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From: Robert Haas <robertmhaas(at)gmail(dot)com>
To: Pavan Deolasee <pavan(dot)deolasee(at)gmail(dot)com>
Cc: Simon Riggs <simon(at)2ndquadrant(dot)com>, Jeff Davis <pgsql(at)j-davis(dot)com>, pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: Removing PD_ALL_VISIBLE
Date: 2013-01-17 14:53:27
Message-ID: (view raw or flat)
Lists: pgsql-hackers
On Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 3:49 AM, Pavan Deolasee
<pavan(dot)deolasee(at)gmail(dot)com> wrote:
> May be you've already addressed that concern with the proven
> performance numbers, but I'm not sure.

It would be nice to hear what Heikki's reasons were for adding
PD_ALL_VISIBLE in the first place.

Jeff's approach of holding the VM pins for longer certainly mitigates
some of the damage, in the sense that it reduces buffer lookups and
pin/unpin cycles - and might be worth doing independently of the rest
of the patch if we think it's a win.  Index-only scans already use a
similar optimization, so extending it to inserts, updates, and deletes
is surely worth considering.  The main question in my mind is whether
there are any negative consequences to holding a VM buffer pin for
that long without interruption.  The usual consideration - namely,
blocking vacuum - doesn't apply here because vacuum does not take a
cleanup lock on the visibility map page, only the heap page, but I'm
not sure if there are others.

The other part of the issue is cache pressure. I don't think I can say
it better than what Tom already wrote:

# I'd be worried about the case of a lot of sessions touching a lot of
# unrelated tables.  This change implies doubling the number of buffers
# that are held pinned by any given query, and the distributed overhead
# from that (eg, adding cycles to searches for free buffers) is what you
# ought to be afraid of.

I agree that we ought to be afraid of that.  A pgbench test isn't
going to find a problem in this area because there you have a bunch of
sessions all accessing the same small group of tables.  To find a
problem of the type above, you'd need lots of backends accessing lots
of different, small tables.  That's not the use case we usually
benchmark, but I think there are a fair number of people doing things
like that - for example, imagine a hosting provider or web application
with many databases or schemas on a single instance.  AFAICS, Jeff
hasn't tried to test this scenario.

Now, on the flip side, we should also be thinking about what we would
gain from this patch, and what other ways there might be to achieve
the same goals.  As far as I can see, the main gain is that if you
bulk-load a table, don't vacuum it right away, get all the hint bits
set by some other mechanism, and then vacuum the table, you'll only
read the whole table instead of rewriting the whole table.  So ISTM
that, for example, if we adopted the idea of making HOT prune set
visibility-map bits, most of the benefit of this change evaporates,
but whatever costs it may have will remain.  There are other possible
ways of getting the same benefit as well - for example, I've been
thinking for a while now that we should try to find some judicious way
of vacuuming insert-only tables, perhaps only in small chunks when
there's nothing else going on.  That wouldn't as clearly obsolete this
patch, but it would address a very similar use case and would also
preset hint bits, which would help a lot of people.  Some of the ideas
we've had about a HEAP_XMIN_FREEZE intersect with this idea, too - if
we can do an early freeze without losing forensic information, we can
roll setting the hint bit, setting PD_ALL_VISIBLE, and freezing the
page into a single write.

All of which is to say that I think this patch is premature.  If we
adopt something like this, we're likely never going to revert back to
the way we do it now, and whatever cache-pressure or other costs this
approach carries will be hear to stay - so we had better think awfully
carefully before we do that.  And, FWIW, I don't believe that there is
sufficient time in this release cycle to carefully test this patch and
the other alternative designs that aim toward the same ends.  Even if
there were, this is exactly the sort of thing that should be committed
at the beginning of a release cycle, not the end, so as to allow
adequate time for discovery of unforeseen consequences before the code
ends up out in the wild.

Of course, there's another issue here too, which is that as Pavan
points out, the page throws crash-safety out the window, which breaks
index-only scans (if you have a crash).  HEAP_XLOG_VISIBLE is intended
principally to protect the VM bit, not PD_ALL_VISIBLE, but the patch
rips it out even though its purpose is to remove the latter, not the
former.  Removing PD_ALL_VISIBLE eliminates the need to keep the
visibility-map bit consist with PD_ALL_VISIBLE, but it does not
eliminate the need to keep PD_ALL_VISIBLE consistent with the page

Robert Haas
The Enterprise PostgreSQL Company

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