Archive for March, 2015

23 March, 2015

Upgrading an existing RDS database to Postgres 9.4

by gorthx

Last Thursday, I had this short and one-sided conversation with myself:
“Oh, cool, Pg 9.4 is out for RDS. I’ll upgrade my new database before I have to put it into production next week, because who knows when else I’ll get a chance. Even though I can’t use pg_dumpall, this will take me what, 20 minutes, tops.”

Here is the process I came up with. It did take a bit longer than 20 minutes & I hope these notes save someone else some time. Instance info: t2.small, 10G GP SSD attached storage.

If you have a lot of instances you want to upgrade, you could script this entire thing with the API + psql.

– If you’re using a non-default parameter group, create an equivalent for 9.4. You can’t use 9.3 parameter groups with 9.4 instances.
– Launch a new 9.4 instance (e.g. gabs-db-94) with the same specs as the original, but with the new parameter group.
– Get role information from your existing 9.3 instance. (See “problem areas”, below.)
– Create roles in the default database. In postgres, roles are available to all dbs in the cluster, so when you load your dumps in, all the table permissions should get set correctly if the roles already exist.

Update: Make sure you use the 9.4 pg_dump. This may have contributed to my #3 ‘problem area’ below.
– For each database:

pg_dump -Fc -v -h [endpoint of 9.3 instance] -U [master username] [database] > [database].dump
pg_restore -C -v -h [endpoint of 9.4 instance] -U [master username] -d [master database] [database].dump

– Rename 9.3 instance to e.g. gabs-db-93 (no periods!)
– Rename gabs-db-94 to gabs-db
– Don’t destroy the 9.3 instance for at least another week after you’re sure the new one is working. And/or when you do, don’t skip the ‘create final snapshot’ step.

Et voila.

Three specific RDS-related problem areas:
1. New (?) password requirements:
This may not be a 9.4 thing, but sometime in the past month or so, Amazon restricted which special characters are allowed in the master password. If you are using non-alphanumerics in your master passwords, try them out ahead of time.

2. Roles:
Without pg_dumpall, you don’t get role information in your database dump. (Or tablespaces, though I believe you can’t use those on RDS anyway.) This includes things like search_path, log settings specific for that user, etc. (Is there anything else that comes with pg_dumpall and not pg_dump? I don’t know.)

Try this query:

SELECT r.rolname, d.datname, rs.setconfig
FROM pg_db_role_setting rs
LEFT JOIN pg_roles r ON r.oid = rs.setrole
LEFT JOIN pg_database d ON d.oid = rs.setdatabase
WHERE r.rolname NOT LIKE 'rds%'

That will show you anything specifically set for a role. (Credit here:

Roles that don’t have non-default options won’t be in that result set, so make sure you check pg_roles or \du as well. If you script this, filter rds% out of your result set.

Passwords are not included. I don’t have a workaround for that, other than know all the passwords, or reset them all. I’m sure both options are equally popular.

3. Extensions:
This is the really strange one. After the upgrade, some extensions worked, some didn’t. I had to DROP and re-CREATE tablefunc and pg_trgm, both of which worked in my 9.3 instance.

Additional notes:

You’ll have a (short) outage during the time you’re swapping the 9.4 instance in by renaming it. I don’t see a way around this yet.

autovacuum log messages are still missing in 9.4; log_lock_waits works now.

For your amusement, the stuff I messed up:
1. First, I decided using the web console would be a faster way to create the new instance, instead of the cli (which I’m more familiar with.) When I use the cli, I explicitly set all the options available for a new instance. I was careless on the web console and accepted some dumb defaults and had to start over…twice. Lesson: go with what you know.

2. My database has multiple schemas. I missed transferring the search_path for my main ‘worker’ role, and basically broke half of my ETL jobs. This was actually a positive thing, because I was working toward explicitly schema-qualifying all SQL, and I found every place I was not doing that. :koff:

3. After the upgrade & changes, I wanted to dump the schemas out to version control. “Aborting due to server mismatch.” D’oh! Of course I didn’t have 9.4 installed locally. That opened up a whole ‘nother can of worms with trying to upgrade pg on my mac, but I’ll save that for over a beer. Sheesh.

9 March, 2015

PDXPUG Lab Recap: postgres_fdw

by gorthx

Back in January, PDXPUG had a lab night to try out the postgres_fdw.

Our labs are even more casual than our meetings: I don’t set an agenda, I invite the attendees to choose specific questions or topics they want to investigate. Here’s what we came up with for our FDW lab:

– What is it
– Use cases; who has one?
– Best practices?
– Security concerns?
– Performance concerns? (We didn’t get to this.)
– Any diffs between 9.3 and 9.4? (… or this either.)
– Test drive!

Our main focus was the Test Drive. Setup went pretty well for most folks, though one attendee had permissions issues & fell back to file_fdw.

There are four steps (outlined in the docs)
0. Install the extension ;)
1. Create a foreign server
2. Create a user mapping
3. Create your foreign table(s)

Useful commands:
\des to describe foreign servers
\deu to describe user mappings
\det to describe foreign tables

My use case: quick & dirty ETL solution. I pull data from several postgres datasources1 into a staging database (for data conformance and other tasks), and then push it out to a data mart.

To keep it all reasonably organized, I put the foreign tables for each data source in a schema named for that datasource, e.g. the data from HR goes to schema ‘hr’, data from Accounting goes to ‘accounting’, etc. (This has tripped me up a couple of times, which I’ll cover in a later post.)

Here’s a quick example: I have a ‘users’ table in the accounting database, in the public schema. I want to put it in the ‘accounting’ schema locally.

dbname ‘accounting’
, host ‘’
, port ‘5432’
, updatable ‘false’

password ‘[password]’
, user ‘[username]’

CREATE FOREIGN TABLE accounting.users (
id integer
, username text
SERVER accounting
schema_name ‘public’
, table_name ‘users’
, updatable ‘false’

Note that you don’t get an error if the schema & table you specify doesn’t exist in the remote database, so check your work. I just run a quick SELECT … LIMIT 1 on the foreign table. This will also help pick up permissions problems.

According to the docs, the default for updatable is ‘true’, and a table setting overrides a server setting. I originally intepreted that to mean that a table’s default setting of true would override a server’s explicit setting of false, which seemed odd, and my tests don’t bear that out. (Nice to see that Pg once again does the sensible thing.) Regardless, I explicitly set this value at both the server and table level, enabling it only on tables I want to update. Of course, you should also set appropriate permissions on the remote table itself.

If you have a lot of tables you need to create fdw for, script the process! This looks like a good option:

You can ALTER FOREIGN TABLE for the field names as you would a regular table, but I haven’t figured out how/if you can update the options (like, if somebody changes the target hostname or dbname2).

The credentials associated with user mappings are pg_dumped as cleartext. Ideally, I guess you’d use .pgpass to manage the passwords for you, but I don’t have that option on RDS. To avoid accidentally committing schema dumps that include credentials to my git repo, I added this to my pre-commit hook:

sed -i .bak "s/password '.*',/password '[pwd]',/" schema_dump.sql

(The .bak is required on OSX.)

As usual, I picked up some additional “off-topic” info: check out SELECT * [sequence] or \d [sequence]!

Thanks to Matt S for hanging out afterwards and introducing me to the differences between Oracle’s and Pg’s query planners.

1 – and a few others that are being a pain in my ass :koff:salesforce:koff:
2 – of course, why worry about that, because that NEVER happens, right?

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2 March, 2015

SCALE 13x and “Yes, you still need a DBA”

by gorthx

Last weekend, I got to give a talk at SCALE‘s LA PgDay for the second year in a row. PGDay was two days this year, and unfortunately I had to miss Thursday – looks like I missed some great talks, too, dangit!

I reprised my RDS talk from PDXPUG’s January meeting. It certainly sparked some interesting discussions later.

(If you are too shy to ask questions in my talk, it is totally ok to come up afterwards and ask them, or stop by the Postgres booth & talk to me. That’s what I’m there for!)

I mentioned something in my talk that I want to throw out here because it’s been coming up in conversations recently:

If you have production data that you want to protect, you need a database adminstrator. Even if you are using a managed database service (RDS, Heroku, what have you), you need someone to:

– Choose an appropriate instance size for your workload
– Configure Postgres appropriately (as much as is possible on a managed service, anyway)
– Secure and audit databases
– Ensure data quality
– Tune queries (e.g. figure out what in [Sam Hill] the ORM is doing)
– Mentor devs
– …add your own here…

None of these tasks go away just because you’re using a managed database solution. You still need someone who can hop in there & get her hands dirty. You may disagree, but please keep this list handy