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Re: Per-database and per-user GUC settings

From: Tom Lane <tgl(at)sss(dot)pgh(dot)pa(dot)us>
To: Peter Eisentraut <peter_e(at)gmx(dot)net>
Cc: PostgreSQL Development <pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: Re: Per-database and per-user GUC settings
Date: 2002-01-31 15:45:38
Message-ID: (view raw or whole thread)
Lists: pgsql-hackers
I've thought of some issues that I think will need to be addressed
before per-database/per-user GUC settings can become useful.

One thing that's bothered me for awhile is that GUC doesn't retain
any memory of how a variable acquired its present value.  It tries to
resolve conflicts between different sources of values just by processing
the sources in "the right order".  However this cannot work in general.
Some examples:

1. postgresql.conf contains a setting for some variable, say
sort_mem=1000.  DBA starts postmaster with a command-line option to
override the variable, say --sort_mem=2000.  Works fine, until he
SIGHUPs the postmaster for some unrelated reason, at which point
sort_mem snaps back to 1000.

2. User starts a session and says SET sort_mem=2000.  Again, he
successfully overrides the postgresql.conf value ... but only as
long as he doesn't get SIGHUP'd.

These problems will get very substantially worse once we add
per-database and per-user GUC settings to the set of possible
value sources.  I believe the correct fix is for GUC to define
a prioritized list of value sources (similar to the existing
PGC_ settings, but probably not quite the same) and remember which
source gave the current setting for each variable.  Comparing that
to the source of a would-be new value tells you whether to accept
or ignore the new value.  This would make GUC processing
order-insensitive which would be a considerable improvement (eg,
I think you could get rid of the ugly double-scan-of-options hack
in postmaster.c).

Another thought: DBAs will probably expect that if they change
per-database/per-user GUC settings, they can SIGHUP to make existing
backends take on those settings.  Can we support this?  If the
HUP is received outside any transaction then I guess we could start
a temporary transaction to read the tables involved.  If we try to
process HUP at a command boundary inside a transaction then we risk
aborting the whole user's transaction if there's an error.  Arguably
HUP should not be accepted while a transaction is in progress anyway,
so the simplest answer might be to not process HUP until we are at
the idle loop and there's no open transaction block.

The whole subject of reacting to errors in the per-database/per-user GUC
settings needs more thought, too.  Worst case scenario: superuser messes
up his own per-user GUC settings to the point that he can't log in
anymore.  Can we provide an escape hatch, or is he looking at an initdb
situation (without even the chance to run pg_dump first :-()?  I think
the GUC code presently tries to avoid any elog while processing
postgresql.conf, so that it won't be the cause of backend startup
failures, but I'm not convinced that that approach scales.  Certainly
if we are reading tables we cannot absolutely guarantee no elog.

			regards, tom lane

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