The Memory storage backend uses in-memory tables to store all data. This data is never persisted to disk or to any other storage mechanism. The Memory storage engine is best used for testing Riak clusters or for storing small amounts of transient state in production systems.

Internally, the Memory backend uses Erlang Ets tables to manage data. More information can be found in the official Erlang documentation.

Enabling the Memory Backend

To enable the memory backend, edit your configuration files for each Riak node and specify the Memory backend as shown in the following example:

storage_backend = memory
{riak_kv, [
    {storage_backend, riak_kv_memory_backend},

Note: If you replace the existing specified backend by removing it or commenting it out as shown in the above example, data belonging to the previously specified backend will still be preserved on the filesystem but will no longer be accessible through Riak unless the backend is enabled again.

If you require multiple backends in your configuration, please consult the Multi backend documentation.

Configuring the Memory Backend

The Memory backend enables you to configure two fundamental aspects of object storage: maximum memory usage per vnode and object expiry.

Max Memory

This setting specifies the maximum amount of memory consumed by the Memory backend. It’s important to note that this setting acts on a per-vnode basis, not on a per-node or per-cluster basis. This should be taken into account when planning for memory usage with the Memory backend, as the total memory used will be max memory times the number of vnodes in the cluster.

When the threshold value that you set has been met in a particular vnode, Riak will begin discarding objects, beginning with the oldest object and proceeding until memory usage returns below the allowable threshold.

You can configure maximum memory using the memory_backend.max_memory_per_vnode setting. You can specify max_memory_per_vnode however you’d like, using kilobytes, megabytes, or even gigabytes.

The following are all possible settings:

memory_backend.max_memory_per_vnode = 500KB
memory_backend.max_memory_per_vnode = 10MB
memory_backend.max_memory_per_vnode = 2GB
%% In the app.config-based system, the equivalent setting is max_memory,
%% which must be expressed in megabytes:

{riak_kv, [
    %% storage_backend specifies the Erlang module defining the storage
    %% mechanism that will be used on this node.

    {storage_backend, riak_kv_memory_backend},
    {memory_backend, [
            {max_memory, 4096}, %% 4GB in megabytes

To determine an optimal max memory setting, we recommend consulting the documentation on LevelDB cache size.


The time-to-live (TTL) parameter specifies the amount of time an object remains in memory before it expires. The minimum time is one second.

In the newer, riak.conf-based configuration system, you can specify ttl in seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. The following are all possible settings:

memory_backend.ttl = 1s
memory_backend.ttl = 10m
memory_backend.ttl = 3h
%% In the app.config-based system, the ttl setting must be expressed in
%% seconds:

{memory_backend, [
    %% other settings
        {ttl, 86400}, %% Set to 1 day
    %% other settings

Dynamically Changing ttl

There is currently no way to dynamically change the ttl setting for a bucket or bucket type. The current workaround would be to define multiple Memory backends using the Multi backend, each with different ttl values. For more information, consult the documentation on the Multi backend.