PostgreSQL SQL Review and Style Guide

Background

!

The guide is based on pigsty by @Vonng. You can configure many of the listed SQL Review rules in Bytebase.

PostgreSQL is a very powerful database, but to use PostgreSQL well, it needs the collaboration of backend engineers, Ops/SREs, and DBAs.

In this article, we have compiled best practices for using PostgreSQL, which we hope will reduce the barrier for operating PostgreSQL in production. There are several PostgreSQL SQL Review Guide on the Internet, this guide is unique in several ways:

Naming Rules

General Naming

Required

  • This rule applies to all object names, including: database names, table names, column names, function names, view names, serial names, aliases, etc.
  • Object names must use only lowercase letters, underscores, and numbers, but the first letter must be a lowercase letter, and regular tables are forbidden to start with _.
  • The length of the object name should not exceed 63 characters, and the naming must follow snake_case.
  • The use of SQL reserved words is prohibited, use SELECT pg_get_keywords(); to get the list of reserved keywords.
  • Prohibit the dollar sign ($), prohibit the use of non-English letters, and do not start with pg.
  • Avoid using niche words and abbreviations.

Database Naming

Required

  • The database name should preferably be consistent with the application or service and must be a distinguishable English word.
  • Names must start with <biz>-, <biz> being the name of the specific business line, and must end with -shard if it is a sharded database.
  • Multiple sections are concatenated using -. For example, <biz>-chat-shard, <biz>-payment, etc., with no more than three segments in total.

Role Naming

Required

  • There is one and only one su database: postgres
  • The user for stream replication is named replication.
  • All databases have three base roles by default: <biz>-read, <biz>-write, and <biz>-usage, which have read-only, write-only, and function execution permissions for all tables, respectively.
  • Production users, ETL users, and individual users gain privileges by inheriting the corresponding base roles.
  • Use separate roles for more granular permissions, which vary by business.

Schema Naming

Required

  • Businesses use <*> as the schema name, and <*> is the business name. The schema name must be set to the first element of search_path.
  • dba, monitor, trash are reserved schema names.
  • The partition schema naming rule follows: rel_<partition_total_num>_<partition_index>.
  • Unless excepted, objects should not be created in other schemas.

Table Naming

Recommended

  • Clarity is the first priority, should not use ambiguous abbreviations, should not be excessively long, and follow common naming rules.
  • Table names should use plural nouns, or in line with historical conventions, but words with irregular plural forms should be avoided as much as possible.
  • Views use v_ as the naming prefix, materialized views use mv_ as the naming prefix, and temporary tables use tmp_ as the naming prefix.
  • Inherited or partitioned tables should be prefixed with the parent table name and suffixed with the child table characteristics (rules, partition ranges, etc.).

Index Naming

Recommended

  • If possible, the index name should be specified when creating an index, and be consistent with the default naming rules of PostgreSQL to avoid creating duplicate indexes when repeatedly executed.

  • Indexes used for primary keys end with _pkey, unique indexes end with _key, indexes used for EXCLUDED constraints end with _excl, and normal indexes end with _idx.

Function Naming

Recommended

  • Starting with one of select, insert, delete, update, upsert to indicate action type.

  • Important parameters can be dictated in the function name by suffixing _by_ids, _by_user_ids.

  • Avoid function overloading and try to keep only one function with the same name.

  • Overloading BIGINT/INTEGER/SMALLINT and other integer types is prohibited, otherwise it may generate ambiguity when called.

Column Naming

Recommended

  • Should not use reserved system column names: oid, xmin, xmax, cmin, cmax, ctid, etc.

  • The primary key column is usually named id, or suffixed with id.

  • The creation time is usually named created_time and the modification time is usually named updated_time.

  • It is recommended to use is_, has_, etc. as prefixes for boolean columns.

  • Newly added column names need to be consistent with existing column naming conventions.

Variable Naming

Recommended

  • Variables in stored procedures and functions use named parameters, not positional parameters.

  • If there is a conflict between a parameter name and an object name, add _ after the parameter, e.g. user_id_.

Comment

Recommended

  • Try to provide comments (COMMENT) for the object, use concise and one-line comments.

  • When the semantics of the object's schema or content changes, be sure to update the comments accordingly.

Design Rules

Character Set must be UTF8

Required

  • Only UTF8 is allowed

Capacity Planning

Required

  • Criteria to consider partitioning table, a single table over 100 million records, or more than 10GB in size.

  • Criteria to consider sharding database, a single table is over 1TB and a single database is over 2TB in size.

Do not Abuse Stored Procedure

Required

  • Stored procedures are suitable for encapsulating transactions, reducing concurrency conflicts, reducing network round trips, reducing the amount of data returned, and performing a small amount of custom logic.

  • Stored procedures are not suitable for complex calculations and for mundane/frequent type conversions and wrappers.

Separate Storage from Computation

Required

  • Remove unnecessary computationally intensive logic from the database, such as using SQL in the database for WGS84 to other coordinate systems conversions.

  • Exception: computational logic closely related to data acquisition and filtering is allowed in the database, e.g. geometric calculation in PostGIS.

Primary Key and Identity Column

Required

  • Every table must have an identity column, which in principle must have a primary key, with a minimum requirement of having a non-null unique constraint.

  • The identity column is used to uniquely identify any tuple in the table, on which logical replication and many 3rd party tools depend.

Foreign Key

Required

  • It is not recommended to use foreign keys, and it is recommended to enforce them at the application level. When using foreign keys, the reference key must set the corresponding action: SET NULL, SET DEFAULT, CASCADE, and be careful with cascading operations.

Use Wide Table with Caution

Required

  • Tables with more than 15 columns are regarded as wide tables, and wide tables should be considered for vertical splitting and cross-referenced to the main table by the same primary key.

  • Because of the MVCC mechanism, the write amplification phenomenon of wide tables is more obvious, so try to reduce the frequent updates to wide tables.

Default Value

Required

  • Columns that have default values must have the DEFAULT clause added to specify the default values.

  • Default values can be generated dynamically using functions in the DEFAULT clause (e.g. primary key generator).

Zero and NULL Value

Required

  • Column semantics do not distinguish between zero and NULL values, do not allow NULL values, and specify NOT NULL constraint on columns.

Enforce Unique Value via Database Constraint.

Required

  • The uniqueness shall be guaranteed by the database and any unique column shall have a UNIQUE constraint.

  • EXCLUDE constraint is the generalized UNIQUE constraint that can be used to ensure data integrity in low-frequency update scenarios.

Watch out Integer Overflow

Required

  • SQL standard does not define unsigned integers, values exceeding INTMAX but not UINTMAX need to be stored in larger type.

  • Do not store values that exceed INT64MAX into the BIGINT column, they will overflow into negative numbers.

  • When using integer type as primary key and the table has frequent insert conflicts, you need to pay attention to integer overflow.

Unify Time Zone

Required

  • Use TIMESTAMP to store time with UTC time zone.

  • Uniformly use ISO-8601 format to input and output time type: 2006-01-02 15:04:05 to avoid DMY and MDY problems.

  • Use TIMESTAMPTZ with GMT/UTC time and 0 time zone standard time.

Clean Obsolete Functions

Required

  • Unused functions should be taken offline in time to avoid conflicts with new functions.

Primary Key Type

Recommended

  • Primary keys usually use integers, BIGINT is recommended, and strings of up to 64 bytes are allowed.

  • The primary key is allowed to be generated automatically using Serial, and it is recommended to use the Default next_id() genarator function.

Choose Proper Column Type

Recommended

  • Prefer more specific types over general text types (numeric, enum, network address, monetary, JSON, UUID, and etc).

  • Using the right data types can significantly improve the efficiency of data storage, querying, indexing, computation, and maintainability.

Use ENUM

Recommended

  • Columns have fixed and small value space (within a dozen) should use ENUM types, not integers or strings.

  • There are performance, storage, and maintainability advantages to using ENUM types.

Use Proper String Types

Recommended

  • PostgreSQL's string types include CHAR(n), VARCHAR(n), TEXT.

  • It is usually recommended to use VARCHAR or TEXT. Types with the (n) modifier check the string length, which causes a tiny extra overhead, and VARCHAR(n) should be used when there is a limit on the string length to avoid inserting excessively long dirty data.

  • Avoid CHAR(n), to conform with the SQL standard, it fills unused with spaces or truncates excessive letters, and has no storage or performance benefits.

Use Proper Numeric Types

Recommended

  • Use INTEGER for regular numeric fields. If not certain, use BIGINT for primary keys and numeric columns.

  • Unless excepted, do not use SMALLINT, performance and storage improvement is negligible, while it will bring a lot of additional problems.

  • REAL means 4-byte floating point number, FLOAT means 8-byte floating point number.

  • FLOAT can only be used in scenarios where the end precision does not matter, such as geographic coordinates, do not use equivalence comparison for floating values.

  • NUMERIC is used for precise numeric type, pay attention to precision and decimal position.

  • Use MONEY for monetary value type.

Use Unified Form to Create Functions

Recommended

  • The signature occupies a separate line (function name and arguments), the return value starts a new line, and the language is the first label.

  • Be sure to label the function volatility: IMMUTABLE, STABLE, VOLATILE.

  • Annotate attribute labels, such as: RETURNS NULL ON NULL INPUT, PARALLEL SAFE , ROWS 1, pay attention to version compatibility.

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION
  nspname.myfunc(arg1_ TEXT, arg2_ INTEGER)
  RETURNS VOID
LANGUAGE SQL
STABLE
PARALLEL SAFE
ROWS 1
RETURNS NULL ON NULL INPUT
AS $function$
SELECT 1;
$function$;

Design for Extensibility

Recommended

  • When designing the table, future expansion needs should be considered, and may reserve 1 ~ 3 fields in advance.

  • For non-key columns which can change frequently, you can use JSON type.

Pick Sensible Normalization Level

Recommended

  • Allow proper denormalization to reduce multi-table joins and improve performance.

Use New PostgreSQL Release

Recommended

  • The new version has performance improvements, stability enhancements, and more new features.

  • Take advantage of new features and reduce design complexity.

Use Trigger Judiciously

Recommended

  • Triggers increase the complexity and maintenance cost of the system and are discouraged.

Index Rules

Online Queries Must have Matching Indexes

Required

  • All online queries must be indexed according to their access patterns, and full table scans are not allowed except for very few small tables.

  • Indexes have a cost and are not allowed to create unused indexes.

Index on Large Columns are Prohibited

Required

  • The size of the indexed column cannot exceed 2KB (1/3 of the page capacity), and in principle, it is prohibited to exceed 64 characters.

  • If there is a need for indexing large fields, you can consider taking a hash of the large fields and creating a function index. Or use other types of indexes (GIN).

Explicit NULL Sorting Rules

Required

  • If there is a sorting requirement on a nullable column, you need to explicitly specify in the query and index whether NULLS FIRST or NULLS LAST.

  • Note that the default rule for DESC sorting is NULLS FIRST, i.e., NULL values appear at the top of the sort, which is usually not the expected behavior.

  • The sort condition of the index must match the query, e.g., CREATE INDEX ON tbl (id DESC NULLS LAST);.

Use GiST Indexes for Nearest Neighbor Queries

Required

  • Traditional B-tree indexes do not provide good support for KNN problems and GiST indexes should be used.

Use Functional Index

Recommended

  • Any redundant columns that can be inferred from other columns in the same row can be replaced using a functional index.

  • For statements that often use expressions as query conditions, expressions or functional indexes can be used to speed up queries.

  • Typical scenarios: create a hash functional index on a large field and a reverse functional index for a text column that requires a left fuzzy query.

Use Partial Index

Recommended

  • Partial indexes can be used to reduce the size of the index and improve the efficiency of the query if the query conditions are fixed.

  • If there are only a limited number of possible values for a column to be indexed in a query, you can also create several corresponding partial indexes.

Use Range Index

Recommended

  • For data whose values are linearly related to the storage order of the heap table, it is recommended to use the BRIN index if the usual query is a range query.

  • Temporal data is one of the most typical scenarios with appending-only writes, BRIN indexes are more efficient.

Watch out Cardinality of Composite Index

Recommended

  • Put higher cardinality columns first.

Query Rules

Split Read and Write

Required

  • In principle, write requests go to the primary and read requests go to the replica.

  • Exception: Consistency guarantees are needed for read-after-write, or significant replication delays are detected.

Split Fast and Slow

Required

  • Queries that take less than 1 millisecond in production are called fast queries, and queries that take more than 1 second in production are called slow queries.

  • Slow queries must be routed to offline databases, and the corresponding timeout must be set.

  • The execution time of online query in production should be controlled within 1ms in principle.

  • If the execution time of online query in production is over 10ms, it needs to be optimized before going online.

  • Online queries should be configured with a timeout of 10ms or faster to avoid cascading failures.

  • Online primary and replica should not allow large data pulling, the warehouse ETL program should pull data from offline read replica.

Configure Timeout

Required

  • Configure active timeouts for all statements, and actively cancel requests after the timeout to avoid cascading failures.

  • Statements that are executed periodically must be configured with a timeout less than the execution cycle.

Watch out Replication Delay

Required

  • Applications must be aware of the replication delay between primary and replicas and properly handle situations where replication delay is outside of a reasonable range.

  • Delays that are normally in the 0.1ms range can reach the order of ten minutes or even hours in extreme cases. The application can choose to either read from the primary, retry read, or report an error.

Use Connection Pool

Required

  • The application must access the database through a connection pool, connecting to pgbouncer on port 6432 instead of postgres on 5432.

  • Note the difference between using a connection pool and a direct connection to the database, some features may not work (e.g. Notify/Listen) and there may be connection pollution issues.

Prohibit Changing Connection Setting from a Connection Pool

Required

  • It is prohibited to modify the connection setting when using a public connection pool, including modifying connection parameters, modifying search paths, changing roles, and changing databases.

  • The connection must be completely destroyed after modification as a last resort. Putting a connection back into the connection pool after changing the setting can cause connection pollution to spread.

Retry Connection

Required

  • Queries can be killed due to concurrent contention, administrator commands, etc. Applications need to be aware of this and retry when necessary.

  • Applications can trigger a circuit breaker to avoid a cascade failure in case of a large number of errors reported by the database. However, care should be taken to distinguish the error types.

Reconnect

Required

  • The connection may be aborted for various reasons and the application must have a reconnection mechanism.

  • You can use SELECT 1 as a heartbeat packet query to detect the presence of messages from the connection and periodically keep it alive.

Prohibits DDL in Online Application

Required

  • Don't bring surprise in your application code.

Explicitly Specify Columns

Required

  • Avoid using SELECT *, or using * in the RETURNING clause. Use a specific list of columns and do not return unused columns. Queries that use column wildcards are likely to have a column mismatch error when the table structure changes (e.g., new columns).

  • Exception: Wildcards are allowed when the stored procedure returns table row type.

Prohibit Full Table Scan

Required

  • Exceptions: fixed small tables, very low frequency operations, very small tables/returned result sets (within a hundred records/hundred KB).

  • Avoid using negation operators such as !=, <> negation operators on the first filter condition, which will result in a full table scan.

Prohibit Long Waits in a Transaction

Required

  • The transaction must be committed or rolled back as soon as possible after it is opened, and IDLE IN transactions longer than 10 minutes will be forced to kill.

  • Applications should enable AutoCommit to avoid BEGIN followed by no paired ROLLBACK or COMMIT.

  • Try to use the transaction manageer provided by the standard library, and do not control transactions manually if possible.

Must Close the Cursor after Use.

Required

Count Row Number

Required

  • count(*) is the standard syntax for counting the number of rows, the presense of NULL values is irrelevant.

  • count(col) counts the number of non-NULL rows in the col column. NULL values in the column are not counted.

  • count(distinct col) counts the number of rows in column col, also ignoring NULL values, i.e. only the number of non-NULL distinct values are counted.

  • count(col1, col2) counts multiple columns even if all the columns to be counted are empty, e.g. (NULL, NULL) are counted.

  • distinct (col1, col2)) counts multiple columns even if all the columns to be counted are empty, e.g. (NULL, NULL) are counted.

Watch out NULL in Aggregation Function

Required

  • All aggregation functions except count ignore NULL values, so when the input values are all NULL, the result is NULL. the exception is count(col), which returns 0 in this case.

  • If the aggregation function returns NULL is not the expected result, use coalesce to set the default value.

Handle NULL with Caution

Required

  • Clearly distinguish between Zero values and NULL values, using IS NULL for NULL equivalence and the regular = operator for Zero values.

  • NULL as a function input parameter should have a type modifier, otherwise it will be impossible to identify which one to use for functions with overloads.

  • Note the logic of comparing NULL values: any comparison operation involving NULL values results in UNKNOWN, and pay attention to the logic of UNKNOWN participation in Boolean operations:

    • or: TRUE or UNKNOWN will return TRUE because of logical short-circuit.
    • and: FALSE and UNKNOWN will return FALSE because of logical short-circuit.
    • Other cases as long as UNKNOWN appears, the result is UNKNOWN.
  • Comparing NULL with any value, the result is NULL, e.g. NULL = NULL returns NULL instead of TRUE/FALSE.

  • For equivalence comparison between NULL and non-NULL values, use IS DISTINCT FROM, to ensure that the comparison result is non-NULL.

  • NULL and aggregation function: when the input value to the aggregation function is all NULL, the return result is NULL.

Watch out Serial Gap

Required

  • When using Serial type, INSERT, UPSERT and other operations will consume serial number, and the consumption will not be rolled back if the transaction fails.

Use Prepared Statement for Repeated Query

Recommended

  • Repeated queries should use a prepared statement to eliminate the CPU overhead of parsing SQL.

  • The Prepared Statement modifies the connection state, so be aware of the effect of connection pooling on the prepared statement.

Choose Proper Isolation Level

Recommended

  • The default isolation level is read-committed, which is suitable for most simple read and write transactions. Normal transactions choose the lowest isolation level that meets their needs.

  • For write transactions that require transaction-level consistency snapshots, use the repeatable read isolation level.

  • For write transactions with strict correctness requirements, use the serializable isolation level.

  • In the event of a concurrent conflict between the RR and SR isolation levels, aggressive retries should be performed depending on the type of error.

Do not Use count for Existence Check

Recommended

  • To determine if a column satisfies the condition, SELECT 1 FROM tbl WHERE xxx LIMIT 1 is faster than count.
  • Use SELECT EXISTS(SELECT * FROM tbl WHERE xxx LIMIT 1) to convert the existence result to a Boolean value.

Use RETURNING

Recommended

  • If the user needs to get the inserted, deleted or modified data immediately after, it is recommended to use the RETURNING clause to reduce the number of database interactions.

Use UPSERT to Simplify Logic

Recommended

  • When the business has an insert-fail-update sequence of operations, consider using UPSERT instead.

Use Advisory Lock to Handle Hotspot

Recommended

  • For very high frequency concurrent writes (spikes) to single row record, record ID should be locked using advisory lock.

  • If high concurrent contention can be resolved at the application level, do not address it at the database level.

Optimize IN Operator

Recommended

  • Use EXISTS clause instead of the IN operator for better performance.

  • For singular value comparision, use = ANY(ARRAY[1,2,3,4]) instead of IN (1,2,3,4) for better performance.

  • For row value type comparison, still use IN. Because clause like WHERE (a, b) = ANY(ARRAY[(1, 2), (2, 3)]) won't hit index. Similar if the array is generated from a function like = ANY (call_function()).

Recommended

  • Left fuzzy search WHERE col LIKE '%xxx' can not take advantage of the B-tree index, if necessary, use reverse expression functional index.

Use Arrays instead of Temporary Tables

Recommended

  • Consider using an array instead of a temporary table, for example when fetching the corresponding records for a series of IDs. = ANY(ARRAY[1,2,3]) is better than the temporary table JOIN.

Deployment Process

!

You can use Bytebase Change Workflow to streamline and bookkeep the deployment process.

Communication

Required

  • Submitting deployment request by emailing to dba@example.com.

  • Clear title: xx project needs to perform xx action on xx database.

  • Clear objectives: which actions need to be performed on which database instance for each step and how to verify the results.

  • Rollback plan: Any changes need to provide a rollback plan, and newly created objects also need to pair with cleanup scripts.

Evaluation

Communication

Required

  • The online database deployment needs to go through several evaluation phases: R&D self-test, supervisor review, (optional) QA review, and DBA review.

  • The self-test phase should ensure that the changes are executed correctly in the development and staging environment.

  • If it is a new table, the number of records, the estimated daily data increment, and the estimated read/write volume should be given in advance.

  • If it is a new function, a pressure test report should be given, or at least the average execution time should be given.

  • If it is a schema migration, all upstream and downstream dependencies must be sorted out.

  • The Technical Lead (TL) is responsible for the changes, and needs to evaluate and review the change.

  • The DBA evaluates and reviews the deployment process and impact to the database.

Deployment Window

Required

  • No database change is allowed after 19:00. For urgent deployment, TL needs to request exception from CTO/Eng VP.

  • Database Change confirmed by TL after 16:00 will be postponed to the next day for execution.

Cluster Management

Watch out Backup

Required

  • Daily full backup and continously archive segement files.

Watch out Transaction XID Wraparound

Required

Watch out Decay and Bloat

Required

  • Pay attention to table and index bloat, avoid performance degradation.

Watch out Replication Delay

Required

  • Monitor replication delay and be extra careful when using replication slots.

Follow the Principle of Least Privilege

Required

Use CONCURRENT to Create/Drop index

Required

  • For production tables, indexes must be created concurrently using CREATE INDEX CONCURRENTLY.

Prewarm Replica

Required

  • Use pg_prewarm, or gradually onboard traffic.

Perform Schema Change Judiciously

Required

  • Before 11, you must use syntax without default values when adding new columns to avoid full table rewrites. After 11, only volatile default value causes full table rewrites.

  • When changing types, all functions that depend on the type should be rebuilt if necessary.

Split Large Writes into Batches

Recommended

  • Large write operations should be splitted into small batches to avoid generating large WALs at once.

Optimize Data Loading

Recommended

  • Turn off autovacuum and use COPY to load the data.

  • Create constraints and indexes after loading the data.

  • Increase maintenance_work_mem and max_wal_size.

  • Execute the VACUUM VERBOSE ANALYZE tbl after loading the data.