Understanding Postgres connection pooling with PgBouncer by@tru_pablo
20,306 reads

Understanding Postgres connection pooling with PgBouncer

Read on Terminal Reader

Too Long; Didn't Read

Company Mentioned

Mention Thumbnail
featured image - Understanding Postgres connection pooling with PgBouncer
pavel trukhanov HackerNoon profile picture


pavel trukhanov
react to story with heart

PgBouncer internals

PgBouncer is a connections pooling service for Postgres. It has all kinds of internal limits and limited resources. So here’s how it looks like from client’s, say, some web-application, point of view:

  1. Client connects to PbBouncer.
  2. Client makes SQL request / query / transaction
  3. Gets a response.
  4. Repeat steps 2–3 as many times as needed.

Here’s client’s connection states diagram:

During a LOGIN phaze/state (CL_ stands for client) Pgbouncer might authorize a client based on some local info (such as auth_file, certificates, PAM or hba files), or in a remote way — with auth_query in a database. Thus a client connection while logging in might need and be executing a query. Let’s show that as Executing substate:


But CL_ACTIVEqueries also might be actually executing some queries and so linked to actual database server connections by PgBouncer, or idling, doing nothing. This linking / matching of clients and server connections is the whole raison d’etre of PgBouncer. PgBouncer links those clients with server only for some time, depending on pool_mode — either for a session, transaction or just one request.

As transaction pooling is the most common, we’ll assume it for the rest of this post

So client while being in cl_active state is actually might be or might be not linked to a server connection. To account for that we split this state in two: active and active-linked/executing. So here’s a new diagram:


These server connections, that clients get linked to, are “pooled” — limited in number and reused. Because of that it might occur that while client sends some request (beginning a transaction or performing a query) a corresponding server connection pool is exhausted, i.e. pgbouncer oppened as many connections as were allowed it and all of them are occupied by (linked to) some other clients. PgBouncer in this scenario puts client into a queue, and this client’s connection goes to a CL_WAITING state. This might happen as well while client only logging in, so there’s CL_WAITING_LOGIN for that also:


On the other end there are these server connections: from PgBouncer to the actual database. Those have respectful states: SV_LOGIN for when authorizing, SV_ACTIVE for when it’s linked with (and used or not by) client’s connections, or if it’s free — SV_IDLE.

PgBouncer has an administration interface available through a connection to a special ‘virtual’ database named pgbouncer. There are a number of SHOWcommands in it, one of those — SHOW POOLS — will show number of connections in each state for each pool:


We see here 4 client’s connections opened, all of them — cl_active. And 5 server connections: 4 — sv_active an one is insv_used. Here’s a nice write up on how to monitor these states. But basically you would want to track them in any way you do monitoring, so you’ll have historical picture.

Pool size

It’s not a that simple, PgBouncer has 5 different setting related to limiting connection count!

  • You can specify pool_size for each proxied database. If not set, it defaults to default_pool_size setting, which again by default has a value of 20.
  • max_db_connections is exactly suitable for covering this problem — it limits total number of connections to any database, so badly behaving clients won’t be able to create too many Postgres backends.
  • reserve_pool_size — is a limit on an additional, reserve pool, which kicks in if a regular pool is exhausted, i.e. there are pool_size open server connections. As I understand it was designed to help serve a burst of clients.
  • max_user_connections — this limits total number of conns to any database from one user. From my point of view, it’s a very strange limit, it makes sense only in case of multiple databases with same users.
  • max_client_conn — limits total number of incoming clients connections. It differs from max_user_connections because it includes connections from any user.

Pgbouncer’s administration interface database besides SHOW POOLS has also SHOW DATABASES command, that shows actually applied limits and all configured and currently present pools:


So dividing current_connections by pool_size will give you pool utilization, so you can trigger an alert if it goes somewhere close to 100%.

PgBouncer also provides SHOW STATS command, that provides stats (not a surprize, I know) on requests and traffic for every proxied database:


Here, for the purpose of measuring pool utilization we are mostly interested in total_query_time — total number of microseconds spent by pgbouncer when actively connected to PostgreSQL, executing queries. Dividing this by respectful pool size (considering pool size to be the number of seconds that all the server connections might spent in total serving queries within one wall clock second) we get another measure/estimate of pool utilization, let’s call it “query time utilization”.

Here’s my article on monitoring PgBouncer with USE ans RED monitoring methods.

Why it’s not enough to watch Utilization and you need Saturation metric as well?

The problem is that even with cumulative stats like total_query_time one can’t tell if there were some short periods of high utilization between two moments when we look at the stats. For example, you have some cron jobs configured to simultaneously start and make some queries to a database. If these queries are short enough, i.e. shorter than stats collection period, then measured utilization might still be low, while at these moment of crons start time they might exhaust the pool. But looking only on Utilization metric, you won’t be able to diagnose that.

How can we track that on PgBouncer. A straightforward (and naive) approach is to count clients in SHOW POOLS output in a cl_waiting state, that we discussed. In Under normal circumstances you won’t see them, and seeing number of waiting client greater than 0 means pool saturation.

But as you know, you can only sample SHOW POOLS, and this leads to a possibility of missing such waitings.

Check out my other articles on Postgres and monitoring.


. . . comments & more!
Hackernoon hq - po box 2206, edwards, colorado 81632, usa