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Chapter 10. Monitoring Database Activity

A database administrator frequently wonders "what is the system doing right now?" This chapter discusses how to find that out.

Several tools are available for monitoring database activity and analyzing performance. Most of this chapter is devoted to describing PostgreSQL's statistics collector, but one should not neglect regular Unix monitoring programs such as ps and top. Also, once one has identified a poorly-performing query, further investigation may be needed using PostgreSQL's EXPLAIN command. The User's Guide discusses EXPLAIN and other methods for understanding the behavior of an individual query.

10.1. Standard Unix Tools

On most platforms, PostgreSQL modifies its command title as reported by ps, so that individual server processes can readily be identified. A sample display is

$ ps auxww | grep ^postgres
postgres   960  0.0  1.1  6104 1480 pts/1    SN   13:17   0:00 postmaster -i
postgres   963  0.0  1.1  7084 1472 pts/1    SN   13:17   0:00 postgres: stats buffer process   
postgres   965  0.0  1.1  6152 1512 pts/1    SN   13:17   0:00 postgres: stats collector process   
postgres   998  0.0  2.3  6532 2992 pts/1    SN   13:18   0:00 postgres: tgl runbug 127.0.0.1 idle
postgres  1003  0.0  2.4  6532 3128 pts/1    SN   13:19   0:00 postgres: tgl regression [local] SELECT waiting
postgres  1016  0.1  2.4  6532 3080 pts/1    SN   13:19   0:00 postgres: tgl regression [local] idle in transaction

(The appropriate invocation of ps varies across different platforms, as do the details of what is shown. This example is from a recent Linux system.) The first process listed here is the postmaster, the master server process. The command arguments shown for it are the same ones given when it was launched. The next two processes implement the statistics collector, which will be described in detail in the next section. (These will not be present if you have set the system not to start the statistics collector.) Each of the remaining processes is a server process handling one client connection. Each such process sets its command line display in the form

postgres: user database host activity

The user, database, and connection source host items remain the same for the life of the client connection, but the activity indicator changes. The activity may be idle (ie, waiting for a client command), idle in transaction (waiting for client inside a BEGIN block), or a command type name such as SELECT. Also, waiting is attached if the server is presently waiting on a lock held by another server process. In the above example we can infer that process 1003 is waiting for process 1016 to complete its transaction and thereby release some lock or other.

Tip: Solaris requires special handling. You must use /usr/ucb/ps, rather than /bin/ps. You also must use two w flags, not just one. In addition, your original invocation of the postmaster must have a shorter ps status display than that provided by each backend. If you fail to do all three things, the ps output for each backend will be the original postmaster command line.

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