PostgreSQL 9 High Performance Book Review

PostgreSQL 9.0 High Performance In a prior article we did a review of PostgreSQL 9 Admin Cookbook, by Simon Riggs and Hannu Krosing. In this article we'll take a look at the companion book PostgreSQL 9 High Performance by Greg Smith.

Both books are published by Packt Publishing and can be bought directly from Packt Publishing or via Amazon. Packt is currently running a 50% off sale if you buy both books (e-Book version) directly from Packt. In addition Packt offers free shipping for US, UK, Europe and select Asian countries.

For starters: The PostgreSQL 9 High Performance book is a more advanced book than the PostgreSQL 9 Admin Cookbook and is more of a sit-down book. At about 450 pages, it's a bit longer than the PostgreSQL Admin Cookbook. Unlike the PostgreSQL 9 Admin Cookbook, it is more a concepts book and much less of a cookbook. It's not a book you would pick up if you are new to databases and trying to feel your way thru PostgreSQL, however if you feel comfortable with databases in general, not specific to PostgreSQL and are trying to eek out the most performance you can it's a handy book. What surprised me most about this book was how much of it is not specific to PostgreSQL, but in fact hardware considerations that are pertinent to most relational databases. In fact Greg Smith, starts the book off with a fairly shocking statement in the section entitled PostgreSQL or another database? There are certainly situations where other database solutions will perform better. Those are words you will rarely hear from die-hard PostgreSQL users, bent on defending their database of choice against all criticism and framing PostgreSQL as the tool that will solve famine, bring world peace, and cure cancer if only everyone would stop using that other thing and use PostgreSQL instead:). That in my mind, made this book more of a trustworthy reference if you came from some other DBMS, and wanted to know if PostgreSQL could meet your needs comparably or better than what you were using before.

In a nutshell, if I were to contrast and compare the PostgreSQL 9 Admin Cookbook vs. PostgreSQL High Performance, I would say the Cookbook is a much lighter read focused on getting familiar with and getting the most out of the software (PostgreSQL), and PostgreSQL High Perofrmance is focused on getting the most out of your hardware and pushing your hardware to its limits to work with PostgreSQL. There is very little overlap of content between the two and as you take on more sophisticated projects, you'll definitely want both books on your shelf. The PostgreSQL 9 High Perofrmance book isn't going to teach you too much about writing better queries,day to day management, or how to load data etc, but it will tell you how to determine when your database is under stress or your hardware is about to kick the bucket and what is causing that stress. It's definitely a book you want to have if you plan to run large PostgreSQL databases or a high traffic site with PostgreSQL.

PostgreSQL 9 High Performance is roughly about 25% hardware and how to choose the best hardware for your budget, 40% in-depth details about how PostgreSQL works with your hardware and trade-offs made by PostgreSQL developers to get a healthy balance of performance vs. reliability, and another 35% about various useful monitoring tools for PostgreSQL performance and general hardware performance. Its focus is mostly on Linux/Unix, which is not surprising since most production PostgreSQL installs are on Linux/Unix. That said there is some coverage of windows such as FAT32/NTFS discussion and considerations when deploying terabyte size databases on Windows and issues with shared memory on Windows.

Full disclosure: I got a free e-Book copy of this book just as I did with PostgreSQL 9 Admin Cookbook.

Quality of Book Print

One person yelled at me on reddit for not going into details about the quality of the print and so forth. So here is my general biased comment of it..I have just the e-Book so can't comment on the hard-copy aside from what I know about PacktPub books I do have hard-copies off. As far as e-Book quality goes, I can only speak for the PDF version. What I can say about it, is that it fits my requirements. I can copy and paste code from the book, the index in the back and table of contents is clickable and takes me to any section when I click on the page number link. The text is fairly easy to read. It's not very colorful though. I think there are only about 3 or 4 color graphs in this book. Some colorful graphical explain plans would have helped A LOT. In short it needs more color :).

Andrew Dunstan also did a review of PostgreSQL 9 High Performance where he did complain about the code wrapping and the explain plans being difficult to read because of the wrapping. I personally find text explain plans difficult to read period. Sure things could have been wrapped a bit better or you could have YAML'd the damn thing, but it wouldn't have helped me much. What I really wanted to see was Graphical PgExplain plans along side the text plans. As strange as it sounds, perhaps because I come from a SQL Server background, I use the graphical explain plan as a roadmap into my information overloaded textual explain plan. Without that crutch, I feel a bit naked. The other snippets of code like SQL examples, I did find well-indented and easy to read, so have no idea what Andrew was whining about :).

Overview coverage of chapters

I liked David Christensen's review quote about the key theme of this book Measure don't guess. I think that quote sums this book up quite nicely. Here is my slightly more detailed account. I'm not going to bore you with the gory details of each chapter as was suggested on reddit, but will try to summarize the flavor of each chapter. If you don't like that tough and write your own review :).