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Cursors and Transactions, why?

P: n/a
Why must a cursor be defined in an open transaction? Obviously there's
a good reason, but I can't figure it out. On a high level, what would
be involved in allowing a cursor to outlive the transaction that
created it?

Cursors seem as if they have some nice performance benefits (esp. if
you're not using all rows found), but their usefulness drops
considerably since you must leave a transaction open.

eric
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Nov 23 '05 #1
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18 Replies

P: n/a
On Apr 5, 2004, at 6:44 PM, Joe Conway wrote:
Eric Ridge wrote:
Why must a cursor be defined in an open transaction? Obviously
there's a good reason, but I can't figure it out. On a high level,
what would be involved in allowing a cursor to outlive the
transaction that created it?


Historically I think it was because the memory was released at the end
of the current transaction (i.e. allocations were made in
TopTransactionContext). But as of 7.4, cursors *can* outlive
transactions:
http://www.postgresql.org/docs/curre...l-declare.html

WITH HOLD
WITHOUT HOLD


holy cow! This is fantastic. I had no idea. <short pause> ooh, and
I see FETCH, in 7.4, supports absolute positioning. Must upgrade.

thanks!

eric
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Nov 23 '05 #2

P: n/a
Eric Ridge wrote:
Why must a cursor be defined in an open transaction? Obviously there's
a good reason, but I can't figure it out. On a high level, what would
be involved in allowing a cursor to outlive the transaction that created
it?


Historically I think it was because the memory was released at the end
of the current transaction (i.e. allocations were made in
TopTransactionContext). But as of 7.4, cursors *can* outlive transactions:
http://www.postgresql.org/docs/curre...l-declare.html

WITH HOLD
WITHOUT HOLD

WITH HOLD specifies that the cursor may continue to be used after
the transaction that created it successfully commits. WITHOUT HOLD
specifies that the cursor cannot be used outside of the transaction that
created it. If neither WITHOUT HOLD nor WITH HOLD is specified, WITHOUT
HOLD is the default.

HTH,

Joe
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Nov 23 '05 #3

P: n/a
Eric Ridge wrote:
Why must a cursor be defined in an open transaction? Obviously there's
a good reason, but I can't figure it out. On a high level, what would
be involved in allowing a cursor to outlive the transaction that
created it?
Because the transaction is what protects the rows that build the result
set from being removed by vacuum. In PostgreSQL, a cursor is a running
query executor just sitting in the middle of its operation. If the
underlying query is for example a simple sequential scan, then the
result set is not materialized but every future fetch operation will
read directly from the base table. This would obviously get screwed up
if vacuum would think nobody needs those rows any more.

Cursors seem as if they have some nice performance benefits (esp. if
you're not using all rows found), but their usefulness drops
considerably since you must leave a transaction open.


And now you know why they are so good if you don't use all rows. This
benefit I think goes away if you use Joe Conway's suggestion of WITH HOLD.
Jan

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Nov 23 '05 #4

P: n/a
On 4/6/04 10:54 AM, "Jan Wieck" <Ja******@yahoo.com> wrote:
Cursors seem as if they have some nice performance benefits (esp. if
you're not using all rows found), but their usefulness drops
considerably since you must leave a transaction open.


And now you know why they are so good if you don't use all rows. This
benefit I think goes away if you use Joe Conway's suggestion of WITH HOLD.


I tried using WITH HOLD in the following case (using an ecpg C program):

foreach row in table A
update table B with value from table A
commit once every 10,000 updates
forend

I created a cursor on table A. Without WITH HOLD, obviously I got an error
on the next TABLE A fetch because the COMMIT closed the cursor. I added
'WITH HOLD' to the cursor. On the first COMMIT, the application hung. I
assume the COMMIT would have completed after some period of time, but I
didn't wait that long.

There are 20 million rows in table A and 60 million in table B (one to many
relationship).

Is this hang on COMMIT when using WITH HOLD to be expected? Is there a way
around it? I don't think it's reasonable put the entire 60 million updates
in a single transaction. The kludge solution I implemented was to write out
all the data I needed from table A to a file, then read that file and update
table B.

Wes
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Nov 23 '05 #5

P: n/a
<we****@syntegra.com> writes:
Is this hang on COMMIT when using WITH HOLD to be expected?
Yes. WITH HOLD is not magic, it just makes a materialized copy of the
SELECT result. If you're talking about a multi-million-row result,
it's gonna take awhile.
The kludge solution I implemented was to write out all the data I
needed from table A to a file, then read that file and update table B.


In theory at least, that should not be any faster than a WITH HOLD
cursor, since you're effectively replicating the same functionality
outside the database ...

regards, tom lane

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Nov 23 '05 #6

P: n/a
On Apr 6, 2004, at 11:54 AM, Jan Wieck wrote:
Eric Ridge wrote:
Why must a cursor be defined in an open transaction? Obviously
there's a good reason, but I can't figure it out. On a high level,
what would be involved in allowing a cursor to outlive the
transaction that created it?
Because the transaction is what protects the rows that build the
result set from being removed by vacuum. In PostgreSQL, a cursor is a
running query executor just sitting in the middle of its operation.


That's a good thing to know.
If the underlying query is for example a simple sequential scan, then
the result set is not materialized but every future fetch operation
will read directly from the base table. This would obviously get
screwed up if vacuum would think nobody needs those rows any more.


Is vacuum the only thing that would muck with the rows?
Cursors seem as if they have some nice performance benefits (esp. if
you're not using all rows found), but their usefulness drops
considerably since you must leave a transaction open.


And now you know why they are so good if you don't use all rows. This
benefit I think goes away if you use Joe Conway's suggestion of WITH
HOLD.


Okay, so WITH HOLD is actually materializing the entire resultset
(sequential scan or otherwise)? If that's true, you're right, some of
the benefits do go away.

I need to setup a 7.4 test server and play with this some, and figure
out if the benefits are really what I want them to be. I do appreciate
the insight into how cursors work... it helps a lot!

eric
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Nov 23 '05 #7

P: n/a
On 4/6/04 3:55 PM, "Tom Lane" <tg*@sss.pgh.pa.us> wrote:
The kludge solution I implemented was to write out all the data I
needed from table A to a file, then read that file and update table B.


In theory at least, that should not be any faster than a WITH HOLD
cursor, since you're effectively replicating the same functionality
outside the database ...


Except for the "out of memory" thing...

Are you saying that once the first COMMIT completed, all COMMIT's after that
would function at normal speed - only the first one has to save the result
set?

Wes
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Nov 23 '05 #8

P: n/a
<we****@syntegra.com> writes:
On 4/6/04 3:55 PM, "Tom Lane" <tg*@sss.pgh.pa.us> wrote:
In theory at least, that should not be any faster than a WITH HOLD
cursor, since you're effectively replicating the same functionality
outside the database ...
Except for the "out of memory" thing...


What "out of memory thing"? The tuplestore code is perfectly capable of
spilling to disk --- in fact the usual performance gripe against it has
to do with spilling too soon, because sort_mem is set too small.

regards, tom lane

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Nov 23 '05 #9

P: n/a
Eric Ridge wrote:
On Apr 6, 2004, at 11:54 AM, Jan Wieck wrote:
And now you know why they are so good if you don't use all rows. This
benefit I think goes away if you use Joe Conway's suggestion of WITH
HOLD.


Okay, so WITH HOLD is actually materializing the entire resultset
(sequential scan or otherwise)? If that's true, you're right, some of
the benefits do go away.


Keep in mind that the tuplestore stays in memory as long as it fits
within sort_mem kilobytes. And you can do:

set sort_mem to <some_large_number>;

prior to COMMIT, and then

set sort_mem to default;

after COMMIT, as long as you can afford the memory use. A bit ugly, but
it might come in handy ;-)

Joe

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Nov 23 '05 #10

P: n/a
Eric Ridge wrote:
On Apr 6, 2004, at 11:54 AM, Jan Wieck wrote:
If the underlying query is for example a simple sequential scan, then
the result set is not materialized but every future fetch operation
will read directly from the base table. This would obviously get
screwed up if vacuum would think nobody needs those rows any more.
Is vacuum the only thing that would muck with the rows?


Vacuum is the only thing that cares for the dustmites, yes.
I need to setup a 7.4 test server and play with this some, and figure
out if the benefits are really what I want them to be. I do appreciate
the insight into how cursors work... it helps a lot!


Experience and knowledge can only be replaced by more experience and
more knowledge.
Jan

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Nov 23 '05 #11

P: n/a
On Apr 7, 2004, at 12:43 AM, Joe Conway wrote:
Eric Ridge wrote:
On Apr 6, 2004, at 11:54 AM, Jan Wieck wrote:
And now you know why they are so good if you don't use all rows.
This benefit I think goes away if you use Joe Conway's suggestion of
WITH HOLD.

Okay, so WITH HOLD is actually materializing the entire resultset
(sequential scan or otherwise)? If that's true, you're right, some
of the benefits do go away.


Keep in mind that the tuplestore stays in memory as long as it fits
within sort_mem kilobytes. And you can do:


More good information. Thanks!

Is the tuplestore basically just an array of ItemPointer-s? In mean,
it's not a copy of each entire row, is it?

eric
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Nov 23 '05 #12

P: n/a
On Apr 7, 2004, at 7:51 AM, Jan Wieck wrote:
Eric Ridge wrote:
On Apr 6, 2004, at 11:54 AM, Jan Wieck wrote:
If the underlying query is for example a simple sequential scan,
then the result set is not materialized but every future fetch
operation will read directly from the base table. This would
obviously get screwed up if vacuum would think nobody needs those
rows any more.

Is vacuum the only thing that would muck with the rows?


Vacuum is the only thing that cares for the dustmites, yes.


And WITH HOLD is strong enough to defend against a vacuum, I hope...
I need to setup a 7.4 test server and play with this some, and figure
out if the benefits are really what I want them to be. I do
appreciate the insight into how cursors work... it helps a lot!


Experience and knowledge can only be replaced by more experience and
more knowledge.


Very wise words.

My real problem is that the JDBC drivers (and I assume this is true for
all client interfaces) buffer the results of a SELECT in memory,
because the backend pushes out all the tuples as the response. I'm not
dealing with a large number of rows (only a few thousand), but they've
very wide, and many contain fields with multi-megabyte data. In some
situations, when I've got a lot of open ResultSets, the JVM throws
OutOfMemory errors.

One half-baked thought was to hack the JDBC drivers to have 'em gzip
large resultsets in memory. Wouldn't completely solve the problem, but
would probably help quite a bit. But the better solution is to use
cursors. We're not in a position to upgrade to 7.4 just yet, so we'll
just deal with the OutOfMemory errors until we can.

eric
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Nov 23 '05 #13

P: n/a
On 4/6/04 11:09 PM, "Tom Lane" <tg*@sss.pgh.pa.us> wrote:
What "out of memory thing"? The tuplestore code is perfectly capable of
spilling to disk --- in fact the usual performance gripe against it has
to do with spilling too soon, because sort_mem is set too small.


I tried doing a mass update of all rows with a single SQL statement in psql
and after it ran for many hours, I got 'out of memory'. I didn't try that
using C and WITH HOLD. I assumed it ran out of swap space, but was sleeping
at the time.

Wes
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Nov 23 '05 #14

P: n/a


On Wed, 7 Apr 2004, Eric Ridge wrote:

My real problem is that the JDBC drivers (and I assume this is true for
all client interfaces) buffer the results of a SELECT in memory,
because the backend pushes out all the tuples as the response. I'm not
dealing with a large number of rows (only a few thousand), but they've
very wide, and many contain fields with multi-megabyte data. In some
situations, when I've got a lot of open ResultSets, the JVM throws
OutOfMemory errors.


The 7.4 jdbc driver has the ability to use cursors behind the scenes on
queries. This is done by calling Statement.setFetchSize(n) to retrieve n
rows at a time. There are a number of other restrictions: you must be in
a transaction and the ResultSet type must be FORWARD_ONLY. You can use
the 7.4 jdbc driver against a 7.3 server as well so this may provide some
relief.

Kris Jurka
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Nov 23 '05 #15

P: n/a
Eric Ridge wrote:
Is the tuplestore basically just an array of ItemPointer-s? In mean,
it's not a copy of each entire row, is it?


Yup, it is copied:

src/backend/utils/sort/tuplestore.c:tuplestore_puttuple()
8<--------------------------------------------------------
/*
* Accept one tuple and append it to the tuplestore.
*
* Note that the input tuple is always copied; the caller need not save
* it.
8<--------------------------------------------------------

Joe
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Nov 23 '05 #16

P: n/a
On Apr 7, 2004, at 2:01 PM, Kris Jurka wrote:
The 7.4 jdbc driver has the ability to use cursors behind the scenes on
queries. This is done by calling Statement.setFetchSize(n) to
retrieve n
rows at a time. There are a number of other restrictions: you must be
in
a transaction and the ResultSet type must be FORWARD_ONLY. You can use
the 7.4 jdbc driver against a 7.3 server as well so this may provide
some
relief.


I remember reading about this long ago. It's not really an option in
my little world because of the open transaction bit. My solution is
eventually going to be to upgrade to 7.4... heh, probably about the
time 7.5 is released. *sigh*

eric
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Nov 23 '05 #17

P: n/a
On Apr 7, 2004, at 7:48 PM, Joe Conway wrote:
Eric Ridge wrote:
Is the tuplestore basically just an array of ItemPointer-s? In mean,
it's not a copy of each entire row, is it?


Yup, it is copied:


wow. I should go back and read the archives to see if this was
discussed already, but I can't help but wonder if there's a way to only
copy pointers to the tuples. I realize VACUUM could screw it up, but
maybe something could be invented (or re-used) to help guard against
that.

eric
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Nov 23 '05 #18

P: n/a
Eric Ridge <eb*@tcdi.com> writes:
wow. I should go back and read the archives to see if this was
discussed already, but I can't help but wonder if there's a way to only
copy pointers to the tuples. I realize VACUUM could screw it up, but
maybe something could be invented (or re-used) to help guard against
that.


Still looking for that free lunch, eh?

If you want to leave the tuples on-disk, then you hold a transaction
open to ensure that VACUUM won't whisk them out from under you. That's
what the normal non-HOLD cursor case will do.

If you don't want to leave the tuples on-disk, you have to copy them
someplace. You can do that with a HOLD cursor.

AFAICS any other solution will simply reinvent one or the other of these
techniques.

regards, tom lane

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Nov 23 '05 #19

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