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Smartly mirror git repositories that use grokmirror

Project description

Date: 2019-02-14
Copyright: The Linux Foundation and contributors
Version: 1.2.0


Grokmirror was written to make mirroring large git repository collections more efficient. Grokmirror uses the manifest file published by the master mirror in order to figure out which repositories to clone, and to track which repositories require updating. The process is extremely lightweight and efficient both for the master and for the mirrors.


Grokmirror master publishes a json-formatted manifest file containing information about all git repositories that it carries. The format of the manifest file is as follows:

  "/path/to/bare/repository.git": {
    "description": "Repository description",
    "reference":   "/path/to/reference/repository.git",
    "modified":    timestamp,
    "fingerprint": sha1sum(git show-ref),
    "symlinks": [

The manifest file is usually gzip-compressed to preserve bandwidth.

Each time a commit is made to one of the git repositories, it automatically updates the manifest file using an appropriate git hook, so the manifest.js file always contains the most up-to-date information about the repositories provided by the git server and their last-modified date.

The mirroring clients will constantly poll the manifest.js file and download the updated manifest if it is newer than the locally stored copy (using Last-Modified and If-Modified-Since http headers). After downloading the updated manifest.js file, the mirrors will parse it to find out which repositories have been updated and which new repositories have been added.

For all newly-added repositories, the clients will do:

git clone --mirror git://server/path/to/repository.git \

For all updated repositories, the clients will do:

GIT_DIR=/local/path/to/repository.git git remote update

When run with --purge, the clients will also purge any repositories no longer present in the manifest file received from the server.

Shared repositories

Grokmirror will automatically recognize when repositories share objects via alternates. E.g. if repositoryB is a shared clone of repositoryA (that is, it’s been cloned using git clone -s repositoryA), the manifest will mention the referencing repository, so grokmirror will mirror repositoryA first, and then mirror repositoryB with a --reference flag. This greatly reduces the bandwidth and disk use for large repositories.

See man git-clone for more info.


Install grokmirror on the server using your preferred way.

IMPORTANT: Currently, only bare git repositories are supported.

You will need to add a hook to each one of your repositories that would update the manifest upon repository modification. This can either be a post-receive hook, or a post-update hook. The hook must call the following command:

/usr/bin/grok-manifest -m /repos/manifest.js.gz -t /repos -n `pwd`

The -m flag is the path to the manifest.js file. The git process must be able to write to it and to the directory the file is in (it creates a manifest.js.randomstring file first, and then moves it in place of the old one for atomicity).

The -t flag is to help grokmirror trim the irrelevant toplevel disk path. E.g. if your repository is in /var/lib/git/repository.git, but it is exported as git://server/repository.git, then you specify -t /var/lib/git.

The -n flag tells grokmirror to use the current timestamp instead of the exact timestamp of the commit (much faster this way).

Before enabling the hook, you will need to generate the manifest.js of all your git repositories. In order to do that, run the same command, but omit the -n and the `pwd` argument. E.g.:

/usr/bin/grok-manifest -m /repos/manifest.js.gz -t /repos

The last component you need to set up is to automatically purge deleted repositories from the manifest. As this can’t be added to a git hook, you can either run the --purge command from cron:

/usr/bin/grok-manifest -m /repos/manifest.js.gz -t /repos -p

Or add it to your gitolite’s D command using the --remove flag:

/usr/bin/grok-manifest -m /repos/manifest.js.gz -t /repos -x $repo.git

If you would like grok-manifest to honor the git-daemon-export-ok magic file and only add to the manifest those repositories specifically marked as exportable, pass the --check-export-ok flag. See git-daemon(1) for more info on git-daemon-export-ok file.


Install grokmirror on the mirror using your preferred way.

Locate repos.conf and modify it to reflect your needs. The default configuration file is heavily commented.

Add a cronjob to run as frequently as you like. For example, add the following to /etc/cron.d/grokmirror.cron:

# Run grok-pull every minute as user "mirror"
* * * * * mirror /usr/bin/grok-pull -p -c /etc/grokmirror/repos.conf

Make sure the user “mirror” (or whichever user you specified) is able to write to the toplevel and log locations specified in repos.conf.

If you already have a bunch of repositories in the hierarchy that matches the upstream mirror and you’d like to reuse them instead of re-downloading everything from the master, you can pass the -r flag to tell grok-pull that it’s okay to reuse existing repos. This will delete any existing remotes defined in the repository and set the new origin to match what is configured in the repos.conf.


Git repositories can get corrupted whether they are frequently updated or not, which is why it is useful to routinely check them using “git fsck”. Grokmirror ships with a “grok-fsck” utility that will run “git fsck” on all mirrored git repositories. It is supposed to be run nightly from cron, and will do its best to randomly stagger the checks so only a subset of repositories is checked each night. Any errors will be sent to the user set in MAILTO.

To enable grok-fsck, first locate the fsck.conf file and edit it to match your setup – e.g., it must know where you keep your local manifest. Then, add the following to /etc/cron.d/grok-fsck.cron:

# Make sure MAILTO is set, for error reports
# Run nightly repacks to optimize the repos
0 2 1-6 * * mirror /usr/bin/grok-fsck -c /etc/grokmirror/fsck.conf --repack-only
# Run weekly fsck checks on Sunday
0 2 0 * * mirror /usr/bin/grok-fsck -c /etc/grokmirror/fsck.conf

You can force a full run using the -f flag, but unless you only have a few smallish git repositories, it’s not recommended, as it may take several hours to complete. See the man page for other flags grok-fsck supports.

Before it runs, grok-fsck will put an advisory lock for the git-directory being checked (.repository.git.lock). Grok-pull will recognize the lock and will postpone any incoming updates to that repository until the lock is freed.


Why is it called “grok mirror”?

Because it’s developed at and “grok” is a mirror of “korg”. Also, because it groks git mirroring.

Why not just use rsync?

Rsync is extremely inefficient for the purpose of mirroring git trees that mostly consist of a lot of small files that very rarely change. Since rsync must calculate checksums on each file during each run, it mostly results in a lot of disk thrashing.

Additionally, if several repositories share objects between each-other, unless the disk paths are exactly the same on both the remote and local mirror, this will result in broken git repositories.

It is also a bit silly, considering git provides its own extremely efficient mechanism for specifying what changed between revision X and revision Y.

Why not just run “git pull” from cron every minute?

This is not a complete mirroring strategy, as this won’t notify you when the remote mirror adds new repositories. It is also not very nice to the remote server, especially the one that carries hundreds of repositories.

Additionally, this will not automatically take care of shared repositories for you. See “Shared repositories” under “CONCEPTS”.

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