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Postgres 9.6 feature highlight - pg_visibility

PostgreSQL 9.6 is shipping with a new contrib module manipulating and giving some input on the visibility map of a relation:
Add pg_visibility contrib module.

This lets you examine the visibility map as well as page-level
visibility information.  I initially wrote it as a debugging aid,
but was encouraged to polish it for commit.

Patch by me, reviewed by Masahiko Sawada.

Discussion: 56D77803.6080503@BlueTreble.com
The visibility map, associated to a relation in its own file, which is named with the suffix _vm, tracks information related to the visibility of tuples on relation pages for each backend. Up to 9.5, 1 bit was used per heap page, meaning that if this bit is set all the tuples stored on this page are visible to all the transactions. In 9.6, 2 bits are being used, the extra bit added is used to track if all tuples on a given page have been frozen or not, critically improving VACUUM performance by preventing full table scans.
pg_visibility contains a couple of functions allowing one to get a look at the status of each page’s bits. The first one, and aimed at general purposes, gives an insight about the all-frozen and all-visible status for each page of a relation, plus the status of PD_ALL_VISIBLE which is the same information as the all-visible flag except that it is stored in the heap page itself and not the VM file:
=# CREATE TABLE tab_visible AS SELECT generate_series(1,1000) AS id;
SELECT 1000
=# SELECT * FROM pg_visibility('tab_visible'::regclass);
 blkno | all_visible | all_frozen | pd_all_visible
-------+-------------+------------+----------------
     0 | f           | f          | f
     1 | f           | f          | f
     2 | f           | f          | f
     3 | f           | f          | f
     4 | f           | f          | f
(5 rows)
This function can take an optional argument in the shape of a block number. pg_visibility_map is similar to the previous function, except that it does not scan the all-visible flag value on the page and it just fetches what is available on the visibility map.
Then come the sanity checkers: pg_check_visible and pg_check_frozen that return a list of TIDs where refer to tuples that are respectively not all-visible and all-frozen even if the page they are on is marked as such. Those functions returning an empty set means that the database is not corrupted. If there are entries. Oops.
=# SELECT pg_check_visible('tab_visible'::regclass);
 pg_check_visible
------------------
(0 rows)
=# SELECT pg_check_frozen('tab_visible'::regclass);
 pg_check_frozen
-----------------
(0 rows)
And finally is a function that may become useful for maintenance purposes: pg_truncate_visibility_map which removes the visibility map of a relation. The next VACUUM that runs on this relation will forcibly rebuilt the visibility map of the relation. Note that this action is WAL-logged.
=# SELECT pg_truncate_visibility_map('tab_visible'::regclass);
 pg_truncate_visibility_map
----------------------------
 
(1 row)

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