Query Performance Tuning

In this section, we describe how you can tune your Citus cluster to get maximum performance. We begin by explaining how choosing the right distribution column affects performance. We then describe how you can first tune your database for high performance on one PostgreSQL server and then scale it out across all the CPUs in the cluster. In this section, we also discuss several performance related configuration parameters wherever relevant.

Table Distribution and Shards

The first step while creating a distributed table is choosing the right distribution column. This helps Citus push down several operations directly to the worker shards and prune away unrelated shards which lead to significant query speedups.

Typically, you should pick that column as the distribution column which is the most commonly used join key or on which most queries have filters. For filters, Citus uses the distribution column ranges to prune away unrelated shards, ensuring that the query hits only those shards which overlap with the WHERE clause ranges. For joins, if the join key is the same as the distribution column, then Citus executes the join only between those shards which have matching / overlapping distribution column ranges. All these shard joins can be executed in parallel on the workers and hence are more efficient.

In addition, Citus can push down several operations directly to the worker shards if they are based on the distribution column. This greatly reduces both the amount of computation on each node and the network bandwidth involved in transferring data across nodes.

Once you choose the right distribution column, you can then proceed to the next step, which is tuning worker node performance.

PostgreSQL tuning

The Citus coordinator partitions an incoming query into fragment queries, and sends them to the workers for parallel processing. The workers are just extended PostgreSQL servers and they apply PostgreSQL’s standard planning and execution logic for these queries. So, the first step in tuning Citus is tuning the PostgreSQL configuration parameters on the workers for high performance.

Tuning the parameters is a matter of experimentation and often takes several attempts to achieve acceptable performance. Thus it’s best to load only a small portion of your data when tuning to make each iteration go faster.

To begin the tuning process create a Citus cluster and load data in it. From the coordinator node, run the EXPLAIN command on representative queries to inspect performance. Citus extends the EXPLAIN command to provide information about distributed query execution. The EXPLAIN output shows how each worker processes the query and also a little about how the coordinator node combines their results.

Here is an example of explaining the plan for a particular example query. We use the VERBOSE flag to see the actual queries which were sent to the worker nodes.

EXPLAIN VERBOSE
 SELECT date_trunc('minute', created_at) AS minute,
        sum((payload->>'distinct_size')::int) AS num_commits
   FROM github_events
  WHERE event_type = 'PushEvent'
  GROUP BY minute
  ORDER BY minute;
Sort  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0)
  Sort Key: remote_scan.minute
  ->  HashAggregate  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0)
    Group Key: remote_scan.minute
    ->  Custom Scan (Citus Adaptive)  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0)
      Task Count: 32
      Tasks Shown: One of 32
      ->  Task
        Query: SELECT date_trunc('minute'::text, created_at) AS minute, sum(((payload OPERATOR(pg_catalog.->>) 'distinct_size'::text))::integer) AS num_commits FROM github_events_102042 github_events WHERE (event_type OPERATOR(pg_catalog.=) 'PushEvent'::text) GROUP BY (date_trunc('minute'::text, created_at))
        Node: host=localhost port=5433 dbname=postgres
        ->  HashAggregate  (cost=93.42..98.36 rows=395 width=16)
          Group Key: date_trunc('minute'::text, created_at)
          ->  Seq Scan on github_events_102042 github_events  (cost=0.00..88.20 rows=418 width=503)
            Filter: (event_type = 'PushEvent'::text)
(13 rows)

This tells you several things. To begin with there are thirty-two shards, and the planner chose the Citus adaptive executor to execute this query:

->  Custom Scan (Citus Real-Time)  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0)
  Task Count: 32

Next it picks one of the workers and shows you more about how the query behaves there. It indicates the host, port, database, and the query that was sent to the worker so you can connect to the worker directly and try the query if desired:

Tasks Shown: One of 32
->  Task
  Query: SELECT date_trunc('minute'::text, created_at) AS minute, sum(((payload OPERATOR(pg_catalog.->>) 'distinct_size'::text))::integer) AS num_commits FROM github_events_102042 github_events WHERE (event_type OPERATOR(pg_catalog.=) 'PushEvent'::text) GROUP BY (date_trunc('minute'::text, created_at))
  Node: host=localhost port=5433 dbname=postgres

Distributed EXPLAIN next shows the results of running a normal PostgreSQL EXPLAIN on that worker for the fragment query:

->  HashAggregate  (cost=93.42..98.36 rows=395 width=16)
  Group Key: date_trunc('minute'::text, created_at)
  ->  Seq Scan on github_events_102042 github_events  (cost=0.00..88.20 rows=418 width=503)
    Filter: (event_type = 'PushEvent'::text)

You can now connect to the worker at ‘localhost’, port ‘5433’ and tune query performance for the shard github_events_102042 using standard PostgreSQL techniques. As you make changes run EXPLAIN again from the coordinator or right on the worker.

The first set of such optimizations relates to configuration settings. PostgreSQL by default comes with conservative resource settings; and among these settings, shared_buffers and work_mem are probably the most important ones in optimizing read performance. We discuss these parameters in brief below. Apart from them, several other configuration settings impact query performance. These settings are covered in more detail in the PostgreSQL manual and are also discussed in the PostgreSQL 9.0 High Performance book.

shared_buffers defines the amount of memory allocated to the database for caching data, and defaults to 128MB. If you have a worker node with 1GB or more RAM, a reasonable starting value for shared_buffers is 1/4 of the memory in your system. There are some workloads where even larger settings for shared_buffers are effective, but given the way PostgreSQL also relies on the operating system cache, it’s unlikely you’ll find using more than 25% of RAM to work better than a smaller amount.

If you do a lot of complex sorts, then increasing work_mem allows PostgreSQL to do larger in-memory sorts which will be faster than disk-based equivalents. If you see lot of disk activity on your worker node inspite of having a decent amount of memory, then increasing work_mem to a higher value can be useful. This will help PostgreSQL in choosing more efficient query plans and allow for greater amount of operations to occur in memory.

Other than the above configuration settings, the PostgreSQL query planner relies on statistical information about the contents of tables to generate good plans. These statistics are gathered when ANALYZE is run, which is enabled by default. You can learn more about the PostgreSQL planner and the ANALYZE command in greater detail in the PostgreSQL documentation.

Lastly, you can create indexes on your tables to enhance database performance. Indexes allow the database to find and retrieve specific rows much faster than it could do without an index. To choose which indexes give the best performance, you can run the query with EXPLAIN to view query plans and optimize the slower parts of the query. After an index is created, the system has to keep it synchronized with the table which adds overhead to data manipulation operations. Therefore, indexes that are seldom or never used in queries should be removed.

For write performance, you can use general PostgreSQL configuration tuning to increase INSERT rates. We commonly recommend increasing checkpoint_timeout and max_wal_size settings. Also, depending on the reliability requirements of your application, you can choose to change fsync or synchronous_commit values.

Once you have tuned a worker to your satisfaction you will have to manually apply those changes to the other workers as well. To verify that they are all behaving properly, set this configuration variable on the coordinator:

SET citus.explain_all_tasks = 1;

This will cause EXPLAIN to show the query plan for all tasks, not just one.

EXPLAIN
 SELECT date_trunc('minute', created_at) AS minute,
        sum((payload->>'distinct_size')::int) AS num_commits
   FROM github_events
  WHERE event_type = 'PushEvent'
  GROUP BY minute
  ORDER BY minute;
 Sort  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0)
   Sort Key: remote_scan.minute
   ->  HashAggregate  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0)
     Group Key: remote_scan.minute
     ->  Custom Scan (Citus Adaptive)  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0)
       Task Count: 32
       Tasks Shown: All
       ->  Task
         Node: host=localhost port=5433 dbname=postgres
         ->  HashAggregate  (cost=93.42..98.36 rows=395 width=16)
           Group Key: date_trunc('minute'::text, created_at)
           ->  Seq Scan on github_events_102042 github_events  (cost=0.00..88.20 rows=418 width=503)
             Filter: (event_type = 'PushEvent'::text)
       ->  Task
         Node: host=localhost port=5434 dbname=postgres
         ->  HashAggregate  (cost=103.21..108.57 rows=429 width=16)
           Group Key: date_trunc('minute'::text, created_at)
           ->  Seq Scan on github_events_102043 github_events  (cost=0.00..97.47 rows=459 width=492)
             Filter: (event_type = 'PushEvent'::text)
       --
       -- ... repeats for all 32 tasks
       --     alternating between workers one and two
       --     (running in this case locally on ports 5433, 5434)
       --

(199 rows)

Differences in worker execution can be caused by tuning configuration differences, uneven data distribution across shards, or hardware differences between the machines. To get more information about the time it takes the query to run on each shard you can use EXPLAIN ANALYZE.

Note

Note that when citus.explain_all_tasks is enabled, EXPLAIN plans are retrieved sequentially, which may take a long time for EXPLAIN ANALYZE.

Scaling Out Performance

As mentioned, once you have achieved the desired performance for a single shard you can set similar configuration parameters on all your workers. As Citus runs all the fragment queries in parallel across the worker nodes, users can scale out the performance of their queries to be the cumulative of the computing power of all of the CPU cores in the cluster assuming that the data fits in memory.

Users should try to fit as much of their working set in memory as possible to get best performance with Citus. If fitting the entire working set in memory is not feasible, we recommend using SSDs over HDDs as a best practice. This is because HDDs are able to show decent performance when you have sequential reads over contiguous blocks of data, but have significantly lower random read / write performance. In cases where you have a high number of concurrent queries doing random reads and writes, using SSDs can improve query performance by several times as compared to HDDs. Also, if your queries are highly compute intensive, it might be beneficial to choose machines with more powerful CPUs.

To measure the disk space usage of your database objects, you can log into the worker nodes and use PostgreSQL administration functions for individual shards. The pg_total_relation_size() function can be used to get the total disk space used by a table. You can also use other functions mentioned in the PostgreSQL docs to get more specific size information. On the basis of these statistics for a shard and the shard count, users can compute the hardware requirements for their cluster.

Another factor which affects performance is the number of shards per worker node. Citus partitions an incoming query into its fragment queries which run on individual worker shards. Hence, the degree of parallelism for each query is governed by the number of shards the query hits. To ensure maximum parallelism, you should create enough shards on each node such that there is at least one shard per CPU core. Another consideration to keep in mind is that Citus will prune away unrelated shards if the query has filters on the distribution column. So, creating more shards than the number of cores might also be beneficial so that you can achieve greater parallelism even after shard pruning.

Distributed Query Performance Tuning

Once you have distributed your data across the cluster, with each worker optimized for best performance, you should be able to see high performance gains on your queries. After this, the final step is to tune a few distributed performance tuning parameters.

Before we discuss the specific configuration parameters, we recommend that you measure query times on your distributed cluster and compare them with the single shard performance. This can be done by enabling \timing and running the query on the coordinator node and running one of the fragment queries on the worker nodes. This helps in determining the amount of time spent on the worker nodes and the amount of time spent in fetching the data to the coordinator node. Then, you can figure out what the bottleneck is and optimize the database accordingly.

In this section, we discuss the parameters which help optimize the distributed query planner and executors. There are several relevant parameters and we discuss them in two sections:- general and advanced. The general performance tuning section is sufficient for most use-cases and covers all the common configs. The advanced performance tuning section covers parameters which may provide performance gains in specific use cases.

General

For higher INSERT performance, the factor which impacts insert rates the most is the level of concurrency. You should try to run several concurrent INSERT statements in parallel. This way you can achieve very high insert rates if you have a powerful coordinator node and are able to use all the CPU cores on that node together.

Citus has two executor types for running SELECT queries. The desired executor can be selected by setting the citus.task_executor_type configuration parameter. Adaptive executor is the default one and can handle all different workloads very efficiently. The task-tracker executor is designed to execute long running queries which require repartitioning and shuffling of data across the workers. The only advantage of using task-tracker is its more advanced failure handling for tables with citus.replication_factor > 1. As long as the workload doesn’t specifically require task-tracker, we advise to use adaptive executor.

Subquery/CTE Network Overhead

In the best case Citus can execute queries containing subqueries and CTEs in a single step. This is usually because both the main query and subquery filter by tables’ distribution column in the same way, and can be pushed down to worker nodes together. However Citus is sometimes forced to execute subqueries before executing the main query, copying the intermediate subquery results to other worker nodes for use by the main query. This technique is called Subquery/CTE Push-Pull Execution.

It’s important to be aware when subqueries are executed in a separate step, and avoid sending too much data between worker nodes. The network overhead will hurt performance. The EXPLAIN command allows you to discover how queries will be executed, including whether multiple steps are required. For a detailed example see Subquery/CTE Push-Pull Execution.

Also you can defensively set a safeguard against large intermediate results. Adjust the max_intermediate_result_size limit in a new connection to the coordinator node. By default the max intermediate result size is 1GB, which is large enough to allow some inefficient queries. Try turning it down and running your queries:

-- set a restrictive limit for intermediate results
SET citus.max_intermediate_result_size = '512kB';

-- attempt to run queries
-- SELECT …

If the query has subqueries or CTEs that exceed this limit, the query will be canceled and you will see an error message:

ERROR:  the intermediate result size exceeds citus.max_intermediate_result_size (currently 512 kB)
DETAIL:  Citus restricts the size of intermediate results of complex subqueries and CTEs to avoid accidentally pulling large result sets into once place.
HINT:  To run the current query, set citus.max_intermediate_result_size to a higher value or -1 to disable.

The size of intermediate results and their destination is available in EXPLAIN ANALYZE output:

EXPLAIN ANALYZE
WITH deleted_rows AS (
  DELETE FROM page_views WHERE tenant_id IN (3, 4) RETURNING *
), viewed_last_week AS (
  SELECT * FROM deleted_rows WHERE view_time > current_timestamp - interval '7 days'
)
SELECT count(*) FROM viewed_last_week;
Custom Scan (Citus Adaptive)  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0) (actual time=570.076..570.077 rows=1 loops=1)
  ->  Distributed Subplan 31_1
        Subplan Duration: 6978.07 ms
        Intermediate Data Size: 26 MB
        Result destination: Write locally
        ->  Custom Scan (Citus Adaptive)  (cost=0.00..0.00 rows=0 width=0) (actual time=364.121..364.122 rows=0 loops=1)
              Task Count: 2
              Tuple data received from nodes: 0 bytes
              Tasks Shown: One of 2
              ->  Task
                    Tuple data received from node: 0 bytes
                    Node: host=localhost port=5433 dbname=postgres
                    ->  Delete on page_views_102016 page_views  (cost=5793.38..49272.28 rows=324712 width=6) (actual time=362.985..362.985 rows=0 loops=1)
                          ->  Bitmap Heap Scan on page_views_102016 page_views  (cost=5793.38..49272.28 rows=324712 width=6) (actual time=362.984..362.984 rows=0 loops=1)
                                Recheck Cond: (tenant_id = ANY ('{3,4}'::integer[]))
                                ->  Bitmap Index Scan on view_tenant_idx_102016  (cost=0.00..5712.20 rows=324712 width=0) (actual time=19.193..19.193 rows=325733 loops=1)
                                      Index Cond: (tenant_id = ANY ('{3,4}'::integer[]))
                        Planning Time: 0.050 ms
                        Execution Time: 363.426 ms
        Planning Time: 0.000 ms
        Execution Time: 364.241 ms
 Task Count: 1
 Tuple data received from nodes: 6 bytes
 Tasks Shown: All
 ->  Task
       Tuple data received from node: 6 bytes
       Node: host=localhost port=5432 dbname=postgres
       ->  Aggregate  (cost=33741.78..33741.79 rows=1 width=8) (actual time=565.008..565.008 rows=1 loops=1)
             ->  Function Scan on read_intermediate_result intermediate_result  (cost=0.00..29941.56 rows=1520087 width=0) (actual time=326.645..539.158 rows=651466 loops=1)
                   Filter: (view_time > (CURRENT_TIMESTAMP - '7 days'::interval))
           Planning Time: 0.047 ms
           Execution Time: 569.026 ms
Planning Time: 1.522 ms
Execution Time: 7549.308 ms

In the above EXPLAIN ANALYZE output, you can see the following information about the intermediate results:

Intermediate Data Size: 26 MB
Result destination: Write locally

It tells us how large the intermediate results where, and where the intermediate results were written to. In this case, they were written to the node coordinating the query execution, as specified by “Write locally”. For some other queries it can also be of the following format:

Intermediate Data Size: 26 MB
Result destination: Send to 2 nodes

Which means the intermediate result was pushed to 2 worker nodes and it involved more network traffic.

When using CTEs, or joins between CTEs and distributed tables, you can avoid push-pull execution by following these rules:

  • Tables should be colocated
  • The CTE queries should not require any merge steps (e.g., LIMIT or GROUP BY on a non-distribution key)
  • Tables and CTEs should be joined on distribution keys

Also PostgreSQL 12 or above allows Citus to take advantage of CTE inlining to push CTEs down to workers in more circumstances. The inlining behavior can be controlled with the MATERIALIZED keyword – see the PostgreSQL docs for details.

Advanced

In this section, we discuss advanced performance tuning parameters. These parameters are applicable to specific use cases and may not be required for all deployments.

Task Assignment Policy

The Citus query planner assigns tasks to the worker nodes based on shard locations. The algorithm used while making these assignments can be chosen by setting the citus.task_assignment_policy configuration parameter. Users can alter this configuration parameter to choose the policy which works best for their use case.

The greedy policy aims to distribute tasks evenly across the workers. This policy is the default and works well in most of the cases. The round-robin policy assigns tasks to workers in a round-robin fashion alternating between different replicas. This enables much better cluster utilization when the shard count for a table is low compared to the number of workers. The third policy is the first-replica policy which assigns tasks on the basis of the insertion order of placements (replicas) for the shards. With this policy, users can be sure of which shards will be accessed on each machine. This helps in providing stronger memory residency guarantees by allowing you to keep your working set in memory and use it for querying.

Intermediate Data Transfer Format

There are two configuration parameters which relate to the format in which intermediate data will be transferred across workers or between workers and the coordinator. Citus by default transfers intermediate query data in the text format. This is generally better as text files typically have smaller sizes than the binary representation. Hence, this leads to lower network and disk I/O while writing and transferring intermediate data.

However, for certain data types like hll or hstore arrays, the cost of serializing and deserializing data is pretty high. In such cases, using binary format for transferring intermediate data can improve query performance due to reduced CPU usage. There are two configuration parameters which can be used to tune this behaviour, citus.binary_master_copy_format and citus.binary_worker_copy_format. Enabling the former uses binary format to transfer intermediate query results from the workers to the coordinator while the latter is useful in queries which require dynamic shuffling of intermediate data between workers.

Binary protocol

In some cases, a large part of query time is spent in sending query results from workers to the coordinator. This mostly happens when queries request many rows (such as select * from table), or when result columns use big types (like hll or tdigest from the postgresql-hll and tdigest extensions).

In those cases it can be beneficial to set citus.enable_binary_protocol to true, which will change the encoding of the results to binary, rather than using text encoding. Binary encoding significantly reduce bandwidth for types that have a compact binary representation, such as hll, tdigest, timestamp and double precision.

Adaptive Executor

Adaptive executor is the default executor, and it can handle all workloads very efficiently.

The adaptive executor conserves database connections to help reduce resource usage on worker nodes during multi-shard queries. When running a query, the executor begins by using a single – usually precached – connection to a remote node. If the query finishes within the time period specified by citus.executor_slow_start_interval, no more connections are required. Otherwise the executor gradually establishes new connections as directed by citus.executor_slow_start_interval. (See also https://docs.citusdata.com/en/latest/develop/api_guc.html#adaptive-executor-configuration)

With the behavior explained above, the executor aims to open optimal number of connections to remote nodes. For short running multi-shard queries, like an index-only-scan on the shards, the executor may use only a single connection and execute all the queries on the shards over a single connection. For longer running multi-shard queries, the executor will keep opening connections to parallelize the execution on the remote nodes. If the queries on the shards take long (such as > 500ms), the executor converges to using one connection per shard (or up to citus.max_adaptive_executor_pool_size), in order to maximize the parallelism.

Task Tracker Executor

If your queries require repartitioning of data or more efficient resource management, you should use the task tracker executor. There are two configuration parameters which can be used to tune the task tracker executor’s performance.

The first one is the citus.task_tracker_delay. The task tracker process wakes up regularly, walks over all tasks assigned to it, and schedules and executes these tasks. This parameter sets the task tracker sleep time between these task management rounds. Reducing this parameter can be useful in cases when the shard queries are short and hence update their status very regularly.

The second parameter is citus.max_running_tasks_per_node. This configuration value sets the maximum number of tasks to execute concurrently on one worker node node at any given time. This configuration entry ensures that you don’t have many tasks hitting disk at the same time and helps in avoiding disk I/O contention. If your queries are served from memory or SSDs, you can increase citus.max_running_tasks_per_node without much concern.

With this, we conclude our discussion about performance tuning in Citus. To learn more about the specific configuration parameters discussed in this section, please visit the Configuration Reference section of our documentation.

Scaling Out Data Ingestion

Citus lets you scale out data ingestion to very high rates, but there are several trade-offs to consider in terms of application integration, throughput, and latency. In this section, we discuss different approaches to data ingestion, and provide guidelines for expected throughput and latency numbers.

Real-time Insert and Updates

On the Citus coordinator, you can perform INSERT, INSERT .. ON CONFLICT, UPDATE, and DELETE commands directly on distributed tables. When you issue one of these commands, the changes are immediately visible to the user.

When you run an INSERT (or another ingest command), Citus first finds the right shard placements based on the value in the distribution column. Citus then connects to the worker nodes storing the shard placements, and performs an INSERT on each of them. From the perspective of the user, the INSERT takes several milliseconds to process because of the network latency to worker nodes. The Citus coordinator node however can process concurrent INSERTs to reach high throughputs.

Insert Throughput

To measure data ingest rates with Citus, we use a standard tool called pgbench and provide repeatable benchmarking steps.

We also used these steps to run pgbench across different Citus Cloud formations on AWS and observed the following ingest rates for transactional INSERT statements. For these benchmark results, we used the default configuration for Citus Cloud formations, and set pgbench’s concurrent thread count to 64 and client count to 256. We didn’t apply any optimizations to improve performance numbers; and you can get higher ingest ratios by tuning your database setup.

Coordinator Node Worker Nodes Latency (ms) Transactions per sec
2 cores - 7.5GB RAM 2 * (1 core - 15GB RAM) 28.5 9,000
4 cores - 15GB RAM 2 * (1 core - 15GB RAM) 15.3 16,600
8 cores - 30GB RAM 2 * (1 core - 15GB RAM) 15.2 16,700
8 cores - 30GB RAM 4 * (1 core - 15GB RAM) 8.6 29,600

We have three observations that follow from these benchmark numbers. First, the top row shows performance numbers for an entry level Citus cluster with one c4.xlarge (two physical cores) as the coordinator and two r4.large (one physical core each) as worker nodes. This basic cluster can deliver 9K INSERTs per second, or 775 million transactional INSERT statements per day.

Second, a more powerful Citus cluster that has about four times the CPU capacity can deliver 30K INSERTs per second, or 2.75 billion INSERT statements per day.

Third, across all data ingest benchmarks, the network latency combined with the number of concurrent connections PostgreSQL can efficiently handle, becomes the performance bottleneck. In a production environment with hundreds of tables and indexes, this bottleneck will likely shift to a different resource.

Update Throughput

To measure UPDATE throughputs with Citus, we used the same benchmarking steps and ran pgbench across different Citus Cloud formations on AWS.

Coordinator Node Worker Nodes Latency (ms) Transactions per sec
2 cores - 7.5GB RAM 2 * (1 core - 15GB RAM) 25.0 10,200
4 cores - 15GB RAM 2 * (1 core - 15GB RAM) 19.6 13,000
8 cores - 30GB RAM 2 * (1 core - 15GB RAM) 20.3 12,600
8 cores - 30GB RAM 4 * (1 core - 15GB RAM) 10.7 23,900

These benchmark numbers show that Citus’s UPDATE throughput is slightly lower than those of INSERTs. This is because pgbench creates a primary key index for UPDATE statements and an UPDATE incurs more work on the worker nodes. It’s also worth noting two additional differences between INSERT and UPDATEs.

First, UPDATE statements cause bloat in the database and VACUUM needs to run regularly to clean up this bloat. In Citus, since VACUUM runs in parallel across worker nodes, your workloads are less likely to be impacted by VACUUM.

Second, these benchmark numbers show UPDATE throughput for standard Citus deployments. If you’re on the Citus community edition, using statement-based replication, and you increased the default replication factor to 2, you’re going to observe notably lower UPDATE throughputs. For this particular setting, Citus comes with additional configuration (citus.all_modifications_commutative) that may increase UPDATE ratios.

Insert and Update: Throughput Checklist

When you’re running the above pgbench benchmarks on a moderately sized Citus cluster, you can generally expect 10K-50K INSERTs per second. This translates to approximately 1 to 4 billion INSERTs per day. If you aren’t observing these throughputs numbers, remember the following checklist:

  • Check the network latency between your application and your database. High latencies will impact your write throughput.
  • Ingest data using concurrent threads. If the roundtrip latency during an INSERT is 4ms, you can process 250 INSERTs/second over one thread. If you run 100 concurrent threads, you will see your write throughput increase with the number of threads.
  • Check whether the nodes in your cluster have CPU or disk bottlenecks. Ingested data passes through the coordinator node, so check whether your coordinator is bottlenecked on CPU.
  • Avoid closing connections between INSERT statements. This avoids the overhead of connection setup.
  • Remember that column size will affect insert speed. Rows with big JSON blobs will take longer than those with small columns like integers.

Insert and Update: Latency

The benefit of running INSERT or UPDATE commands, compared to issuing bulk COPY commands, is that changes are immediately visible to other queries. When you issue an INSERT or UPDATE command, the Citus coordinator node directly routes this command to related worker node(s). The coordinator node also keeps connections to the workers open within the same session, which means subsequent commands will see lower response times.

-- Set up a distributed table that keeps account history information
CREATE TABLE pgbench_history (tid int, bid int, aid int, delta int, mtime timestamp);
SELECT create_distributed_table('pgbench_history', 'aid');

-- Enable timing to see reponse times
\timing on

-- First INSERT requires connection set-up, second will be faster
INSERT INTO pgbench_history VALUES (10, 1, 10000, -5000, CURRENT_TIMESTAMP); -- Time: 10.314 ms
INSERT INTO pgbench_history VALUES (10, 1, 22000, 5000, CURRENT_TIMESTAMP); -- Time: 3.132 ms

Staging Data Temporarily

When loading data for temporary staging, consider using an unlogged table. These are tables which are not backed by the Postgres write-ahead log. This makes them faster for inserting rows, but not suitable for long term data storage. You can use an unlogged table as a place to load incoming data, prior to manipulating the data and moving it to permanent tables.

-- example unlogged table
CREATE UNLOGGED TABLE unlogged_table (
  key text,
  value text
);

-- its shards will be unlogged as well when
-- the table is distributed
SELECT create_distributed_table('unlogged_table', 'key');

-- ready to load data

Bulk Copy (250K - 2M/s)

Distributed tables support COPY from the Citus coordinator for bulk ingestion, which can achieve much higher ingestion rates than INSERT statements.

COPY can be used to load data directly from an application using COPY .. FROM STDIN, from a file on the server, or program executed on the server.

COPY pgbench_history FROM STDIN WITH (FORMAT CSV);

In psql, the \COPY command can be used to load data from the local machine. The \COPY command actually sends a COPY .. FROM STDIN command to the server before sending the local data, as would an application that loads data directly.

psql -c "\COPY pgbench_history FROM 'pgbench_history-2016-03-04.csv' (FORMAT CSV)"

A powerful feature of COPY for distributed tables is that it asynchronously copies data to the workers over many parallel connections, one for each shard placement. This means that data can be ingested using multiple workers and multiple cores in parallel. Especially when there are expensive indexes such as a GIN, this can lead to major performance boosts over ingesting into a regular PostgreSQL table.

From a throughput standpoint, you can expect data ingest ratios of 250K - 2M rows per second when using COPY. To learn more about COPY performance across different scenarios, please refer to the following blog post.

Note

Make sure your benchmarking setup is well configured so you can observe optimal COPY performance. Follow these tips:

  • We recommend a large batch size (~ 50000-100000). You can benchmark with multiple files (1, 10, 1000, 10000 etc), each of that batch size.
  • Use parallel ingestion. Increase the number of threads/ingestors to 2, 4, 8, 16 and run benchmarks.
  • Use a compute-optimized coordinator. For the workers choose memory-optimized boxes with a decent number of vcpus.
  • Go with a relatively small shard count, 32 should suffice but you could benchmark with 64, too.
  • Ingest data for a suitable amount of time (say 2, 4, 8, 24 hrs). Longer tests are more representative of a production setup.

Citus MX (50k/s-500k/s)

Citus MX builds on the Citus extension. It gives you the ability to query and write to distributed tables from any node, which allows you to horizontally scale out your write-throughput using PostgreSQL. It also removes the need to interact with a primary node in a Citus cluster for data ingest or queries.

Citus MX is available in Citus Enterprise Edition. For more information see Citus MX.