PostgreSQL 11! Our First Take On The New Release

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PostgreSQL logoYou may be aware that the new major version of PostgreSQL has been released today. PostgreSQL 11 is going to be one of the most vibrant releases in recent times. It incorporates many features found in proprietary, industry-leading database systems, further qualifying PostgreSQL as a strong open source alternative.

Without further ado, let’s have a look at some killer features in this new release.

Just In Time (JIT) Compilation of SQL Statements

This is a cutting edge feature in PostgreSQL: SQL statements can get compiled into native code for execution. It’s well know how much Google V8 JIT revolutionized the JavaScript language. JIT in PostgreSQL 11 supports accelerating two important factors—expression evaluation and tuple deforming during query execution—and helps CPU bound queries perform faster. Hopefully this is a new era in the SQL world.

Parallel B-tree Index build

This could be the most sought after feature by DBAs, especially those migrating large databases from other database systems to PostgreSQL. Gone are the days when a lot of time was spent on building indexes during data migration. Index maintenance (rebuild) for very large tables can now make an effective use of multiple cores in the server by parallelizing the operation, taking considerably less time to complete.

Lightweight and super fast ALTER TABLE for NOT NULL column with DEFAULT values

In the process of continuous enhancement and adding new features, we see several application developments that involve schema changes to the database. Most such changes include adding new columns to a table. This can be a nightmare if a new column needs to be added to a large table with a default value and a NOT NULL constraint. This is because an ALTER statement can hold a write lock on the table for a long period. It can also involve excessive IO due to table rewrite. PostgreSQL 11 addresses this issue by ensuring that the column addition with a default value and a NOT NULL constraint avoids a table rewrite.  

Stored procedures with transaction control

PostgreSQL 11 includes stored procedures. What really existed in PostgreSQL so far was functions. The lack of native stored procedures in PostgreSQL made the database code for migrations from other databases complex. They often required extensive manual work from experts. Since stored procedures might include transaction blocks with BEGIN, COMMIT, and ROLLBACK, it was necessary to apply workarounds to meet this requirement in past PostgreSQL versions, but not anymore.

Load cache upon crash or restart – pg_prewarm

Memory is becoming cheaper and faster, year over year. The latest generation of servers is commonly available with several hundreds of GBs of RAM, making it easy to employ large caches (shared_buffers) in PostgreSQL. Until today, you might have used pg_prewarm to warm up the cache manually (or automatically at server start). PostgreSQL 11 now includes a background worker thread that will take care of that for you, recording the contents of the shared_buffers—in fact, the “address” of those—to a file autoprewarm.blocks. Upon crash recovery or normal server restart, two such threads work in the background, reloading those blocks into the cache.

Hash Partition

Until PostgreSQL 9.6 we used table inheritance for partitioning a table. PostgreSQL 10 came up with declarative partitioning, using two of the three most common partitioning methods: list and range. And now, PostgreSQL 11 has introduced the missing piece: hash partitioning.

Advanced partitioning features that were always on demand

There were a lot of new features committed to the partitioning space in PostgreSQL 11. It now allows us to attach an index to a given partition even though it won’t behave as a global index.

Also, row updates now automatically move rows to new partitions (if necessary) based on the updated fields. During query processing, the optimizer may now simply skip “unwanted” partitions from the execution plan, which greatly simplifies the work to be done. Previously, it had to convey all the partitions, even if the target data was to be found in just a subset of them.

We will discuss these new features in detail in a future blog post.

Tables can have default partitions

Until PostgreSQL 10, if a table did not have a default partition, PostgreSQL had to reject a row when the row being inserted did not satisfy any of the existing partitions definitions. That changes with the introduction of default partitions in PostgreSQL 11.

Parallel hash join

Most of the SQLs with equi-joins do hash joins in the background. There is a great opportunity to speed up performance if we can leverage the power of hardware by spinning off multiple parallel workers. PostgreSQL 11 now allows hash joins to be performed in parallel.

Write-Ahead Log (WAL) improvements

Historically, PostgreSQL had a default WAL segment of 16MB and we had to recompile PostgreSQL in order to operate with WAL segments of a different size. Now it is possible to change the WAL size during the initialization of the data directory (initdb) or while resetting WALs using pg_resetwal by means of the parameter –wal-segsize = <wal_segment_size>.

Add extensions to convert JSONB data to/from PL/Perl and PL/Python

Python as a programming language continues to gain popularity. It is always among the top 5 in the TIOBE Index. One of the greatest features of PostgreSQL is that you can write stored procedures and functions in most of the popular programming languages, including Python (with PL/Python). Now it is also possible to transform JSONB (Binary JSON) data type to/from PL/Python. This feature was later made available for PL/Perl too. It can be a great add-on for organizations using PostgreSQL as a document store.

Command line improvements in psql: autocomplete and quit/exit

psql has always been friendly to first time PostgreSQL users through the various options like autocomplete and shortcuts. There’s an exception though: users may find it difficult to understand how to effectively quit from psql, and often attempt to use non-existing quit and exit commands. Eventually, they find \q or ctrl + D, but not without frustrating themselves first. Fortunately, that shouldn’t happen anymore: among many recent fixes and improvements to psql is the addition of the intuitive quit and exit commands to safely leave this popular command line client.

Improved statistics

PostgreSQL 10 introduced the new statement CREATE STATISTICS to collect more statistics information about columns from tables. This has been further improved in PostgreSQL 11. Previously, while collecting optimizer statistics, most-common-values (MCV) were chosen based on their significance compared to all columns. But now, MCVs are chosen based on their significance compared to non-MCV values.

The new features of PostgreSQL 11 are not limited to the ones mentioned above. We will be looking further into most of them in future blog posts. We invite you to leave a comment below and let us know if there is any particular feature you would be interested in knowing more about.

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