Hello. Thank you for visiting.

This page is an additional resources page related to a presentation given Wed. May 18, 2022 at RailsConf 2022 in Portland, OR.

Below are some additional resources and experiments that I developed while working on the content for the talk.

This page isn’t organized well but roughly falls into the 5 major categories in the presentation.

RailsConf PostgreSQL Prep And Background

  • 6 past RailsConf PostgreSQL talks
    • Phoenix (2017) #1
    • Pittsburgh (2018) (1) #2
    • Minneapolis (2019) (4) #3
    • #4, #5, #6
  • PostgreSQL is a general purpose database for a variety of workloads. We care about 🕸️ web applications workloads (online transaction processing, OLTP).
  • 5 Use Cases were selected related to Scaling and Performance

Resources for “Migrations On Busy Databases”

Example: Slow DDL changes with a volatile default

create database if not exists pup_tracker_production;

-- create pups
create table pups (id bigserial, name varchar);

-- create locations
create table locations (
  id bigserial primary key, -- or omit `primary key` to create without PK index
  latitude NUMERIC(14, 11),
  longitude NUMERIC(14, 11)

-- generate 1 million pups
-- around 3s
INSERT INTO pups (name) select substr(md5(random()::text), 0, 6) from generate_series(1,1000000);

-- generate 10 million locations
-- around 38s, or 1m 10s with a primary key
INSERT INTO locations (latitude, longitude) SELECT
  (random() * (52.477040512464626 - 52.077090052913654)) + 52.077090052913654 AS lat,
  (random() * (52.477040512464626 - 52.077090052913654)) + 52.077090052913654 AS lng
FROM generate_series(1,10000000);

-- add column with default value
-- 5ms with default, 2ms without, non-volatile value
-- repeated runs the difference is too small to notice
alter table locations add column city_id integer default SELECT floor(random()*25);

-- DDL to add column but with a "volatile" value, a random integer between 0 and 25
-- takes around 25s! This would be bad if the table is locked with `ACCESS EXCLUSIVE` in this time period
alter table locations add column city_id integer default floor(random()*25);

Example demonstrating locks and blocking

  • Transaction never conflicts with itself
  • We can create a made-up example that opens a transaction and creates a lock in one session, then tries an alter table in a second session

Using the rideshare database and trips table

-- first psql session
anatki@[local]:5432 rideshare_development# begin;
Time: 0.129 ms

anatki@[local]:5432* rideshare_development# lock trips in access exclusive mode;
Time: 0.103 ms

# select mode, pg_class.relname, locktype, relation from pg_locks join pg_class ON pg_locks.relation = pg_class.oid AND pg_locks.mode = 'AccessExclusiveLock';
-[ RECORD 1 ]-----------------
mode     | AccessExclusiveLock
relname  | trips
locktype | relation
relation | 461492

--- in second psql session, attempt to migrate the database with an alter table
alter table trips add column city_id integer default 1;

-- now we can look at lock activity and see that it is blocked
# select wait_event_type,wait_event,query from pg_stat_activity where wait_event = 'relation' AND query like '%alter table%';
-[ RECORD 1 ]---+--------------------------------------------------------
wait_event_type | Lock
wait_event      | relation
query           | alter table trips add column city_id integer default 1;

-- lock timeout is 0 which means it is disabled
show lock_timeout;

If lock timeout is disabled entirely, setting it will set an upper bound on how long the alter table transaction is in a blocked state.

We can see that the lock timeout is the reason that the transaction is canceled.

anatki@[local]:5432 rideshare_development# begin;
Time: 0.085 ms
anatki@[local]:5432* rideshare_development# SET LOCAL lock_timeout = '5s';
Time: 0.078 ms
anatki@[local]:5432* rideshare_development# alter table trips add column city_id integer;
ERROR:  canceling statement due to lock timeout
Time: 5001.250 ms (00:05.001)


  • Set a lock timeout
  • Set it high enough to allow some waiting, but not so long that transactions are blocked for a long time
  • If lock timeout is exceeded, likely need to try again at a less busy time
  • A long running statement may be canceled by the statement timeout. Consider raising statement timeout just for the migration session.

Definition for “Table rewrites” which are time consuming, and triggered by some DDLs

Definition for table rewrites: Something like “A table rewrite is a behind-the-scenes copy of the table with a new structure, and all row data copied from the old structure to the new structure”

Via lukasfittl I think thats correct - I was trying to confirm whether alter table commands that require a rewrite actually make a full copy (as indicated by the documentation), and it does appear so, see here in the source: https://github.com/postgres/postgres/blob/master/src/backend/commands/tablecmds.c#L5506

Resources for Exhausting Database Connections

  • How many have been idle for a long time?
  • Assessing connection usage for application servers and background processes
  • High Connections in PgHero. show max_connections;

Notes on Forking the main PostgreSQL process

  • Postmaster is first process. Additional background processes are started: BG writer, Autovacuum launcher, Check pointer etc. See full list here
  • Memory used by connections
    • PostgreSQL uses shared memory and process memory

Database Connections Resources

Discussion of prepared statements

Simple example, select a row by primary key id.

prepare loc (int) as select * from locations where id = $1;
execute loc(1);

While providing a minimal boost in performance, this functionality also makes an application less vulnerable to SQL injection attacks.

Active Record automatically turns your queries into prepared statements by default

bundle exec rails console

>> Location.find(1)
  Location Load (1.2ms)  SELECT "locations".* FROM "locations" WHERE "locations"."id" = $1 LIMIT $2  [["id", 1], ["LIMIT", 1]]

Explore the prepared statement cache:

ActiveRecord::Base.connection.execute('select * from pg_prepared_statements').values

By default Rails will generate up to 1,000 prepared statements per connection

Uses memory.

Connection Pooling Example: PgBouncer

Default port is 6432 or 1000 higher than default PostgreSQL port 5432

On Mac OS install with brew install pgbouncer

PgBouncer config: pgbouncer.ini

  • brew services restart pgbouncer
  • brew services info pgbouncer

Or run manually:

/usr/local/opt/pgbouncer/bin/pgbouncer -q /usr/local/etc/pgbouncer.ini

Existing DB connection: psql "postgresql://andy:@localhost:5432/pup_tracker_production"

-- Make a test app user

PgBouncer Quick Start

Set up app_user as an admin for simplicity

 listen_port = 6432
 listen_addr = localhost
 auth_type = md5
 auth_file = /usr/local/etc/userlist.txt
 logfile = pgbouncer.log
 pidfile = pgbouncer.pid
 admin_users = app_user

Now we can connect using psql via pgbouncer:

psql "postgresql://app_user:jw8s0F4@localhost:6432/pup_tracker_production"

View some information:

psql -p 6432 -U app_user -W pgbouncer (Use password from above)

PgBouncer Cheat Sheet

Online restart (without disconnecting clients)

pgbouncer -R or send a SIGHUP signal


  • show clients
  • show databases, review the pool_size, pool_mode etc.

  • Pool modes (most aggressive and least compatible, to least aggressive, most compatible)

Specifies when a server connection can be reused by other clients.

  • session: Server is released back to pool after client disconnects. Default.
  • transaction: Server is released back to pool after transaction finishes.
  • statement: Server is released back to pool after query finishes. Transactions spanning multiple statements are disallowed in this mode.

Cannot use transaction pooling mode while also using prepared statements, which are enabled by default in Rails.

Limited to session mode. Alternately, disable prepared statements and then transaction mode may be used.

Discussion points on High Performance SQL Queries

Using PgHero: open source PostgreSQL Performance Dashboard

  • Statistics about database size, table size, index size
  • Work on high impact queries via statistics with pg_stat_statements
  • High connections
  • Foreign key constraints marked NOT VALID (still enforced for new inserts or updates)
  • Parameter values

PgHero Customizations

  • Index Bloat Estimated Percentage (hidden index bloat page)
  • Scheduled Jobs via pg_cron

Discussing High Impact Database Maintenance

It might be worthwhile to reindex periodically just to improve access speed.

andy@[local]:5432 rideshare_development# reindex index trips_intermediate_rating_idx;
Time: 13.556 ms
andy@[local]:5432 rideshare_development# reindex index concurrently trips_intermediate_rating_idx;
Time: 50.108 ms

Using PostgreSQL native Replication and Partitioning

Using Multiple Databases with Replication for Rails Apps

Partitioning Example With Range Partitioning

SET enable_partition_pruning = on;                 -- the default
SHOW constraint_exclusion;
SET constraint_exclusion = partition; -- the default, or "on"
  • Constraint Exclusion

Partitioning Resources