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Researching the Performance Puzzle

Researching the Performance Puzzle

The PostgreSQL Performance Puzzle was, perhaps, too easy – it didn’t take long for someone to guess the correct answer!

But I didn’t see much discussion about why the difference or what was happening. My emphasis on the magnitude of the difference was a tip-off that there’s much more than meets the eye with this puzzle challenge – and one reason I published it is that I’d looked and I thought there were some very interesting things happening beneath the surface.

So let’s dig!

There are several layers. But – as with all SQL performance questions always – we begin simply with EXPLAIN.

[root@ip-172-31-36-129 ~]# sync; echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches
[root@ip-172-31-36-129 ~]# service postgresql-14 restart;
Redirecting to /bin/systemctl restart postgresql-14.service

pg-14.4 rw root@db1=# select 1;
...
The connection to the server was lost. Attempting reset: Succeeded.
SSL connection (protocol: TLSv1.2, cipher: ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384, bits: 256, compression: off)

pg-14.4 rw root@db1=# set track_io_timing=on;
SET
pg-14.4 rw root@db1=# set log_executor_stats=on;
SET
pg-14.4 rw root@db1=# set client_min_messages=log;
SET
pg-14.4 rw root@db1=# \timing on
Timing is on.

pg-14.4 rw root@db1=# explain (analyze,verbose,buffers,settings) select count(mydata) from test where mynumber1 < 500000;
LOG:  00000: EXECUTOR STATISTICS
DETAIL:  ! system usage stats:
!	0.107946 s user, 0.028062 s system, 0.202054 s elapsed
!	[0.113023 s user, 0.032292 s system total]
!	7728 kB max resident size
!	89984/0 [92376/360] filesystem blocks in/out
!	0/255 [1/1656] page faults/reclaims, 0 [0] swaps
!	0 [0] signals rcvd, 0/0 [0/0] messages rcvd/sent
!	197/0 [260/0] voluntary/involuntary context switches
LOCATION:  ShowUsage, postgres.c:4898
                                                                    QUERY PLAN
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Aggregate  (cost=20080.19..20080.20 rows=1 width=8) (actual time=190.273..190.278 rows=1 loops=1)
   Output: count(mydata)
   Buffers: shared hit=4 read=5533
   I/O Timings: read=82.114
   ->  Index Scan using test_mynumber1 on public.test  (cost=0.57..18803.24 rows=510781 width=18) (actual time=0.389..155.537 rows=499999 loops=1)
         Output: mydata, mynumber1, mynumber2
         Index Cond: (test.mynumber1 < 500000)
         Buffers: shared hit=4 read=5533
         I/O Timings: read=82.114
 Settings: effective_cache_size = '8GB', max_parallel_workers_per_gather = '0'
 Query Identifier: 970248584308223886
 Planning:
   Buffers: shared hit=58 read=29
   I/O Timings: read=9.996
 Planning Time: 10.529 ms
 Execution Time: 190.819 ms
(16 rows)

Time: 213.768 ms
pg-14.4 rw root@db1=#

That’s the EXPLAIN output for the first (ordered) column. It’s worth noting that even though the getrusage() data reported by log_executor_stats is gathered at a different level (by the operating system for the individual database PID), this data actually correlates very closely with the direct output of EXPLAIN ANALYZE on several dimensions:

  • Explain reports Execution Time: 190.819 ms and getrusage() reports 0.202054 s elapsed (very close)
  • Explain reports total I/O Timings: read=82.114 (subtracted from execution time, suggests 108.705 ms not doing I/O) and getrusage() reports 0.107946 s user (very close, suggesting we didn’t spend time off CPU for anything other than I/O)
  • Explain reports Buffers: shared ... read=5533 (database blocks are 8k and filesystem blocks are 512 bytes, so this suggests 88528 filesystem blocks) and getrusage() reports 89984/... filesystem blocks in/... (again very close)
  • Average latency of a PostgreSQL read request (based on EXPLAIN): 82.114 ms / 5533 blocks = 0.0148 ms

On a side note… this is one reason I appreciate that PostgreSQL uses a per-process model rather than the threaded model of MySQL. There are other advantages with the threaded model – but as far as I’m aware, operating systems don’t track resource usage data per thread.

Repeating the same steps with the second (random) column:

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