RFC 25: Fast Open

Authors: Frank Warmerdam
Contact: warmerdam@…
Status: Withdrawn (in favor of some specific improvements in #2957 - rfc may be renewed at a later date)


This document proposes a mechanism for application to indicate a desire for the fastest possible open of a raster file, even if a variety of metadata and supporting information may not be available. It is primarily intended to optimize applications working with catalogs containing many raster files.


An application can request fast open mode by setting the "GDAL_FAST_OPEN" configuration option to "YES" - the default is assumed to be no. When this option is set to YES selected drivers can operate differently so as to optimize the speed of opening a dataset. Acceleration options include:

  • Skip establishing a coordinate system - particularly helpful if it avoids an EPSG lookup.
  • Skip probing for supporting .aux.xml, world files and other files.

It is anticipated that fast open mode will be used primarily for fast raster display from datasets where required metadata is already provided by a catalog of some sort. Because of this it is essential that in fast open mode datasets will still accurately return a list of bands, their datatypes, and their overviews.

Thread Local Configuration Options

In multi-threaded applications use of a process-global configuration option - turned on just while calling GDALOpen() - may not be appropriate. In particular, it is hard to ensure that this configuration option won't affect GDALOpen()'s in other threads of the same process. This problem also affects other configuration options that. To resolve this problem it is intended to add a new function to set "thread local" configuration options.

  void CPLSetThreadLocalConfigOption( const char *pszKey, const char *pszValue );

This mechanism will be implemented using normal thread local data handling (CPLGetTLS(), etc).

It should be noted that CPLSetConfigOption() will continue to set configuration options to apply to all threads. CPLGetConfigOption() will first search thread local values, then process global values and then the environment.

Work Plan

For the time being the following changes will be made to drivers to accelerate them in fast open mode.

  • GDALOpenInfo will avoid loading a list of all files in a directory.
  • GTIFF driver will avoid collecting a coordinate systems.

This work will be completed in trunk in time for the GDAL 1.7.0 release by Frank Warmerdam.


There is no plan to do this immediately, but the GDAL VRT driver would be a good candidate to utilize this mechanism.

In theory, it would also be desirable for MapServer to utilize this mode for tileindexed rasters - except that MapServer depends on the geotransform coming from the underlying raster file rather than coming from the raster catalog. MapServer also assumes the color table, and nodata values will be available.

ArcGIS is also expected to utilize this feature.

Backward Compatibility Issues

There are no known backward compatability issues. However, there may be forward compatability issues if we are not precise and consistent from version to version on what supporting info is allowed to be omitted in fast open mode.


  • Tests would be added to the appropriate driver test scripts to test fast open mode - confirming that expected information is discarded, and kept.


  • Potentially desirable things like ignoring .aux.xml files are not possible as they are also sometimes the source of overview information.
  • Potentially discarding all metadata including color tables, nodata values, and geotransforms makes this mode not useful for applications like MapServer that don't keep such information in their catalog.
  • This RFC does not discuss a way of accelerating GDALOpen() by skipping unnecessary drivers, though that would also potentially help quite a bit.
Last modified 15 years ago Last modified on Apr 22, 2009, 4:44:01 PM
Note: See TracWiki for help on using the wiki.