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Re: PostgreSQL as a local in-memory cache

From: Josh Berkus <josh(at)agliodbs(dot)com>
To: postgres performance list <pgsql-performance(at)postgresql(dot)org>
Subject: Re: PostgreSQL as a local in-memory cache
Date: 2010-06-17 17:29:37
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Lists: pgsql-performance

So, I've been discussing this because using PostgreSQL on the caching 
layer has become more common that I think most people realize.  Jonathan 
is one of 4 companies I know of who are doing this, and with the growth 
of Hadoop and other large-scale data-processing technologies, I think 
demand will increase.

Especially as, in repeated tests, PostgreSQL with persistence turned off 
is just as fast as the fastest nondurable NoSQL database.  And it has a 
LOT more features.

Now, while fsync=off and tmpfs for WAL more-or-less eliminate the IO for 
durability, they don't eliminate the CPU time.  Which means that a 
caching version of PostgreSQL could be even faster.   To do that, we'd 
need to:

a) Eliminate WAL logging entirely
b) Eliminate checkpointing
c) Turn off the background writer
d) Have PostgreSQL refuse to restart after a crash and instead call an 
exteral script (for reprovisioning)

Of the three above, (a) is the most difficult codewise.  (b)(c) and (d) 
should be relatively straightforwards, although I believe that we now 
have the bgwriter doing some other essential work besides syncing 
buffers.  There's also a narrower use-case in eliminating (a), since a 
non-fsync'd server which was recording WAL could be used as part of a 
replication chain.

This isn't on hackers because I'm not ready to start working on a patch, 
but I'd like some feedback on the complexities of doing (b) and (c) as 
well as how many people could use a non-persistant, in-memory postgres.

                                   -- Josh Berkus
                                      PostgreSQL Experts Inc.

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