If you want to learn more about Citus on Microsoft Azure, read this post about Hyperscale (Citus) on Azure Database for PostgreSQL.

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Articles by Craig Kerstiens

Craig Kerstiens

Postgres tips for the average and power user

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | July 17, 2019 Jul 17, 2019

Personally I’m a big fan of email, just like blogging. To me a good email thread can be like a good novel where you’re following along always curious for what comes next. And no, I don’t mean the ones where there is an email to [email protected] and someone replies all, to only receive reply-all’s to not reply-all. I mean ones like started last week internally among the Azure Postgres team.

The first email was titled: Random Citus development and psql tips, and from there it piled on to be more and more tips and power user suggestions for Postgres. Some of these tips are relevant if you’re working directly on the Citus open source code, others relevant as anyone that works with Postgres, and some useful for debugging Postgres internals. While the thread is still ongoing here is just a few of the great tips:

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Craig Kerstiens

Introducing Hyperscale (Citus) on Azure Database for PostgreSQL

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | May 6, 2019 May 6, 2019

For roughly ten years now, I’ve had the pleasure of running and managing databases for people. In the early stages of building an application you move quickly, adding new tables and columns to your Postgres database to support new functionality. You move quickly, but you don’t worry too much because things are fast and responsive–largely because your data is small. Over time your application grows and matures. Your data model stabilizes, and you start to spend more time tuning and tweaking to ensure performance and stability stay where they need to. Eventually you get to the point where you miss the days of maintaining a small database, because life was easier then. Indexes were created quickly, joins were fast, count(*) didn’t bring your database to a screeching halt, and vacuum was not a regular part of your lunchtime conversation. As you continue to tweak and optimize the system, you know you need a plan for the future and know how you’re going to continue to scale.

Now in GA: Introducing Hyperscale (Citus) on Azure Database for PostgreSQL

With Hyperscale (Citus) on Azure Database for PostgreSQL, we help many of those worries fade away. I am super excited to announce that Citus is now available on Microsoft Azure, as a new built-in deployment option on the Azure Database for PostgreSQL called Hyperscale (Citus).

Hyperscale (Citus) scales out your data across multiple physical nodes, with the underlying data being sharded into much smaller bits. The same database sharding principles that work for Facebook and Google are baked right into the database. But, unlike traditional sharded systems, your application doesn’t have to learn how to shard the data. With Azure Database for PostgreSQL, Hyperscale (Citus) takes Postgres, the open source relational database, and extends it with low level internal hooks.

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Craig Kerstiens

Postgres and superuser access

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | April 4, 2019 Apr 4, 2019

A few days ago a CVE was announced for Postgres. To say this CVE is a bit overblown is an understatement. The first thing to know is you’re likely completely safe. If you run on a managed service provider you are not going to be affected by this, and if you’re managing your own Postgres database all chances are you are equally as safe. This CVE received a note from Tom Lane on the pgsql-announce mailing list in response to it getting a broad amount of awareness and attention.

But, we thought this might be a good time to talk about a few principles and concepts that underly how Postgres works.

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Craig Kerstiens

A health check playbook for your Postgres database

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | March 29, 2019 Mar 29, 2019

I talk with a lot of folks that set their database up, start working with it, and then are surprised by issues that suddenly crop up out of nowhere. The reality is, so many don’t want to have to be a DBA, instead you would rather build features and just have the database work. But your is that a database is a living breathing thing. As the data itself changes what is the right way to query and behave changes. Making sure your database is healthy and performing at it’s maximum level doesn’t require a giant overhaul constantly. In fact you can probably view it similar to how you approach personal health. Regular check-ups allow you to make small but important adjustments without having to make dramatic life altering changes to keep you on the right path.

After years of running and managing literally millions of Postgres databases, here’s my breakdown of what your regular Postgres health check should look like. Consider running this on a monthly basis to be able to make small tweaks and adjustments and avoid the drastic changes.

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Craig Kerstiens

How to evaluate your next database

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | March 20, 2019 Mar 20, 2019

Choosing a database isn’t something you do every day. You generally choose it once for a project, then don’t look back. If you experience years of success with your application you one day have to migrate to a new database, but that occurs years down the line. In choosing a database there are a few key things to consider. Here is your checklist, and spoiler alert, Postgres checks out strongly in each of these categories.

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Craig Kerstiens

Fun with SQL: Text and system functions

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | March 13, 2019 Mar 13, 2019

SQL by itself is great and powerful, and Postgres supports a broad array of more modern SQL including things like window functions and common table expressions. But rarely do I write a query where I don’t want to tweak or format the data I’m getting back out of the database. Thankfully Postgres has a rich array of functions to help with converting or formatting data. These built-in functions save me from having to do the logic elsewhere or write my own functions, in other words I have to do less work because Postgres has already done it for me which I’m always happy about.

We’ve covered a set of functions earlier, today we’re going to look at some different categories of functions to dive deeper.

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Craig Kerstiens

Approximation algorithms for your database

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | February 28, 2019 Feb 28, 2019

In an earlier blog post I wrote about how breaking problems down into a MapReduce style approach can give you much better performance. We’ve seen Citus is orders of magnitude faster than single node databases when we’re able to parallelize the workload across all the cores in a cluster. And while count (*) and avg is easy to break into smaller parts I immediately got the question what about count distinct, or the top from a list, or median?

Exact distinct count is admittedly harder to tackle, in a large distributed setup, because it requires a lot of data shuffling between nodes. Count distinct is indeed supported within Citus, but at times can be slow when dealing with especially larger datasets. Median across any moderate to large size dataset can become completely prohibitive for end users. Fortunately for nearly all of these there are approximation algorithms which provide close enough answers and do so with impressive performance characteristics.

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Craig Kerstiens

Thinking in MapReduce, but with SQL

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | February 21, 2019 Feb 21, 2019

For those considering Citus, if your use case seems like a good fit, we often are willing to spend some time with you to help you get an understanding of the Citus database and what type of performance it can deliver. We commonly do this in a roughly two hour pairing session with one of our engineers. We’ll talk through the schema, load up some data, and run some queries. If we have time at the end it is always fun to load up the same data and queries into single node Postgres and see how we compare. After seeing this for years, I still enjoy seeing performance speed ups of 10 and 20x over a single node database, and in cases as high as 100x.

And the best part is it didn’t take heavy re-architecting of data pipelines. All it takes is just some data modeling, and parallelization with Citus.

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Craig Kerstiens

The most useful Postgres extension: pg_stat_statements

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | February 8, 2019 Feb 8, 2019

Extensions are capable of extending, changing, and advancing the behavior of Postgres. How? By hooking into low level Postgres API hooks. The open source Citus database that scales out Postgres horizontally is itself implemented as a PostgreSQL extension, which allows Citus to stay current with Postgres releases without lagging behind like other Postgres forks. I’ve previously written about the various types of extensions, today though I want to take a deeper look at the most useful Postgres extension: pg_stat_statements.

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Craig Kerstiens

Contributing to Postgres

Written by By Craig Kerstiens | January 15, 2019 Jan 15, 2019

About once a month I get this question: “How do I contribute to Postgres?”. PostgreSQL is a great database with a solid code base and for many of us, contributing back to open source is a worthwhile cause. The thing about contributing back to Postgres is you generally don’t just jump right in and commit code on day one. So figuring out where to start can be a bit overwhelming. If you’re considering getting more involved with Postgres, here’s a few tips that you may find helpful.

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