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Coming from C, Zig is the language we've always wanted -- and the perfect language in which to write a database focused on performance and safety.

We want:

  • C ABI compatibility to embed the TigerBeetle leader library or TigerBeetle network client directly into any language, to match the portability and ease of use of the SQLite library, the most used database engine in the world.
  • Bounds checking and checked arithmetic for greater memory safety than C.
  • Control the memory layout, alignment, and padding of data structures to avoid cache misses and unaligned accesses and allow zero-copy parsing of data structures from off the network.
  • Explicit static memory allocation from the network all the way to the disk with no hidden memory allocations. Zig also has a rich choice of allocators and test allocators.
  • OOM safety as the TigerBeetle leader library needs to manage GiBs of in-memory state without crashing.
  • Direct access to io_uring for fast, simple networking and file system operations.
  • Direct access to fast CPU instructions such as POPCNT, which are essential for the hash table implementation we want to use.
  • Direct access to existing C libraries without the overhead of FFI.
  • Strict single-threaded control flow to eliminate data races by design and to enforce the single writer principle.
  • Compiler support for error sets to enforce fine-grained error handling.
  • A developer-friendly and fast build system.
  • Comptime is a game changer.

Zig retains C ABI interoperability, offers relief from undefined behavior and makefiles, and provides an order of magnitude improvement in runtime safety and fine-grained error handling. Zig is a good fit with its emphasis on explicit memory allocation and OOM safety.

Since Zig is pre-1.0.0 we plan to use only stable language features. It's an excellent time for TigerBeetle to adopt Zig since our stable roadmaps will probably coincide. We wanted to invest for the next 20 years and didn't want to be stuck with C/C++ or compiler/language complexity and pay a tax for the lifetime of the project.