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Postgres 9.6 Tracking of wait events

PostgreSQL 9.6 is introducing a new in-core infrastructure to help in the tracking of wait events for backend processes which has been introduced by this commit mainly and some other subcommits:
commit: 53be0b1add7064ca5db3cd884302dfc3268d884e
author: Robert Haas <rhaas@postgresql.org>
date: Thu, 10 Mar 2016 12:44:09 -0500
Provide much better wait information in pg_stat_activity.

When a process is waiting for a heavyweight lock, we will now indicate
the type of heavyweight lock for which it is waiting.  Also, you can
now see when a process is waiting for a lightweight lock - in which
case we will indicate the individual lock name or the tranche, as
appropriate - or for a buffer pin.

Amit Kapila, Ildus Kurbangaliev, reviewed by me.  Lots of helpful
discussion and suggestions by many others, including Alexander
Korotkov, Vladimir Borodin, and many others.
This commit has added two columns to pg_stat_activity which gives a SQL representation of the active backend processes reporting to the statistics collector (background workers can similarly do that by using pgstat_report_activity): wait_event_type which reports the type of event a backend is waiting for, and wait_event which is the name of the event being waiting for.
There are a couple of categories to be aware of regarding wait_event_type:
  • LWLockNamed, the backend is waiting for a light-weight lock, which happens when a backend calls LWLockAcquire() to acquire such a lock which are designed to control access to shared memory structures for example.
  • LWLockTranche, similar to the previous category, except that those are related to locks that have a predefined position in the set of light-weight lock array.
  • Lock, which is a heavy-weight lock, and reported for code paths called LockAcquire or LockAcquireExtended mainly, and are used most of the time for objects that are present at SQL level like relations for example.
  • BufferPin, the backend is waiting to acquire a pin on a shared buffer.
Those things are proving to be useful for debugging applications in details that were not available up to now. For example with the following backend that drops a table in a transaction prepared with 2PC:
=# CREATE TABLE aa ();
CREATE TABLE
=# BEGIN;
BEGIN
=# DROP TABLE aa;
DROP TABLE
=# PREPARE TRANSACTION 'tt';
PREPARE TRANSACTION
If a second transaction tries to read from this table it would just be stuck on a relation lock, and those new fields allow this tracking in a very handful way:
=# SELECT query, wait_event_type, wait_event FROM pg_stat_activity
   WHERE wait_event IS NOT NULL;
       query       | wait_event_type | wait_event
-------------------+-----------------+------------
 SELECT * FROM aa; | Lock            | relation
(1 row)
And the information provided by those new fields find more usages when tracking buffer or lock activity, which depend heavily on what a given application is having a point of contention on.
Note that the wait event facility that has been implemented in the statistics collector is designed to be light-weight and highly flexible, so as new event types could be tracked on the top. One thing that is for example missing in 9.6 is the tracking of waiting latches (backends calling WaitLatch() for example), for which I have written out a patch submitted in the queue for integration in 9.7. In this case the main use case where this would be useful is the tracking of backends being stuck because of synchronous replication.

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