Non-deterministic functions

How rqlite handles non-deterministic functions

Understanding the problem

rqlite peforms statement-based replication. This means that every SQL statement is usually stored in the Raft log exactly in the form it was received. Each rqlite node then reads the Raft log and applies the SQL statements it finds there to its own local copy of SQLite.

But if a SQL statement contains a non-deterministic function, this type of replication can result in different SQLite data under each node – which is not meant to happen. For example, the following statement could result in a different SQLite database under each node:

INSERT INTO foo (n) VALUES(random());

This is because RANDOM() is evaluated by each node independently, and RANDOM() will almost certainly return a different value on each node.

How rqlite solves this problem

An rqlite node addresses this issue by rewriting received SQL statements that contain certain non-deterministic functions, evaluating the non-determinstic factor, before writing the statement to the Raft log. The rewritten statement is then applied to the SQLite database as usual.

What does rqlite rewrite?


Any SQL statement containing RANDOM() is rewritten following these rules:

  • The statement is part of a write-request i.e. the request is sent to the /db/execute HTTP API.
  • The statement is part of a read-request i.e. the request is sent to the /db/query HTTP API and the read-request is made with strong read consistency.
  • If RANDOM() is used as an ORDER BY qualifier it is not rewritten.
    • This does mean that certain INSERT statements are not rewritten e.g. INSERT INTO foo (x) SELECT x FROM bar ORDER BY RANDOM(). Executing such a statement may result in different data under each node.
  • The HTTP request containing the SQL statement does not have the query parameter norwrandom present.

RANDOM() is replaced with a random integer between -9223372036854775808 and +9223372036854775807 by the rqlite node that first receives the SQL statement.


# Will be rewritten
curl -XPOST 'localhost:4001/db/execute' -H "Content-Type: application/json" -d '[
    "INSERT INTO foo(id, age) VALUES(1234, RANDOM())"

# RANDOM() rewriting explicitly disabled at request-time
curl -XPOST 'localhost:4001/db/execute?norwrandom' -H "Content-Type: application/json" -d '[
    "INSERT INTO foo(id, age) VALUES(1234, RANDOM())"

# Not rewritten
curl -G 'localhost:4001/db/query' --data-urlencode 'q=SELECT * FROM foo WHERE id = RANDOM()'

# Rewritten
curl -G 'localhost:4001/db/query?level=strong' --data-urlencode 'q=SELECT * FROM foo WHERE id = RANDOM()'

Date and time functions

rqlite does not yet rewrite SQLite date and time functions that are non-deterministic in nature, but will in an upcoming release. A example of a non-deterministic time function is

INSERT INTO datetime_text (d1, d2) VALUES(datetime('now'),datetime('now', 'localtime'))

Using such functions will result in undefined behavior. Date and time functions that use absolute values will work without issue.


Using CURRENT_TIMESTAMP, CURRENT_TIME, and CURRENT_DATE can also be problematic, depending on your use case.


Many thanks to Ben Johnson who wrote the SQLite parser used by rqlite.

Last modified March 11, 2024: Update (24a7a6e)