|PostgreSQL 8.2.23 Documentation|
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The PL/pgSQL call handler parses the function's source text and produces an internal binary instruction tree the first time the function is called (within each session). The instruction tree fully translates the PL/pgSQL statement structure, but individual SQL expressions and SQL commands used in the function are not translated immediately.
As each expression and SQL
command is first used in the function, the PL/pgSQL interpreter creates a prepared
execution plan (using the SPI
SPI_saveplan functions). Subsequent visits to that
expression or command reuse the prepared plan. Thus, a function
with conditional code that contains many statements for which
execution plans might be required will only prepare and save
those plans that are really used during the lifetime of the
database connection. This can substantially reduce the total
amount of time required to parse and generate execution plans for
the statements in a PL/pgSQL
function. A disadvantage is that errors in a specific expression
or command may not be detected until that part of the function is
reached in execution.
Once PL/pgSQL has made an execution plan for a particular command in a function, it will reuse that plan for the life of the database connection. This is usually a win for performance, but it can cause some problems if you dynamically alter your database schema. For example:
CREATE FUNCTION populate() RETURNS integer AS $$ DECLARE -- declarations BEGIN PERFORM my_function(); END; $$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;
If you execute the above function, it will reference the OID
my_function() in the execution
plan produced for the PERFORM statement.
Later, if you drop and recreate
populate() will not be able to find
my_function() anymore. You would
then have to recreate
or at least start a new database session so that it will be
compiled afresh. Another way to avoid this problem is to use
CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION when updating
the definition of
a function is "replaced", its OID is
Because PL/pgSQL saves execution plans in this way, SQL commands that appear directly in a PL/pgSQL function must refer to the same tables and columns on every execution; that is, you cannot use a parameter as the name of a table or column in an SQL command. To get around this restriction, you can construct dynamic commands using the PL/pgSQL EXECUTE statement — at the price of constructing a new execution plan on every execution.
Note: The PL/pgSQL EXECUTE statement is not related to the EXECUTE SQL statement supported by the PostgreSQL server. The server's EXECUTE statement cannot be used within PL/pgSQL functions (and is not needed).
SQL is the language PostgreSQL and most other relational databases use as query language. It's portable and easy to learn. But every SQL statement must be executed individually by the database server.
That means that your client application must send each query to the database server, wait for it to be processed, receive and process the results, do some computation, then send further queries to the server. All this incurs interprocess communication and will also incur network overhead if your client is on a different machine than the database server.
With PL/pgSQL you can group a block of computation and a series of queries inside the database server, thus having the power of a procedural language and the ease of use of SQL, but with considerable savings because you don't have the whole client/server communication overhead.
Elimination of additional round trips between client and server
Intermediate results that the client does not need do not need to be marshaled or transferred between server and client
There is no need for additional rounds of query parsing
This can allow for a considerable performance increase as compared to an application that does not use stored functions.
Also, with PL/pgSQL you can use all the data types, operators and functions of SQL.
Functions written in PL/pgSQL can accept as arguments any scalar or array data type supported by the server, and they can return a result of any of these types. They can also accept or return any composite type (row type) specified by name. It is also possible to declare a PL/pgSQL function as returning record, which means that the result is a row type whose columns are determined by specification in the calling query, as discussed in Section 18.104.22.168.
PL/pgSQL functions may also be declared to accept and return the polymorphic types anyelement and anyarray. The actual data types handled by a polymorphic function can vary from call to call, as discussed in Section 33.2.5. An example is shown in Section 37.4.1.
PL/pgSQL functions can also be declared to return a "set", or table, of any data type they can return a single instance of. Such a function generates its output by executing RETURN NEXT for each desired element of the result set.
Finally, a PL/pgSQL function may be declared to return void if it has no useful return value.
PL/pgSQL functions can also be declared with output parameters in place of an explicit specification of the return type. This does not add any fundamental capability to the language, but it is often convenient, especially for returning multiple values.