Book Image

PostgreSQL 9 High Availability Cookbook

By : Shaun Thomas
Book Image

PostgreSQL 9 High Availability Cookbook

By: Shaun Thomas

Overview of this book

Table of Contents (17 chapters)
PostgreSQL 9 High Availability Cookbook
About the Author
About the Reviewers

Sizing storage

Capacity planning for a database server involves a lot of variables. We must account for table count, user activity, compliance storage requirements, indexes, object bloat, maintenance, archival, and more. We may even have to consider application features that do not exist. New functionality often brings new tables, new storage standards, and archival needs. Planning done now may have little relevance to future usage.

So how do we produce functional estimates for disk space, with so many uncertain or fluctuating elements? Primarily, we want to avoid a scenario where we do not have enough space. Running out of disk space results in ignored queries at best, and a completely frozen and difficult to repair database at worst. Neither are ingredients of a highly available environment.

So we have a lower bound in this case, enough to avoid catastrophe though it's in our best interest to allocate more than the bare minimum.

Getting ready

Since there are a lot of variables that contribute to the volume of storage we want, we need information about each of them. Gather as many data points as possible regarding things such as: largest expected tables and indexes, row counts per day, indexes per table, desired excess, and anything else imaginable. We'll use all of it.


This is much easier if we already have a database, and are now trying to ensure it is highly available. Even if the database is only in development or staging environments at this moment, a few activity simulations at expected user counts should provide a basis for many of our numbers. No matter the case, revisit estimates as concrete details become available.

How to do it...

We can collect some of the information we want from PostgreSQL if we have a running instance already. If not, we can use baseline numbers. Follow these steps if you already have a PostgreSQL database available:

  1. Submit this query to get the amount of space used by all databases:

    SELECT pg_size_pretty(sum(pg_database_size(oid))::BIGINT)
      FROM pg_database;
  2. Wait one week.

  3. Perform the preceding query again.

  4. Subtract the first reading from the second.


Downloading the example code

You can download the example code files for all Packt books you have purchased from your account at If you purchased this book elsewhere, you can visit and register to have the files e-mailed directly to you.

If we don't have an existing install and are working with a project that has yet to start development, we can substitute a few guesses instead. Without a running PostgreSQL instance, use the following assumptions:

  • Our databases have a total size of 100 GB

  • After one week, our install grew by 1.5 GB

Next, we can calculate our growth needs for the next three years. Perform the following steps:

  1. Multiply the change in install size by four.

  2. Apply the following formula, where x is the most recent size of the databases, and y is the value from the previous step: x * (1 + y/x)^36.

  3. Multiply the previous result by two.

How it works...

In the end, this is the magic of compounding interest. If we have an existing database installed, it can tell us not only how much space it currently consumes, but also how quickly it's currently growing. If not, we can start with a medium size and substitute a growth assumption that will cause the cumulative total to double in size every year. Remember, we begin by working with worst case scenarios, and modify the numbers afterwards.


What if we don't need compounding interest because our expected growth is linear? It's always easier to start with too much space than to add more later. If you know your table count will rarely change, users will not increase in number, or data streams are relatively consistent, feel free to drop the compounded interest formula. Otherwise, we suggest using it anyway.

The PostgreSQL query we used takes advantage of the system catalog and known statistics regarding the database contents. The pg_database_size function always returns the number of bytes a database uses, so we must use the pg_size_pretty function to make it more human readable.

Once we know the size of the database instance and its growth rate, we can apply a simple compounding interest function to estimate the volume at any point in the future. This not only accounts for the current growth rate, but incorporates additional accumulation caused by increases in clients, table counts, and other unspecified sources. It's extremely aggressive, since we take the weekly growth rate, translate that to a monthly rate, and apply the compounding monthly instead of yearly.

And then we use a standard engineering tactic and double the estimate, just in case. Using the provided values—that of a 100 GB database that grows at 1.5 GB per week—we would have an 815 GB database install in three years. With a system that large, we should allocate at least 1630 GB. If we simply added the 1.5 GB weekly growth rate for three years, the final tally would only be 334 GB, and we could get by with 668 GB.

There's more...

Don't let our formulas define your only path. Let's explore how they apply in a real world situation, and how we can modify them to better fit our systems.

Real-world example

There are quite a few very large databases using PostgreSQL. Whether or not they have thousands of tables and indexes, billions of rows, or handle billions of queries per day, statistics help us plan for the future. Let's apply the previous steps to an example database that actually exists:

  • The database is currently 875 GB

  • The database was 865 GB last week

  • The database grows by 10 GB per week

  • Thus, the database grows by 40 GB every four weeks

  • Using the formula we discussed in the step two of this recipe, the number become this: 875 * (1 + 40/875)^36 = 4374 GB

  • Doubled, this is 8748 GB

Keep in mind that this estimation technique may grossly exaggerate the necessary space. If we take the existing 40 GB monthly growth rate, the database would only be 2315 GB in three years. Of course, 2.3 TB is still a very large database, it's just half as large as our estimate.

Adjusting the numbers

We already mentioned that the growth curve used here is extremely aggressive. We can't risk ever running out of space in a production database and still consider ourselves highly available. However, there is probably a safe position between the current growth rate of the database, and the compounded estimate, especially since we are doubling the allocation anyway.

In the preceding real-world example, the database is likely to have a size between 2315 GB and 4374 GB. If we split the difference, that's 3345 GB. Further more, we don't necessarily have to double that number if we're comfortable having a disk device that's 70 percent full three years from now instead of 50 percent. With that in mind, we would probably be safe with 5 TB of space instead of 9 TB. That's a vast saving if we're willing to make those assumptions.

Incorporate the spreadsheet

At the beginning of this chapter, we created a hardware cost spreadsheet to estimate the total cost of a highly available server. If we were following the chapter, our spreadsheet already accounts for the minimum number of devices necessary to provide the IOPS we want.

Suppose we needed 15,000 IOPS, and decided to use 2.5-inch drives. That would require over 40 drives. Even at only 300 GB each, that's 12 TB of total available space. Yet the case for SSDs is the opposite. For our previous example, we would need at least five 1 GB SSD drives, or one very large PCIe SSD to provide 5 TB of space for the adjusted sample.

Whichever solution we finally choose, we can take the advice from every section so far. At this point, the spreadsheet should have a device count that should satisfy most, if not all, of our space and IOPS requirements.