Back when we put in the ability to use "x IS NULL" as a btree search
condition, we intentionally left out "x IS NOT NULL", on the grounds
that it is comparable to "x <> something" which is not btree-searchable
either. However, it occurs to me that we missed a bet here. The NOT
NULL condition could instead be treated like "x is less than NULL"
(in a NULLS LAST index) or "x is greater than NULL" (in a NULLS FIRST
index), which would make it work like a searchable inequality. It's
still true that except in the case of a mostly-null column, it would
seldom be worth doing such an indexscan. However, I can see an
application where an index search condition like this would be highly
worthwhile: namely, trying to extract a column min or max. Right now,
if there are a fair number of nulls at the end of the index you're
interested in, you have to stupidly scan through them --- but if the
btree code knew about doing this, it could descend the tree
intelligently and land right on the first or last non-null.
We have already seen field complaints about the performance of
index-optimized MAX in cases with many nulls, eg
which fixing this would take care of. This would also affect the
usefulness of the idea I proposed earlier today about automatically
updating the histogram bin boundaries when trying to estimate inequality
selectivity for comparison values near the ends of the range --- if we
can't rely on the index lookup for max or min to be cheap, doing that
stops looking quite so attractive.
While I haven't tried to code this yet, I'm guessing that it's just a
very small addition to the logic we already have. Any objections to
fixing this up?
regards, tom lane
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