Using Commit Hooks

Pre- and post-commit hooks are functions that are invoked before or after an object has been written to Riak. To provide a few examples, commit hooks can:

  • allow a write to occur with an unmodified object
  • modify an object
  • fail an update and prevent any modifications to the object

Post-commit hooks are notified after the fact and should not modify the object directly. Updating Riak objects while post-commit hooks are invoked can cause nasty feedback loops which will wedge the hook into an infinite cycle unless the hook functions are carefully written to detect and short-circuit such cycles.

Pre- and post-commit hooks are applied at the bucket level, using bucket types. They are run once per successful response to the client.

Both pre- and post-commit hooks are named Erlang functions.

Setting Commit Hooks Using Bucket Types

Because hooks are defined at the bucket level, you can create bucket types that associate one or more hooks with any bucket that bears that type. Let’s create a bucket type called with_post_commit that adds a post-commit hook to operations on any bucket that bears the with_post_commit type.

The format for specifying commit hooks is to identify the module (mod) and then the name of the function (fun) as a JavaScript object. The following specifies a commit hook called my_custom_hook in the module commit_hooks_module:

  "mod": "commit_hooks_module",
  "fun": "my_custom_hook"

When we create our with_post_commit bucket type, we add that object to either the precommit or postcommit list in the bucket type’s properties. Pre- and post-commit hooks are stored in lists named precommit and postcommit, respectively. Let’s add the hook we specified above to the postcommit property when we create our bucket type:

riak-admin bucket-type create with_post_commit \

Once our bucket type has been created, we must activate it so that it will be usable through our Riak cluster:

riak-admin bucket-type activate with_post_commit

If the response is with_post_commit has been activated, then the bucket type is ready for use.

Pre-Commit Hooks

Pre-commit hook Erlang functions should take a single argument, the Riak object being modified. Remember that deletes are also considered “writes,” and so pre-commit hooks will be fired when a delete occurs in the bucket as well. This means that hook functions will need to inspect the object for the X-Riak-Deleted metadata entry (more on this in our documentation on object deletion) to determine whether a delete is occurring.

Erlang pre-commit functions are allowed three possible return values:

  • A Riak object — This can either be the same object passed to the function or an updated version of the object. This allows hooks to modify the object before they are written.
  • fail — The atom fail will cause Riak to fail the write and send a 403 Forbidden error response (in the HTTP API) along with a generic error message about why the write was blocked.
  • {fail, Reason} — The tuple {fail, Reason} will cause the same behavior as in the case above, but with the addition of Reason used as the error text.

Errors that occur when processing Erlang pre-commit hooks will be reported in the sasl-error.log file with lines that start with problem invoking hook.

Object Size Example

This Erlang pre-commit hook will limit object values to 5 MB or smaller:

precommit_limit_size(Object) ->
  case erlang:byte_size(riak_object:get_value(Object)) of
    Size when Size > 5242880 -> {fail, "Object is larger than 5MB."};
    _ -> Object

The Erlang function precommit_limit_size takes the Riak object (Object) as its input and runs a pattern-matching operation on the object. If the erlang:byte_size function determines that the object’s size (determined by the riak_object:get_value function) is greater than 5,242,880 (5 MB in bytes), then the commit will return failure and the message Object size is larger than 5 MB. This will stop the write. If the object is not larger than 5 MB, Riak will return the object and allow the write to proceed.


The default value of the bucket type’s precommit property is an empty list, meaning that no pre-commit hooks are specified by default. Adding one or more pre-commit hook functions to this list, as documented above, will cause Riak to start evaluating those hook functions when bucket entries are created, updated, or deleted. Riak stops evaluating pre-commit hooks when a hook function fails the commit.

JSON Validation Example

Pre-commit hooks can be used in many ways in Riak. One such way to use pre-commmit hooks is to validate data before it is written to Riak. Below is an example that uses Javascript to validate a JSON object before it is written to Riak.

Below is a sample JSON object that will be evaluated by the hook:

  "user_info": {
    "name": "Mark Phillips",
    "age": "25"
  "session_info": {
    "id": 3254425,
    "items": [29, 37, 34]

The following hook will validate the JSON object:

validate(Object) ->
    throw:invalid_utf8 ->
      {fail, "Invalid JSON: Illegal UTF-8 character"};
    error:Error ->
      {fail, lists:flatten(io_lib:format("Invalid JSON: ~p",[Error]))}

Note: All pre-commit hook functions are executed for each create and update operation.

Post-Commit Hooks

Post-commit hooks are run after a write has completed successfully. More specifically, the hook function is called immediately before the calling process is notified of the successful write.

Hook functions must accept a single argument: the object instance just written. The return value of the function is ignored. As with pre-commit hooks, deletes are considered writes, so post-commit hook functions will need to inspect the object’s metadata for the presence of X-Riak-Deleted to determine whether a delete has occurred. As with pre-commit hooks, errors that occur when processing post-commit hooks will be reported in the sasl-error.log file with lines that start with problem invoking hook.


The following post-commit hook creates a secondary index on the email field of a JSON object:

postcommit_index_on_email(Object) ->
    %% Determine the target bucket name
    Bucket = erlang:iolist_to_binary([riak_object:bucket(Object),"_by_email"]),

    %% Decode the JSON body of the object
    {struct, Properties} = mochijson2:decode(riak_object:get_value(Object)),

    %% Extract the email field
    {<<"email">>,Key} = lists:keyfind(<<"email">>,1,Properties),

    %% Create a new object for the target bucket
    %% NOTE: This doesn't handle the case where the
    %%       index object already exists!
    IndexObj = riak_object:new(
        Bucket, Key, <<>>, %% no object contents
                    {<<"content-type">>, "text/plain"},
                                {riak_object:bucket(Object), riak_object:key(Object)},

    %% Get a riak client
    {ok, C} = riak:local_client(),

    %% Store the object


The default value of the bucket postcommit property is an empty list, meaning that no post-commit hooks are specified by default. Adding one or more post-commit hook functions to the list, as documented above, will cause Riak to start evaluating those hook functions immediately after data has been created, updated, or deleted. Each post-commit hook function runs in a separate process so it’s possible for several hook functions, triggered by the same update, to execute in parallel.

Note: All post-commit hook functions are executed for each create, update, or delete.