fs-dictmap Configuration

Using obox with Cassandra is done via the fs-dictmap wrapper, which translates internal “lib-fs paths” into dict API. The dict API paths in turn are translated to SQL/CQL queries via dict-sql.

Cassandra requires installing dovecot-ee-cassandra-plugin package and the cpp-driver from 3rdparty repository. See OX Dovecot Pro Releases for further details.

The fs-dictmap syntax is:

dictmap:<dict uri> ; <parent fs uri>[ ; <dictmap settings>]

For <dict uri> you can use any of the Dovecot dictionary drivers.


The delimiter between the dictmap configuration components is ‘ ; ‘ (<SPACE><SEMICOLON><SPACE>). The spaces before and after the semicolon are necessary; otherwise Dovecot will emit a syntax error and exit.


Cassandra support is done via SQL dict, because Cassandra CQL is implemented as a lib-sql driver.

Obox should work with Cassandra v2.1, v2.2 or v3.x. A recent v3.x release is recommended.

Cassandra/sproxyd Example Configuration

mail_location = obox:%u:INDEX=~/:CONTROL=~/
plugin {
  # Without lazy_expunge plugin:
  obox_fs = fscache:512M:/var/cache/mails/%4Nu:dictmap:proxy:dict-async:cassandra ; sproxyd:http://sproxyd.scality.example.com/?class=2&reason_header_max_length=200 ; refcounting-table:lockdir=/tmp:bucket-size=10000:bucket-cache=%h/buckets.cache:nlinks-limit=3:delete-timestamp=+10s:bucket-deleted-days=11
  # With lazy_expunge plugin:
  #obox_fs = fscache:512M:/var/cache/mails/%4Nu:dictmap:proxy:dict-async:cassandra ; sproxyd:http://sproxyd.scality.example.com/?class=2&reason_header_max_length=200 ; refcounting-table:bucket-size=10000:bucket-cache=%h/buckets.cache:nlinks-limit=3:delete-timestamp=+10s:bucket-deleted-days=11

  obox_index_fs = compress:gz:6:dictmap:proxy:dict-async:cassandra ; sproxyd:http://sproxyd.scality.example.com/?class=2&reason_header_max_length=200 ; diff-table
  fts_dovecot_fs = fts-cache:fscache:512M:/var/cache/fts/%4Nu:compress:gz:6:dictmap:proxy:dict-async:cassandra ; sproxyd:http://sproxyd.scality.example.com/?class=1&reason_header_max_length=200 ; dict-prefix=%u/fts/

It’s highly recommended to use Lazy Expunge with dictmap. This allows enabling various optimizations, which otherwise wouldn’t be safe. Note that if autoexpunging is done on the lazy_expunge folder, it must be larger than any potentially slow object storage operation. For example 15 minutes should be a rather safe minimum.

mail_plugins = $mail_plugins lazy_expunge
plugin {
  lazy_expunge = DUMPSTER
namespace inbox {
  mailbox DUMPSTER {
    autoexpunge = 7 days

If lazy_expunge is enabled, Dovecot can avoid Cassandra SELECTs when expunging mails by using:

plugin {
  # Enable only if lazy_expunge is enabled:
  obox_track_copy_flags = yes

The Cassandra cpp-driver library requires a lot of VSZ memory. Make sure dict process doesn’t immediately die out of memory (it may also be visible as strange crashes at startup) by disabling VSZ limits:

service dict-async {
  vsz_limit = 0

Usually there should be only a single dict-async process running, because each process creates its own connections to the Cassandra cluster increasing its load. The Cassandra cpp-driver can use multiple IO threads as well. This is controlled by the num_threads parameter in the connect setting in dovecot-dict-cql.conf.ext. Each IO thread can handle 32k requests simultaneously, so usually 1 IO thread is enough. Note that each IO thread creates more connections to Cassandra, so again it’s better not to creates too many threads unnecessarily. If all the IO threads are full of pending requests, queries start failing with “All connections on all I/O threads are busy” error.

Dictmap Parameters




Enable reference counted objects. Reference counting allows a single mail object to be stored in multiple mailboxes, without the need to create a new copy of the message data in object storage. See Reference Counting table


If refcounting is enabled, use this directory for creating lock files to objects while they’re being copied or deleted. This attempts to prevent race conditions where an object copy and delete runs simultaneously and both succeed, but the copied object no longer exists. This can’t be fully prevented if different servers do this concurrently. If lazy_expunge is used, this setting isn’t really needed, because such race conditions are practically nonexistent. Not using the setting will improve performance by avoiding a Cassandra SELECT when copying mails.


Store diff & self index bundle objects to a separate table. This is a Cassandra-backend optimization. See Optimize Index Diff & Self-bundle Updates


If an object exists in dict, but not in storage, delete it automatically from dict when it’s noticed. This setting isn’t safe to use by default, because storage may return “object doesn’t exist” errors only temporarily during split brain.


Separate email objects into buckets, where each bucket can have a maximum of <n> emails. This should be set to 10000 with Cassandra to avoid the partition becoming too large when there are a lot of emails.


Track Cassandra’s tombstones in buckets.cache file to avoid creating excessively large buckets when a lot of mails are saved and deleted in a folder. The <days> should be one day longer than gc_grace_seconds for the user_mailbox_objects table.By default this is 10 days, so in that case bucket-deleted-days=11 should be used.When determining whether bucket-size is reached and a new one needs to be created, with this setting the tombstones are also taken into account. This tracking is preserved only as long as the buckets.cache exists. It’s also not attempted to be preserved when moving users between backends. This means that it doesn’t work perfectly in all situations, but it should still be good enough to prevent the worst offenses.


Required when bucket-size is set. Bucket counters are cached in this file. This path should be located under the obox indexes directory (on the SSD backed cache mount point; e.g. %h/buckets.cache)


Defines the maximum number of results returned from a dictionary iteration lookup (i.e. Cassandra CQL query) when checking the number of links to an object. Limiting this may improve performance. Currently Dovecot only cares whether the link count is 0, 1 or “more than 1” so for a bit of extra safety we recommend nlinks-limit=3.


Increase Cassandra’s DELETE timestamp by this much. This is useful to make sure the DELETE isn’t ignored because Dovecot backends’ times are slightly different. Recommendation is to use delete-timestamp=+10s


Use fake object IDs with object storage that internally uses paths. This makes their performance much better, since it allows caching object IDs in Dovecot index files and copying them via dict. This works by storing objects in <prefix>/<objectid>. This setting should be used in obox_fs for storing mails under <prefix>. For example storage-objectid-prefix=%u/mails/

New in version v2.3.2.1.

storage-passthrough-paths= full|read-only

Use fake object IDs with object storage that internally uses path. Assume that object ID is the same as the path. Objects can’t be copied within the dict. This setting should be used for obox_index_fs and fts_dovecot_fs, because they don’t need to support copying objects.

  • With “full” the object ID is written to dict as an empty value (because it’s not used).

  • The “read-only” can be used for backwards compatibility so that the path is still written to the dict as the object ID, even though it’s not used (except potentially by an older Dovecot version).

New in version v2.3.2.1.


This is expected to be used with storage-objectid-prefix when adding fs-dictmap for an existing installation. The newly created object IDs have <storage-objectid-prefix>/<object-id> path while the migrated object IDs have <user>/mailboxes/<mailbox-guid>/<oid> path. The newly created object IDs can be detected from the 0x80 bit in the object ID’s extra-data. Migrated object IDs can’t be copied directly within dict - they’ll be first copied to a new object ID using the parent fs.

New in version v2.3.2.1.


Describes how many parallel dict iterations can be created internally. The default value is 1. Parallel iterations can especially help speed up reading huge folders.

New in version v2.3.10.


When enabled: If a write to Cassandra fails with uncertainty (Uncertain writes) Dovecot attempts to clean up. First it tries to delete the uncertainly written dict key. If that succeeded the deletion of the corresponding storage object is also attempted.

If a Cassandra write during copying a file fails uncertainly, a cleanup of the uncertainly written Cassandra keys is also attempted. Copying never attempts to delete anything from object storage.

New in version v2.3.12.

Dict paths

The fs-dictmap uses the following dict paths:

shared/dictmap/<path>: This is the main access

If refcounting-table is used:

  • shared/dictrevmap/<user>/mailboxes/<folder guid>/<object id>: For adding new references.

  • shared/dictrevmap/<object id>/<object name>: For deleting

  • shared/dictrevmap/<object id>: For lookups if any object references exist after deletion.

If diff-table is used:

  • shared/dictdiffmap/<user>/idx/<host>: Latest self/diff bundle for the user created by the <host>

  • shared/dictdiffmap/<user>/mailboxes/<folder guid>/idx/<host>: Latest self/diff bundle for the folder created by the <host>