Question: What is commit_delay in PostgreSQL and how is it used?


commit_delay is a configuration parameter in PostgreSQL that can be used to improve performance under certain conditions, especially in systems experiencing high contention due to concurrent transactions committing at the same time. By introducing a delay before the final commit record is written to the disk, commit_delay aims to reduce this contention.

How Does commit_delay Work?

In PostgreSQL, when a transaction commits, it needs to write a commit record to the Write-Ahead Logging (WAL). This process can lead to disk I/O contention if many transactions are committing simultaneously, as each transaction tries to write to the WAL. The commit_delay setting specifies a delay period (in microseconds) that the server waits after generating the WAL for a commit and before actually writing it to the disk. This delay allows multiple commit records to be combined into fewer disk operations, thus reducing I/O contention and potentially increasing throughput.


The commit_delay parameter is often used in conjunction with another parameter called commit_siblings. The commit_siblings parameter specifies the minimum number of concurrent transactions needed to trigger the commit_delay. For example, if commit_siblings is set to 5, the commit_delay will only be applied if there are at least five transactions committing at the same time.

Here is how you might set these parameters in the postgresql.conf file or dynamically using the ALTER SYSTEM command:

-- Set commit_delay to 10 milliseconds (10000 microseconds) ALTER SYSTEM SET commit_delay = 10000; -- Set commit_siblings to 5 ALTER SYSTEM SET commit_siblings = 5; -- Reload configuration to apply changes SELECT pg_reload_conf();


While commit_delay can improve throughput by reducing I/O contention, it can also increase the latency of individual commit operations because of the added delay. Therefore, it's important to test this setting thoroughly in a development or staging environment before applying it in production. Ideally, it should be used in high-load environments where disk I/O contention is a significant bottleneck.

In conclusion, commit_delay and commit_siblings are tools in PostgreSQL that can help manage disk I/O contention during periods of high transactional activity. Proper tuning of these parameters based on specific workload characteristics can lead to improved system performance.

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