Citus Data Blog

Thoughts on scaling out PostgreSQL, sharding, multi-tenant apps, real-time analytics, and distributed databases.

Craig Kerstiens
By Craig Kerstiens
October 17, 2018

Commenting your Postgres database

At Citus whether it’s looking at our own data or helping a customer debug a query I end up writing a lot of SQL. When I do write SQL I do my best to make sure it’s readable in case others need to come along and understand or modify, but admittedly I do have some bad habits from time to time such as using implicit joins. Regardless of my bad habits I still try to make my SQL and database as easy to understand for someone not already familiar with it. One of the biggest tools for that is comments.

Even early on in learning to program we take advantage of comments to explain and describe what our code is doing, even in times when it seems obvious. I see this less commonly in SQL and databases, which is a shame because data is just as valuable so making it easier to reason and work with seems logical. Postgres has a few great mechanisms you can start leveraging when it comes to commenting so you can better document things.

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Gary Sahota
By Gary Sahota
September 27, 2018

Fun with SQL: Unions in Postgres

Before joining the Citus Data team to work on the Postgres extension that transforms Postgres into a distributed database, I checked out the Citus Data blog to learn a bit more. And found all sorts of material for Postgres beginners as well as power users, with one of my favorites being the “Fun with SQL” series. After I joined, I jumped at the chance to write a Fun with SQL post, and the only question was what to write about. I chose unions.

In SQL, the UNION and UNION ALL operators help take multiple tables and combine the results into a single table of all matching columns. This operator is extremely useful if you want the results to come back as a single set of records.

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Dimitri Fontaine
By Dimitri Fontaine
September 25, 2018

A history lesson on SQL joins (in Postgres)

Our beloved Structured Query Language may be the lingua franca for relational databases—but like many languages, SQL is in a state of constant evolution. The first releases of SQL didn’t even have a notation for joins. At the time, SQL only supported inner joins.

Cross Joins and Where Filters

As a result, back in early eighties, the only way to express a join condition between tables would be in the WHERE clause.

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Craig Kerstiens
By Craig Kerstiens
September 19, 2018

Use cases for followers (read replicas) in Postgres

Citus extends Postgres to be a horizontally scalable database. By horizontally scalable, we mean the data is spread across multiple machines, and you’re able to scale not only storage but also memory and compute—thus providing better performance. Without using something like Citus to transform PostgreSQL into a distributed database, sure you can add read replicas to scale, but you’re still maintaining a single copy of your data. When you run into scaling issues with your Postgres database, adding a read replica and offloading some of your traffic to your read replica is a common bandaid to slow down the bleeding, but it is only a matter of time until even that doesn’t work any further. Whereas with Citus, scaling out your database is as simple as dragging a slider and rebalancing your data.

Are read replicas still useful with horizontally scalable databases?

But that leaves a question, are read-replicas still useful? Well, sure they are.

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Dimitri Fontaine
By Dimitri Fontaine
September 11, 2018

PostgreSQL 11 and Just In Time Compilation of Queries

PostgreSQL 11 is brewing and will be released soon. In the meantime, testing it with your own application is a great way to make sure the community catches all the remaining bugs before the dot-zero release.

One of the big changes in the next PostgreSQL release is the result of Andres Freund’s work on the query executor engine. Andres has been working on this part of the system for a while now, and in the next release we are going to see a new component in the execution engine: a JIT expression compiler!

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Craig Kerstiens
By Craig Kerstiens
September 4, 2018

12 Factor: Dev/prod parity for your database

The twelve-factor app changed the way we build SaaS applications. Explicit dependency management, separating config from code, scaling out your app concurrently—these design principles took us from giant J2EE apps to apps that scale predictably on the web. One of these 12 factors has long stood out as a challenge when it comes to databases: dev/prod parity. Sure, you can run the exact same version of your database, and have a sandbox copy, but testing and staging with production data… that’s a different story.

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Craig Kerstiens
By Craig Kerstiens
August 29, 2018

Postgres data types you should consider using

Postgres is a rich and powerful database. And the existence of PostgreSQL extension APIs have enabled Postgres to expand its capabilities beyond the boundaries of what you would expect in a traditional relational database. Examples of popular Postgres extensions today include HyperLogLog, which gives you approximate distincts with a small footprint—to rich geospatial support via PostGIS—to Citus which helps you scale out your Postgres database across multiple nodes to improve performance for multi-tenant SaaS applications and real-time analytics dashboards—to the built-in full text search capabilities in PostgreSQL. With all the bells and whistles you can layer into Postgres, sometimes the most basic built-ins get overlooked.

PostgreSQL has nearly 100 different data types, and these data types can come with their own tuned indexing or their own specialized functions. You probably already use the basics such as integers and text, and today we’re going to take a survey of less-used but incredibly powerful PostgreSQL data types.

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Craig Kerstiens
By Craig Kerstiens
August 17, 2018

How Citus real-time executor parallelizes Postgres queries

Citus has multiple different excutors which each behaving differently to support a wide array of use cases. For many the notion distributed SQL seems like it has to be a complicated one, but the principles of it aren’t rocket science. Here we’re going to look at a few examples of how Citus takes standard SQL and transforms it to operate in a distributed form so it can be parallelized. The result is that you can see speed up of 100x or more in query performance over a single node database.

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Craig Kerstiens
By Craig Kerstiens
August 9, 2018

Fun with SQL: Common Table Expressions for more readable queries

This week we’re continuing our fun with SQL series. In past posts we’ve looked at generate_series, window functions, and recursive CTEs. This week we’re going to take a step backward and look at standard CTEs (common table expressions) within Postgres.

Admittedly SQL isn’t always the most friendly language to read. It’s a little more friendly to write, but even still not as naturally readable as something like Python. Despite it’s shortcomings there it is the lingua franca when it comes to data, SQL is the language and API that began with relational databases and now even non traditional databases are aiming to immitate it with their own SQL like thing. With CTEs though our SQL, even queries hundreds of lines long, can become readable to someone without detailed knowledge of the application.

CTEs (common table expressions), often referred to as with clauses/queries, are essentially views that are valid during the course of a transaction. They can reference earlier CTEs within that same transaction or query essentially allowing you separate building blocks on which you compose your queries. It is of note that CTEs are an optimization boundary, so in cases they may have worse performance than their alternative non-CTE queries. Even still they’re incredible useful for readability and should be considered when constructing large complex queries. Let’s dig in with an example.

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Ozgun Erdogan
By Ozgun Erdogan
August 3, 2018

Citus 7.5: The right way to scale SaaS apps

One of the primary challenges with scaling SaaS applications is the database. While you can easily scale your application by adding more servers, scaling your database is a way harder problem. This is particularly true if your application benefits from relational database features, such as transactions, table joins, and database constraints.

At Citus, we make scaling your database easy. Over the past year, we added support for distributed transactions, made Rails and Django integration seamless, and expanded on our SQL support. We also documented approaches to scaling your SaaS database to thousands of customers.

Today, we’re excited to announce the latest release of our distributed database—Citus 7.5. With this release, we’re adding key features that make scaling your SaaS / multi-tenant database easier. If you’re into bulleted lists, these features include the following.

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