
+  loading these objects without verifying their existence in the ODB and
+  only loading them fully when consumers need them. Consider a method
+  such as "ensure_tree_loaded(commit)" that fully loads a tree before
+  using commit->tree.
+- The current design uses the 'commit-graph' builtin to generate the graph.
+  When this feature stabilizes enough to recommend to most users, we should
+  add automatic graph writes to common operations that create many commits.
+  For example, one coulde compute a graph on 'clone', 'fetch', or 'repack'
+  commands.
+- A server could provide a commit graph file as part of the network protocol
+  to avoid extra calculations by clients.
+Related Links
+    Chromium work item for: Serialized Commit Graph
+    An abandoned patch that introduced generation numbers.
+    Discussion about generation numbers on commits and how they interact
+    with fsck.
+    More discussion about generation numbers and not storing them inside
+    commit objects. A valuable quote:
+    "I think we should be moving more in the direction of keeping
+     repo-local caches for optimizations. Reachability bitmaps have been
+     a big performance win. I think we should be doing the same with our
+     properties of commits. Not just generation numbers, but making it
+     cheap to access the graph structure without zlib-inflating whole
+     commit objects (i.e., packv4 or something like the "metapacks" I
+     proposed a few years ago)."
+    A patch to remove the ahead-behind calculation from 'status'.

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