Incompatible changes in ArangoDB 3.8

It is recommended to check the following list of incompatible changes before upgrading to ArangoDB 3.8, and adjust any client programs if necessary.

The following incompatible changes have been made in ArangoDB 3.8:


The default value of the startup option --foxx.force-update-on-startup changes from true to false in ArangoDB 3.8. This option controls whether the startup procedure should synchronize all Foxx apps in all databases before making them available, or whether startup should proceed without ensuring all Foxx apps are in sync. In the latter case, the synchronization will happen eventually.

In ArangoDB 3.6 and 3.7, the option’s default value is true, meaning all Foxx apps in all databases will be synchronized on server startup. This can delay the startup procedure for installations with many databases, and is unnecessary in case no Foxx apps are used.

In ArangoDB 3.8 the default value for the option is false, meaning a server will complete the boot sequence faster, and the Foxx services will be synchronized in a background operation. Until that operation has completed, any requests to a Foxx app may be responded to with an HTTP 503 error and message

waiting for initialization of Foxx services in this database

This can cause an unavailability window for Foxx apps for the initial requests to Foxx apps.

This option only has an effect for cluster setups. On single servers and in active failover mode, all Foxx apps will always be initialized completely when the server starts up, and there will be no unavailability window.

Collection attributes

The collection properties indexBuckets, journalSize, doCompact and isVolatile only had a meaning for the MMFiles storage engine, which is not available anymore since ArangoDB 3.7.

ArangoDB 3.8 now removes any special handling for these obsolete collection properties, meaning these attributes will not be processed by the server and not be returned by any server APIs. Using these attributes in any API call will be ignored, and will not trigger any errors.

Client applications and tests that rely on the behavior that setting any of these obsolete properties produces an error on the server side may need to be adjusted now.

Startup options

Renamed options

The following startup options have been renamed in ArangoDB 3.8:

Old name New name
--javascript.startup-options-whitelist --javascript.startup-options-allowlist
--javascript.startup-options-blacklist --javascript.startup-options-denylist
--javascript.environment-variables-whitelist --javascript.environment-variables-allowlist
--javascript.environment-variables-blacklist --javascript.environment-variables-denylist
--javascript.endpoints-whitelist --javascript.endpoints-allowlist
--javascript.endpoints-blacklist --javascript.endpoints-denylist
--javascript.files-whitelist --javascript.files-allowlist

Using the old option names will still work in ArangoDB 3.8, but is discouraged.

Deprecated options

The following server startup options have been obsoleted in ArangoDB 3.8:

  • --database.throw-collection-not-loaded-error
  • --ttl.only-loaded-collection

These options were meaningful for the MMFiles storage engine only, but for the RocksDB storage engine they did not make any difference. Using these startup options is still possible, but will have no effect other than generating a warning at server startup.

The following arangosearch-related startup options are deprecated in ArangoDB 3.8:

  • --arangosearch.threads
  • --arangosearch.threads-limit

There are two new options for each of the deprecated options, now allowing to set the minimum and maximum number of threads for committing and consolidation separately. If either --arangosearch.commit-threads or --arangosearch.consolidation-threads is set, then both deprecated options are ignored. If only the legacy options are set, then they are used to calculate the thread count. See ArangoDB Server ArangoSearch Options.

Changed default values

System collections

The default value for the startup option --database.old-system-collections is changed from true to false in ArangoDB 3.8.

This means that by default the system collections _modules and _fishbowl will not be created anymore when a new database is created. These collections are useful only in very few cases, so it is normally not worth to create them in all databases.

Already existing _modules and _fishbowl system collections will not be modified by this default value change, even though they will likely be empty and unused.

The long-term side effects of this change will be:

  • there will be no iteration over all databases at server startup just to check the contents of all _modules collections.
  • less collections/shards will be around for deployments that create a large number of databases (and thus the default system collections).

Any functionality related to the _modules system collection is deprecated in ArangoDB 3.8 and will be removed in ArangoDB 3.9.


The default value for --foxx.force-update-on-startup changed from true in previous version to false in ArangoDB 3.8, also see Foxx above.


The value of the startup option --rocksdb.block-cache-size is limited to 1 GB for agent instances to reduce agency RAM usage, unless the option is explicitly configured otherwise.

In addition, the value of is limited to 512 MB on agent instances for the same reason, unless otherwise configuration.

No limitations apply for DB-Server instances or single servers.


The default value for the number of network I/O threads was changed to 2 in ArangoDB 3.8, up from a value of 1 in previous version.

Stream Transactions

The idle timeout for Stream Transactions was raised from 10 seconds to 60 seconds in ArangoDB 3.8. The default value can be adjusted via the new startup option --transaction.streaming-idle-timeout. The maximum value is 120 seconds.

Stream Transactions will automatically time out after the configured idle period if no further operations are posted into them. Posting an operation into a non-expired Stream Transaction will reset the transaction’s timeout to the configured idle timeout.

Previous versions of ArangoDB had a hard-coded idle timeout for Stream Transactions which could not be adjusted.

File descriptors

The default value for --server.descriptors-minimum changed from 0 in previous versions to 8192 in ArangoDB 3.8. This change means that on Linux and macOS, the system limits need to allow the arangod process to use at least 8192 file descriptors. If less file descriptors are available to the arangod process, then the startup process of the arangod server is automatically aborted.

Even the chosen minimum value of 8192 will often not be high enough to store considerable amounts of data. However, no higher value was chosen in order to not make too many existing installations fail after upgrading.

The required number of file descriptors can be configured using the startup option --server.descriptors-minimum. It now defaults to 8192, but it can be increased to ensure that arangod can make use of a sufficiently high number of files.

Setting --server.descriptors-minimum to a value of 0 will make the startup require only an absolute minimum limit of 1024 file descriptors, effectively disabling the change. Such low values should only be used to bypass the file descriptors check in case of an emergency, but this is not recommended for production.


The default value of the startup option --server.unavailability-queue-fill-grade has been changed from value 1 in previous versions to a value of 0.75 in ArangoDB 3.8.

This change has a consequence for the /_admin/server/availability REST API only, which is often called by load-balancers and other availability probing systems.

The /_admin/server/availability API will return HTTP 200 if the fill grade of the scheduler’s queue is below the configured value, or HTTP 503 if the fill grade is above it. This can be used to flag a server as unavailable in case it is already highly loaded.

The default value change for this option will lead to server’s reporting their unavailability earlier than previous versions of ArangoDB. With only the default values used, ArangoDB versions prior to 3.8 reported unavailability only if the queue was completely full, which means 4096 pending requests in the queue. ArangoDB 3.8 will report as unavailable if the queue is 75% full, i.e when 3072 or more jobs are queued in the scheduler.

Although this is a behavior change, 75% is still a high watermark and should not cause unavailability false-positives. However, to restore the pre-3.8 behavior, it is possible to set the value of this option to 1. The value can even be set to 0 to disable using the scheduler’s queue fill grade as an (un)availability indicator.

AQL query memory usage

Per-query memory limit

ArangoDB 3.8 introduces a default per-query memory limit to prevent rogue AQL queries from consuming the entire memory available to an arangod instance.

The per-query memory limit is introduced via changing the default value of the startup option --query.memory-limit from previously 0 (meaning: no limit) to a dynamically calculated value. The per-query memory limit defaults are now:

Available memory:            0      (0MiB)  Limit:            0   unlimited, %mem:  n/a
Available memory:    134217728    (128MiB)  Limit:     33554432     (32MiB), %mem: 25.0
Available memory:    268435456    (256MiB)  Limit:     67108864     (64MiB), %mem: 25.0
Available memory:    536870912    (512MiB)  Limit:    201326592    (192MiB), %mem: 37.5
Available memory:    805306368    (768MiB)  Limit:    402653184    (384MiB), %mem: 50.0
Available memory:   1073741824   (1024MiB)  Limit:    603979776    (576MiB), %mem: 56.2
Available memory:   2147483648   (2048MiB)  Limit:   1288490189   (1228MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory:   4294967296   (4096MiB)  Limit:   2576980377   (2457MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory:   8589934592   (8192MiB)  Limit:   5153960755   (4915MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory:  17179869184  (16384MiB)  Limit:  10307921511   (9830MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory:  25769803776  (24576MiB)  Limit:  15461882265  (14745MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory:  34359738368  (32768MiB)  Limit:  20615843021  (19660MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory:  42949672960  (40960MiB)  Limit:  25769803776  (24576MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory:  68719476736  (65536MiB)  Limit:  41231686041  (39321MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory: 103079215104  (98304MiB)  Limit:  61847529063  (58982MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory: 137438953472 (131072MiB)  Limit:  82463372083  (78643MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory: 274877906944 (262144MiB)  Limit: 164926744167 (157286MiB), %mem: 60.0
Available memory: 549755813888 (524288MiB)  Limit: 329853488333 (314572MiB), %mem: 60.0

As before, a memory limit value of 0 means no per-query limitation. The limit values are per AQL query, so they may still be too high in case queries run in parallel. The defaults are intentionally high in order to not stop too many existing and valid queries from working that use a lot of memory.

Using a per-query memory limit by default is a downwards-incompatible change in ArangoDB 3.8 and may make queries fail if they use a lot of memory. If this happens, it may be useful to increase the value of --query.memory-limit or even set it to 0 (meaning no limitation). There is a metric arangodb_aql_local_query_memory_limit_reached that can be used to check how many times queries reached the per-query memory limit.

Global memory limit

ArangoDB 3.8 also introduces a global memory limit for all AQL queries that limits the total amount of memory that can be used by concurrently running queries. Such global memory limit did not exist in previous versions of ArangoDB.

The global query memory limit can be controlled via the new startup option, which has a default value that depends on the amount of available RAM:

Available memory:            0      (0MiB)  Limit:            0   unlimited, %mem:  n/a
Available memory:    134217728    (128MiB)  Limit:     33554432     (32MiB), %mem: 25.0
Available memory:    268435456    (256MiB)  Limit:     67108864     (64MiB), %mem: 25.0
Available memory:    536870912    (512MiB)  Limit:    255013683    (243MiB), %mem: 47.5
Available memory:    805306368    (768MiB)  Limit:    510027366    (486MiB), %mem: 63.3
Available memory:   1073741824   (1024MiB)  Limit:    765041049    (729MiB), %mem: 71.2
Available memory:   2147483648   (2048MiB)  Limit:   1785095782   (1702MiB), %mem: 83.1
Available memory:   4294967296   (4096MiB)  Limit:   3825205248   (3648MiB), %mem: 89.0
Available memory:   8589934592   (8192MiB)  Limit:   7752415969   (7393MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory:  17179869184  (16384MiB)  Limit:  15504831938  (14786MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory:  25769803776  (24576MiB)  Limit:  23257247908  (22179MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory:  34359738368  (32768MiB)  Limit:  31009663877  (29573MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory:  42949672960  (40960MiB)  Limit:  38762079846  (36966MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory:  68719476736  (65536MiB)  Limit:  62019327755  (59146MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory: 103079215104  (98304MiB)  Limit:  93028991631  (88719MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory: 137438953472 (131072MiB)  Limit: 124038655509 (118292MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory: 274877906944 (262144MiB)  Limit: 248077311017 (236584MiB), %mem: 90.2
Available memory: 549755813888 (524288MiB)  Limit: 496154622034 (473169MiB), %mem: 90.2

Using a global memory limit for all queries by default is a downwards-incompatible change in ArangoDB 3.8 and may make queries fail if they use a lot of memory. If this happens, it may be useful to increase the value of or even set it to 0 (meaning no limitation). There is a metric arangodb_aql_global_query_memory_limit_reached that can be used to check how many times queries reached the global memory limit.

Memory usage granularity

In ArangoDB 3.8, the per-query memory and global query memory tracking have a granularity of 32 KB chunks. That means checking for memory limits such as “1” (e.g. for testing) may not make a query fail if the total memory allocations in the query will not exceed 32 KB. The effective lowest memory limit value that can be enforced is thus 32 KB. Memory limit values higher than 32 KB will be checked whenever the total memory allocations cross a 32 KB boundary.

The peak memory usage reported for AQL queries will also only return full multiples of 32 KB in ArangoDB 3.8, whereas in previous versions it may have reported values with higher granularity.

Audit Logging (Enterprise Edition)

The Enterprise Edition’s audit log feature now honors the configured date/time output format. Previously, the audit logging always logged date/time values in the server’s local time in the format YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS.

From 3.8 onwards, the audit logging will honor the date/time format specified via the --log.time-format startup option, which defaults to utc-datestring. That means the audit logging will log all dates/times in UTC time by default.

To restore the pre-3.8 format, please set the option --log.time-format to local-datestring, which will make the audit logger (and all other server log messages) use the server’s local time.


Www-Authenticate response header

ArangoDB 3.8 adds back the Www-Authenticate response header for HTTP server responses with a status code of 401. Returning the Www-Authenticate header for 401 responses is required by the HTTP/1.1 specification and was also advertised functionality in the ArangoDB documentation, but wasn’t happening in practice.

Now the functionality of returning Www-Authenticate response headers for HTTP 401 responses is restored, along with the already advertised functionality of suppressing this header in case the client sends an X-Omit-Www-Authenticate header with the request.

This change should not have any impact for client applications that use ArangoDB as a database only. It may have an effect for Foxx applications that use HTTP 401 status code responses and that will now see this extra header getting returned.

Endpoint return value changes

  • The endpoint /_api/replication/clusterInventory returns, among other things, an array of the existing collections. Each collection has a planVersion attribute, which in ArangoDB 3.8 is now hard-coded to the value of 1.

    Before 3.7, the most recent Plan version from the agency was returned inside planVersion for each collection. In 3.7, the attribute contained the Plan version that was in use when the in-memory LogicalCollection object was last constructed. The object was always reconstructed in case the underlying Plan data for the collection changed, or when a collection contained links to ArangoSearch Views. This made the attribute relatively useless for any real-world use cases, and so we are now hard-coding it to simplify the internal code. Using the attribute in client applications is also deprecated, because it will be removed from the API’s return value in future versions of ArangoDB.

  • The endpoint /_admin/metrics for server metrics is unchanged but is declared obsolete from 3.8 on. This is, because we have moved to a new endpoint /_admin/metrics/v2, which is more in line with Prometheus conventions. See Features and Improvements in 3.8.

    The migration from 3.7 to 3.8 is straightforward: You can keep your old metrics collection in Prometheus using the old endpoint and thus have continuous collection of metrics and simply keep your old dashboards for a while after the upgrade. However, you should then add metrics collections from the new endpoint /_admin/metrics/v2 and use the new dashboards we deliver for 3.8. The new dashboards know all the new names and the new, corrected format of the output. Over time, you can then retire your old metrics collection process and dashboards.

Optional lockdown of /_admin/cluster REST API

ArangoDB 3.8 provides a new startup option --cluster.api-jwt-policy that allows additional checking for valid JWTs in all requests to sub-routes of the /_admin/cluster REST API endpoint. This is a security option to restrict access to these cluster APIs to operator tools and privileged users.

The possible values for the startup option are:

  • jwt-all: requires a valid JWT for all accesses to /_admin/cluster and its sub-routes. If this configuration is used, the CLUSTER and NODES sections of the web interface will be disabled, as they are relying on the ability to read data from several cluster APIs.
  • jwt-write: requires a valid JWT for write accesses (all HTTP methods except HTTP GET) to /_admin/cluster. This setting can be used to allow privileged users to read data from the cluster APIs, but not to do any modifications. All existing permissions checks for the cluster API routes are still in effect with this setting, meaning that read operations without a valid JWT may still require dedicated other permissions (as in v3.7).
  • jwt-compat: no additional access checks are in place for the cluster APIs. However, all existing permissions checks for the cluster API routes are still in effect with this setting, meaning that all operations may still require dedicated other permissions (as in v3.7).

The default value for the option is jwt-compat, which means this option will not cause any extra JWT checks compared to v3.7.

If this option is changed to either jwt-all or jwt-write, non-conforming requests without valid JWTs will be responded with HTTP 403 (Forbidden) errors. This can have impact on custom tooling and monitoring etc.


Graph traversal option bfs deprecated

The graph traversal option bfs is now deprecated and superseded by the new option order.

The preferred way to start a breadth-first search from now on is with order: "bfs". The default remains depth-first search if no order is specified, but can also be explicitly requested with order: "dfs".

New WINDOW keyword

A new keyword WINDOW was added to AQL in ArangoDB 3.8. Any existing AQL queries that use WINDOW (in any capitalization) as a variable name, collection or View name or refer to an attribute named WINDOW will likely run into parse errors when upgrading to ArangoDB 3.8.

When a query is affect, the fix is to put the name WINDOW into backticks inside the query, in the same way as when using other reserved keywords as identifiers/names in AQL queries.

For example, the query:

FOR status IN Window

… will need to be adjusted to:

FOR status IN `Window`


The AQL optimizer rule splice-subqueries was introduced in ArangoDB 3.6 to optimize most subqueries, and it was extended in 3.7 to work with all types of subqueries. It was always turned on by default, but it still could be deactivated manually using a startup option (--query.optimizer-rules) or for individual queries via the optimizer.rules query option.

In ArangoDB 3.8, the optimizer rule splice-subqueries is now required for subquery execution, and cannot be turned off. Trying to disable it via the mentioned startup option or query option has no effect, as the optimizer rule will always run for queries containing subqueries.

UPDATE queries with keepNull: false

AQL update queries using the keepNull option set to false had an inconsistent behavior in previous versions of ArangoDB.

For example, given a collection test with an empty document with just key testDoc, the following query would return different results when running for the first time and the second time:

UPDATE 'testDoc'
WITH { test: { sub1: true, sub2: null } } IN test
OPTIONS { keepNull: false, mergeObjects: true }

On its first run, the query would return:

  "_key": "testDoc",
  "test": {
    "sub1": true,
    "sub2": null

(with the null attribute value not being removed). For all subsequent runs, the same query would return:

  "_key": "testDoc",
  "test": {
    "sub1": true,

(with the null value removed as requested).

This inconsistency was due to how the keepNull attribute was handled if the attribute already existed in the to-be-updated document or not. The behavior is now consistent, so null values are now properly removed from sub-attributes even if in the to-be-updated document the target attribute did not yet exist. This makes such updates idempotent again.

This a behavior change compared previous versions, but it will only have effect when keepNull is set to false (the default value is true), and only when just-inserted object sub-attributes contained null values.


The HTTP and JavaScript APIs for controlling Pregel jobs now also accept stringified execution number values, in addition to numeric ones.

This allows passing larger execution numbers as strings, so that any data loss due to numeric data type conversion (uint32 => double) can be avoided. This change is downwards-compatible.

However, the HTTP and JavaScript APIs for starting Pregel runs now also return a stringified execution number, e.g. “12345” instead of 12345. This is not downwards-compatible, so all client applications that depend on the return value being a numeric value need to be adjusted to handle a string return value and convert that string into a number.

Document operations

Update operations with keepNull: false

Non-AQL document update operations using the keepNull option set to false had an inconsistent behavior in previous versions of ArangoDB.

For example, given a collection test with an empty document with just key testDoc, the following operation would produce different documents when running for the first time and the second time:

db.test.update("testDoc", { test: { sub1: true, sub2: null } }, { keepNull: false });

Also see AQL UPDATE queries with keepNull: false

Client tools


The default value for arangoimport’s --batch-size option was raised from 1 MB to 8 MB. This means that arangoimport can send larger batches containing more documents.

arangoimport also has a rate limiting feature, which was turned on by default previously. This rate limiting feature limited the import rate to 1 MB per second, which is probably too low for most use cases. In ArangoDB 3.8, the rate limiting for arangoimport is now turned off by default, but can be enabled on demand using the new --auto-rate-limit option. When enabled, it will start sending batches with up to --batch-size bytes, and then adapt the loading rate dynamically.


arangodump can now dump multiple shards of cluster collections in parallel. While this normally helps with dump performance, it may lead to more arangodump issuing more concurrent requests to a cluster than it did before.

Previously, arangodump’s --threads option controlled how many collections were dumped concurrently, at most. As arangodump can now dump the shards of collections in parallel, --threads now controls the maximum amount of shards that are dumped concurrently.

If arangodump now causes too much load on a cluster with a high degree of parallelism, it is possible to reduce it by decreasing arangodump’s --threads value. The value of --threads will the determine the maximum parallelism used by arangodump.