Postgres vs. Oracle access paths XI – Sample Scan

I was going to end this series with the previous post because the last access path available in Postgres is a bit special: a Seq Scan that returns only a sample of the rows, at random. However, it is the occasion to come back to the difference between random and sequential reads.

I’m still working on the same table as in the previous posts, with 10000 rows in 1429 pages. 5% of rows is 500 rows and 5% of blocks is about 72 pages.

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths X – Update

In the previous post we have seen the cheapest way to get one row, reading only one block from its physical location. But that’s the optimal case where the row has not moved. I’ll (nearly) conclude this series about access path with an update.

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths IX – Tid Scan

In the previous post we have seen how Postgres and Oracle finds the table row from the index entry. It uses the TID / ROWID. I’ll focus on this access path and I will have covered all Postgres access paths to table data.


I start with Oracle because we already have seen the TABLE ACCESS BY ROWID. I’ll decompose an index acces to the table. The first step is getting the ROWID from the index entry:

SQL> select /*+ */ rowid from demo1 where n=1000;

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths VIII – Index Scan and Filter

In the previous post we have seen a nice optimization to lower the consequences of bad correlation between the index and the table physical order: a bitmap, which may include false positives and then requires a ‘recheck’ of the condition, but with the goal to read each page only once. Now we are back to the well-clustered table where we have seen two possible access paths: IndexOnlyScan when all columns we need are in the index, and IndexScan when we select additional columns. Here is a case in the middle: the index does not have all the columns required by the select, but can eliminate all rows.

The table created is:

create table demo1 as select generate_series n , 1 a , lpad('x',1000,'x') x from generate_series(1,10000);
SELECT 10000
create unique index demo1_n on demo1(n);

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths VI – Index Scan

In the previous post my queries were still reading the indexed column only, from a table which had no modifications since the last vacuum, and then didn’t need to read table pages: it was Index Only Scan. However, we often need more columns than the ones that are in the index. Here is the Index Scan access path.

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths V – FIRST ROWS and MIN/MAX

We have seen how an index can help to avoid a sorting operation in the previous post. This avoids a blocking operation: the startup cost is minimal and the first rows can be immediately returned. This is often desired when displaying rows to the user screen. Here is more about Postgres startup cost, Oracle first_rows costing, and fetching first rows only.

Here is the execution plan we had in Oracle to get the values of N sorted. The cost for Oracle is the cost to read the index leaves: estimated to 46 random reads:

SQL_ID dbck3rgnqbakg, child number 0

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths IV – Order By and Index

I realize that I’m talking about indexes in Oracle and Postgres, and didn’t mention yet the best website you can find about indexes, with concepts and examples for all RDBMS: You will probably learn a lot about SQL design. Now let’s continue on execution plans with indexes.

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths III – Partial Index

In the previous post I said that an Index Only Access needs to find all rows in the index. Here is a case where, with similar data, Postgres can find all rows but Oracle needs additional considerations.

In the previous post I’ve executed:
select sum(n) from demo1
The execution plan was:

Aggregate (cost=295.29..295.30 rows=1 width=8) (actual time=2.192..2.193 rows=1 loops=1)
Output: sum(n)
Buffers: shared hit=30
-> Index Only Scan using demo1_n on public.demo1 (cost=0.29..270.29 rows=10000 width=4) (actual time=0.150..1.277 rows=10000 loops=1)
Output: n
Heap Fetches: 0
Buffers: shared hit=30

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths II – Index Only Scan

In the previous post I’ve explained a sequential scan by accident: my query needed only one column which was indexed, and I expected to read the index rather than the table. And I had to hint the Oracle example to get the same because the Oracle optimizer chooses the index scan over the table scan in that case. Here is where I learned a big difference between Postgres and Oracle. They both use MVCC to query without locking, but Postgres MVCC is for table rows (tuples) only whereas Oracle MVCC is for all blocks – tables and indexes.

Postgres vs. Oracle access paths I – Seq Scan

Here is the first test I’ve done for my Postgres vs. Oracle access paths series and the first query did a sequential scan. It illustrates the first constant you find in the documentation for the query planner:
seq_page_cost (floating point)
Sets the planner’s estimate of the cost of a disk page fetch that is part of a series of sequential fetches. The default is 1.0.