Disk Spilling in a Vectorized Execution Engine

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Late last year, we shipped v1 of our vectorized execution engine . It enables column-based query execution and speeds up complex joins and aggregations, improving analytical capabilities in CockroachDB (which is first and foremost optimized for OLTP workloads). v1 of the engine didn’t support disk spilling, which meant it couldn’t execute certain memory-intensive queries  if there was not enough memory available. Starting in CockroachDB v20.1 , these queries fall back to disk (also known as “spilling” to disk).
In this post, we provide a top-down explanation of how we added disk spilling to the vectorized execution engine, starting with a description of on-disk algorithms for different types of queries, and ending with a description of the single building block that all of these algorithms use. Note that disk spilling is an existing feature of the default row-at-a-time execution engine. This post specifically covers the recent addition of disk spilling to the column-at-a-time vectorized execution engine.

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