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PostgreSQL 16 Administration Cookbook

By Gianni Ciolli , Boriss Mejías , Jimmy Angelakos and 2 more
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  1. Free Chapter
    First Steps
About this book
PostgreSQL has seen a huge increase in its customer base in the past few years and is becoming one of the go-to solutions for anyone who has a database-specific challenge. This PostgreSQL book touches on all the fundamentals of Database Administration in a problem-solution format. It is intended to be the perfect desk reference guide. This new edition focuses on recipes based on the new PostgreSQL 16 release. The additions include handling complex batch loading scenarios with the SQL MERGE statement, security improvements, running Postgres on Kubernetes or with TPA and Ansible, and more. This edition also focuses on certain performance gains, such as query optimization, and the acceleration of specific operations, such as sort. It will help you understand roles, ensuring high availability, concurrency, and replication. It also draws your attention to aspects like validating backups, recovery, monitoring, and scaling aspects. This book will act as a one-stop solution to all your real-world database administration challenges. By the end of this book, you will be able to manage, monitor, and replicate your PostgreSQL 16 database for efficient administration and maintenance with the best practices from experts.
Publication date:
December 2023


First Steps

PostgreSQL is a feature-rich, general-purpose database-management system. It’s a complex piece of software, but every journey begins with the first step.

We’ll start with your first connection. Many people fall at the first hurdle, so we’ll try not to skip past that too swiftly. We’ll quickly move on to enabling remote users, and from there, we will move on to getting access through GUI administration tools.

We will also introduce the psql query tool, which is the tool used to load our sample database, as well as many other examples in the book.

For additional help, we’ve included a few useful recipes that you may need for reference.

In this chapter, we will cover the following recipes:

  • Introducing PostgreSQL
  • How to get PostgreSQL
  • Connecting to the PostgreSQL server
  • Enabling access for network/remote users
  • Using the pgAdmin GUI tool
  • Using the psql query and scripting tool
  • Changing your password securely
  • Avoiding hardcoding your password
  • Using a connection service file
  • Troubleshooting a failed connection
  • PostgreSQL in the cloud
  • PostgreSQL with Kubernetes
  • PostgreSQL with TPA

Introducing PostgreSQL 16

PostgreSQL is an advanced SQL database server, available on a wide range of platforms. One of the clearest benefits of PostgreSQL is that it is open source, meaning that you have a very permissive license to install, use, and distribute it without paying anyone any fees or royalties. On top of that, PostgreSQL is known as a database that stays up for long periods and requires little or no maintenance, in most cases. Overall, PostgreSQL provides a very low total cost of ownership.

PostgreSQL is also known for its huge range of advanced features, developed over the course of more than 30 years of continuous development and enhancement. Originally developed by the Database Research Group at the University of California, Berkeley, PostgreSQL is now developed and maintained by a huge army of developers and contributors. Many of these contributors have full-time jobs related to PostgreSQL, working as designers, developers, database administrators, and trainers. Some, but not many, of these contributors work for companies that specialize in support for PostgreSQL. No single company owns PostgreSQL, nor are you required (or even encouraged) to register your usage.

PostgreSQL has the following main features:

  • Excellent SQL standards compliance, up to SQL:2023
  • Client-server architecture
  • A highly concurrent design, where readers and writers don’t block each other
  • Highly configurable and extensible for many types of applications
  • Excellent scalability and performance, with extensive tuning features
  • Support for many kinds of data models, such as relational, post-relational (arrays and nested relations via record types), document (JSON and XML), and key/value

What makes PostgreSQL different?

The PostgreSQL project focuses on the following objectives:

  • Robust, high-quality software with maintainable, well-commented code
  • Low-maintenance administration for both embedded and enterprise use
  • Standards-compliant SQL, interoperability, and compatibility
  • Performance, security, and high availability

What surprises many people is that PostgreSQL’s feature set is more similar to Oracle or SQL Server than it is to MySQL. The only connection between MySQL and PostgreSQL is that these two projects are open source; apart from that, the features and philosophies are almost totally different.

One of the key features of Oracle, since Oracle 7, has been snapshot isolation, where readers don’t block writers and writers don’t block readers. You may be surprised to learn that PostgreSQL was the first database to be designed with this feature, and it offers a complete implementation. In PostgreSQL, this feature is called Multiversion Concurrency Control (MVCC), and we will discuss this in more detail later in the book.

PostgreSQL is a general-purpose database management system. You define the database that you want to manage with it. PostgreSQL offers you many ways in which to work. You can either use a normalized database model, augmented with features such as arrays and record subtypes, or use a fully dynamic schema with the help of JSONB and an extension named hstore. PostgreSQL also allows you to create your own server-side functions in any of a dozen different languages, including a formal notion of transform to ensure data is properly converted.

PostgreSQL is highly extensible, so you can add your own data types, operators, index types, and functional languages. You can even override different parts of the system, using plugins to alter the execution of commands, or add a new query optimizer.

All of these features offer a huge range of implementation options to software architects. There are many ways out of trouble when building applications and maintaining them over long periods of time. Regrettably, we simply don’t have space in this book for all the cool features for developers; this book is about administration, maintenance, and backup.

In the early days, when PostgreSQL was still a research database, the focus was solely on the cool new features. Over the last 20 years, enormous amounts of code have been rewritten and improved, giving us one of the largest and most stable software servers available for operational use.

Who is using PostgreSQL? Prominent users include Apple, BASF, Genentech, Heroku, IMDB, Skype, McAfee, NTT, the UK Met Office, and the US National Weather Service. Early in 2010, PostgreSQL received well in excess of 1,000,000 downloads per year, according to data submitted to the European Commission, which concluded that “PostgreSQL is considered by many database users to be a credible alternative.” PostgreSQL has gone on from there to be even more popular.

We need to mention one last thing: when PostgreSQL was first developed, it was named Postgres, and therefore, many aspects of the project still refer to the word Postgres – for example, the default database is named postgres, and the software is frequently installed using the postgres user ID. As a result, people shorten the name PostgreSQL to simply Postgres and, in many cases, use the two names interchangeably.

PostgreSQL is pronounced post-grez-q-l. Postgres is pronounced post-grez.

Some people get confused and refer to it as Postgre or Postgre SQL, which are hard to say and likely to confuse people. Two names are enough, so don’t use a third one!

The following sections explain the key areas in more detail.


PostgreSQL is robust, high-quality software, supported by testing for both features and concurrency. By default, the database provides strong disk-write guarantees, and developers take the risk of data loss very seriously in everything they do. Options to trade robustness for performance exist, although they are not enabled by default.

All actions on the database are performed within transactions, protected by a transaction log that will perform automatic crash recovery in case of software failure.

Databases may optionally be created with data block checksums to help diagnose hardware faults. Multiple backup mechanisms exist, with full and detailed Point-in-Time Recovery (PITR) if you need a detailed recovery. A variety of diagnostic tools are available as well.

Database replication is supported natively. Synchronous replication can provide greater than 5 nines (99.999%) of availability and data protection, if properly configured and managed, or even higher with appropriate redundancy.


Access to PostgreSQL is controllable via host-based access rules. Authentication is flexible and pluggable, allowing for easy integration with any external security architecture. The latest Salted Challenge Response Authentication Mechanism (SCRAM) provides full 256-bit protection.

Full SSL-encrypted access is supported natively for both user access and replication. A full-featured cryptographic function library is available for database users.

PostgreSQL provides role-based access privileges to access data, by command type. PostgreSQL also provides Row-Level Security (RLS) for privacy, medical, and military-grade security.

Functions can execute with the permissions of the definer, while views may be defined with security barriers to ensure that security is enforced ahead of other processing.

All aspects of PostgreSQL are assessed by an active security team, while known exploits are categorized and reported at http://www.postgresql.org/support/security/.

Ease of use

Clear, full, and accurate documentation exists as a result of a development process where documentation changes are required.

The documentation can easily be found on the PostgreSQL website at https://www.postgresql.org/docs/. In this book, we will refer many times to the URLs of specific sections of that documentation.

Another option is to install a copy of the exact same documentation on your laptop, in the PDF or HTML format, for offline use. You can do it easily on most operating systems by installing the appropriate package, as in this Ubuntu/Debian example:

$ sudo apt-get install postgresql-doc-16

Hundreds of small changes occur with each release, which smooth off any rough edges of usage, supplied directly by knowledgeable users.

PostgreSQL works on small and large systems in the same way and across operating systems.

Client access and drivers exist for every language and environment, so there is no restriction on what type of development environment is chosen now or in the future.

The SQL standard is followed very closely; there is no weird behavior, such as silent truncation of data.

Text data is supported via a single data type that allows the storage of anything from 1 byte to 1 gigabyte. This storage is optimized in multiple ways, so 1 byte is stored efficiently, and much larger values are automatically managed and compressed.

PostgreSQL has a clear policy of minimizing the number of configuration parameters, and with each release, we work out ways to auto-tune the settings.


PostgreSQL is designed to be highly extensible. Database extensions can be easily loaded by using CREATE EXTENSION, which automates version checks, dependencies, and other aspects of configuration.

PostgreSQL supports user-defined data types, operators, indexes, functions, and languages.

Many extensions are available for PostgreSQL, including the PostGIS extension, which provides world-class Geographical Information System (GIS) features.

Performance and concurrency

PostgreSQL 16 can achieve significantly more than 1,000,000 reads per second on a 4-socket server, and it benchmarks at more than 50,000 write transactions per second with full durability, depending upon your hardware. With advanced hardware, even higher levels of performance are possible.

PostgreSQL has an advanced optimizer that considers a variety of join types, utilizing user data statistics to guide its choices. PostgreSQL provides the widest range of index types of any commonly available database server, fully supporting all data types.

PostgreSQL provides MVCC, which enables readers and writers to avoid blocking each other.

Taken together, the performance features of PostgreSQL allow a mixed workload of transactional systems and complex search and analytical tasks. This is important because it means we don’t always need to unload our data from production systems and reload it into analytical data stores just to execute a few ad hoc queries. PostgreSQL’s capabilities make it the database of choice for new systems, as well as the correct long term choice in almost every case.


PostgreSQL 16 scales well on a single node, with multiple CPU sockets. PostgreSQL efficiently runs up to hundreds of active sessions and thousands of connected sessions when using a session pool. Further scalability is achieved in each annual release.

PostgreSQL provides multi-node read scalability using the Hot Standby feature. Transparent multi-node write scalability is under active development. The starting point for this is EDB Postgres Distributed (formerly Bi-directional replication, which will be discussed in Chapter 12, Replication and Upgrades), as it allows transparent and efficient synchronization of reference data across multiple servers. Other forms of write scalability have existed for more than a decade, starting from the PL/Proxy language, Greenplum and Citus.

SQL and NoSQL data models

PostgreSQL follows the SQL standard very closely. SQL itself does not force any particular type of model to be used, so PostgreSQL can easily be used for many types of models at the same time, in the same database.

PostgreSQL can be used as a relational database, in which case we can utilize any level of denormalization, from the full Third Normal Form (3NF) to the more normalized star schema models. PostgreSQL extends the relational model to provide arrays, row types, and range types.

A document-centric database is also possible using PostgreSQL’s text, XML, and binary JSON (JSONB) data types, supported by indexes optimized for documents and by full-text search capabilities.

Key/value stores are supported using the hstore extension.


When MySQL was taken over by a commercial database vendor some years back, it was agreed in the EU monopoly investigation that followed that PostgreSQL was a viable competitor. That’s certainly been true, with the PostgreSQL user base expanding consistently for more than a decade.

Various polls have indicated that PostgreSQL is the favorite database for building new, enterprise-class applications. The PostgreSQL feature set attracts serious users who have serious applications. Financial services companies may be PostgreSQL’s largest user group, although governments, telecommunication companies, and many other segments are strong users as well. This popularity extends across the world; Japan, Ecuador, Argentina, and Russia have very large user groups, as do the US, Europe, and Australasia.

Amazon Web Services’ chief technology officer, Dr. Werner Vogels, described PostgreSQL as “an amazing database,” going on to say that “PostgreSQL has become the preferred open source relational database for many enterprise developers and start-ups, powering leading geospatial and mobile applications.” More recently, AWS has revealed that PostgreSQL is their fastest-growing service.

Commercial support

Many people have commented that strong commercial support is what enterprises need before they can invest in open source technology. Strong support is available worldwide from a number of companies.

The authors of this book work for EnterpriseDB (EDB), the largest company providing commercial support for open source PostgreSQL, offering 24/7 support in English with bug-fix resolution times.

Many other companies provide strong and knowledgeable support to specific geographic regions, vertical markets, and specialized technology stacks.

PostgreSQL is also available as a hosted or cloud solution from a variety of companies, since it runs very well in cloud environments.

A full list of companies is kept up to date at the following URL: http://www.postgresql.org/support/professional_support/.

Research and development funding

PostgreSQL was originally developed as a research project at the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Further work was carried out by volunteers until the late 1990s. Then, the first professional developer became involved. Over time, more and more companies and research groups became involved, supporting many professional contributors. Further funding for research and development was provided by the National Science Foundation.

The project also received funding from the EU FP7 Programme in the form of the 4CaaST project for cloud computing and the AXLE project for scalable data analytics. AXLE deserves a special mention because it was a three-year project aimed at enhancing PostgreSQL’s business intelligence capabilities, specifically for very large databases. The project covered security, privacy, integration with data mining, and visualization tools and interfaces for new hardware.

Other funding for PostgreSQL development comes from users who directly sponsor features and companies that sell products and services based around PostgreSQL.

Many features are contributed regularly by larger commercial companies, such as EDB.


How to get PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is 100% open source software and is freely available to use, alter, or redistribute in any way you choose. Its license is an approved open source license, very similar to the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license, although only just different enough that it is now known as The PostgreSQL License (TPL). You can see the license here: https://opensource.org/licenses/PostgreSQL.

How to do it...

PostgreSQL is already being used by many different application packages, so you may find it already installed on your servers. Many Linux distributions include PostgreSQL as part of the basic installation or include it with the installation disk.

One thing to be wary of is that the included version of PostgreSQL may not be the latest release. It will typically be the latest major release that was available when that operating system release was published. There is usually no good reason to stick to that version – there is no increased stability implied there—and later production versions are just as well supported by the various Linux distributions as the earlier versions.

If you don’t have a copy yet or the latest version, you can download the source code or binary packages for a variety of operating systems from http://www.postgresql.org/download/.

Installation details vary significantly from platform to platform, and there aren’t any special tricks or recipes to mention. Just follow the installation guide, and away you go! We’ve consciously avoided describing the installation processes here to make sure we don’t garble or override the information published to assist you.

EDB has provided the main macOS/Windows installer for PostgreSQL for many years, which can be accessed here: https://www.enterprisedb.com/downloads/postgres-postgresql-downloads. This gives you the option of installing both client and server software so that you can try it out on your laptop:

Figure 1.1: The PostgreSQL Setup Wizard

The installer shown in Figure 1.2 also allows you to install just the client software, allowing you to work with remote database servers, such as PostgreSQL in the cloud:

Figure 1.2: Selecting components to install

If you would like to receive email updates of the latest news, you can subscribe to the PostgreSQL announce mailing list, which contains updates from all the vendors that support PostgreSQL. You’ll get a few emails each month about new releases of core PostgreSQL, related software, conferences, and user group information. It’s worth keeping in touch with these developments.


For more information about the PostgreSQL announcement mailing list, visit http://archives.postgresql.org/pgsql-announce/.

How it works...

Many people ask questions such as, How can this be free? Are you sure I don’t have to pay someone? Who gives this stuff away for nothing?

Open source applications such as PostgreSQL work on a community basis, where many contributors perform tasks that make the whole process work. For many of these people, their involvement is professional, rather than merely a hobby, and they can do this because there is generally great value for both the contributors and their employers alike.

You might not believe it. You don’t have to, because it just works!

There’s more…

Remember that PostgreSQL is more than just the core software. There is a huge range of websites that offer add-ons, extensions, and tools for PostgreSQL. You’ll also find an army of bloggers who provide useful tricks and discoveries that will help you in your work.

Besides these, a range of professional companies can offer you help when you need it.


Connecting to the PostgreSQL server

How do we access PostgreSQL?

Connecting to the database is the first experience of PostgreSQL for most people, so we want to make it a good one. Let’s do it now and fix any problems we have along the way. Remember that a connection needs to be made secure, so there may be some hoops for us to jump through to ensure that the data we wish to access is secure.

Before we can execute commands against the database, we need to connect to the database server to give us a session.

Sessions are designed to be long-lived, so you connect once, perform many requests, and eventually disconnect. There is a small overhead during the connection. It may become noticeable if you connect and disconnect repeatedly, so you may wish to investigate the use of connection pools. Connection pools allow pre-connected sessions to be quickly served to you when you wish to reconnect. We will discuss them in Chapter 4, Server Control.

Getting ready

First, cache your database. If you don’t know where it is, you’ll probably have difficulty accessing it. There may be more than one database, and you’ll need to know the right one to access and have the authority to connect to it.

You need to specify the following parameters to connect to PostgreSQL:

  • A host or host address
  • A port
  • A database name
  • A user
  • A password (or other means of authentication; but only if requested)

To connect, there must be a PostgreSQL server running on that host and listening to the port with that number. On that server, a database and a user with the specified names must also exist. Furthermore, the host must explicitly allow connections from your client (as explained in the Enabling access for network/remote users recipe), and you must also pass the authentication step using the method the server specifies – for example, specifying a password won’t work if the server has requested a different form of authentication. Note that you might not need to provide a password at all if PostgreSQL can recognize that your user is already authenticated by the OS; this is called peer authentication. After showing an example in this recipe, we will discuss it fully in the next recipe: Enabling access for network/remote users (despite not being a network/remote connection method).

Almost all PostgreSQL interfaces use the libpq interface library. When using libpq, most of the connection parameter handling is identical, so we can discuss that just once.

If you don’t specify the preceding parameters, PostgreSQL looks for values set through environment variables, which are as follows:

  • PGPORT (set this to 5432 if it is not set already)
  • PGPASSWORD (this is definitely not recommended by us, nor by the PostgreSQL documentation, even if it still exists)

If you somehow specify the first four parameters but not the password, PostgreSQL looks for a password file, as discussed in the Avoiding hardcoding your password recipe.

Some PostgreSQL interfaces use the client-server protocol directly, so the ways in which the defaults are handled may differ. The information we need to supply won’t vary significantly, so check the exact syntax for that interface.

Connection details can also be specified using a connection string, as in this example:

psql "user=myuser host=myhost port=5432 dbname=mydb password=mypasswd"

or alternatively using a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) format, as follows:

psql postgresql://myuser:mypasswd@myhost:5432/mydb

Both examples specify that we will connect the psql client application to the PostgreSQL server at the myhost host, on port 5432, with the database name mydb, user myuser and password mypasswd.


If you do not specify mypasswd in the preceding URI, you may be prompted to enter the password.

How to do it...

In this example, Afroditi is a database administrator who needs to connect to PostgreSQL to perform some maintenance activities. She can SSH to the database server using her own username afroditi, and DBAs are given sudo privileges to become the postgres user, so she can simply launch psql as the postgres user:

afroditi@dbserver1:~$ sudo -u postgres psql
psql (16.0 (Debian 16.0-1.pgdg120+1))
Type "help" for help.

Note that psql was launched as the postgres user, so it used the postgres user for the database connection, and that psql on Linux attempts a Unix socket connection by default. Hence, this matches peer authentication.

How it works…

PostgreSQL is a client-server database. The system it runs on is known as the host. We can access the PostgreSQL server remotely, through the network. However, we must specify host, which is a hostname, or hostaddr, which is an IP address. We can specify a host as localhost if we wish to make a TCP/IP connection to the same system. Rather than using TCP/IP to localhost, it is usually better to use a Unix socket connection, which is attempted if the host begins with a slash (/) and the name is presumed to be a directory name (the default is /tmp).

On any system, there can be more than one database server. Each database server listens to exactly one well-known network port, which cannot be shared between servers on the same system. The default port number for PostgreSQL is 5432, which has been registered with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and is uniquely assigned to PostgreSQL (you can see it used in the /etc/services file on most *nix servers). The port number can be used to uniquely identify a specific database server, if any exist. IANA (http://www.iana.org) is the organization that coordinates the allocation of available numbers for various internet protocols.

A database server is also sometimes known as a database cluster because the PostgreSQL server allows you to define one or more databases on each server. Each connection request must identify exactly one database, identified by its dbname. When you connect, you will only be able to see the database objects created within that database.

A database user is used to identify the connection. By default, there is no limit on the number of connections for a particular user. In the Enabling access for network/remote users recipe, we will cover how to restrict that. In more recent versions of PostgreSQL, users are referred to as login roles, although many clues remind us of the earlier nomenclature, and that still makes sense in many ways. A login role is a role that has been assigned the CONNECT privilege.

Each connection will typically be authenticated in some way. This is defined at the server level: client authentication will not be optional at connection time if the administrator has configured the server to require it.

Once you’ve connected, each connection can have one active transaction at a time and one fully active statement at any time.

The server will have a defined limit on the number of connections it can serve, so a connection request can be refused if the server is oversubscribed.

There’s more…

If you are already connected to a database server with psql and you want to confirm that you’ve connected to the right place and in the right way, you can execute some, or all, of the following commands. Here is the command that shows the current_database:

SELECT current_database();

The following command shows the current_user ID:

SELECT current_user;

The next command shows the IP address and port of the current connection, unless you are using Unix sockets, in which case both values are NULL:

SELECT inet_server_addr(), inet_server_port();

A user’s password is not accessible using general SQL, for obvious reasons.

You may also need the following:

SELECT version();

This is just one of several ways to check the database software version; please refer to the What version is the server? recipe in Chapter 2, Exploring the Database. You can also use the new psql meta-command, \conninfo. This displays most of the preceding information in a single line:

postgres=# \conninfo
You are connected to database postgres, as user postgres, via socket in /var/run/postgresql, at port 5432.

See also

There are many other snippets of information required to understand connections. Some of them are mentioned in this chapter, and others are discussed in Chapter 6, Security. For further details, refer to the PostgreSQL server documentation, which we provided a link to earlier in this chapter.


Enabling access for network/remote users

PostgreSQL comes in a variety of distributions. In many of these, you will note that remote access is initially disabled as a security measure. You can do this quickly, as described here, but you really should read the chapter on security soon.

How to do it…

By default, on Linux PostgreSQL gives access to clients who connect using Unix sockets, provided that the database user is the same as the system’s username, as in the example from the previous recipe.

A socket is effectively a filesystem path that processes running on the same host can use for two-way communication. The PostgreSQL server process can see the OS username under which the client is running, and authenticate the client based on that. This is great, but unfortunately only applies to the special case when the client and the server are running on the same host. For all the remaining cases, we need to show you how to enable all the other connection methods.


In this recipe, we mention configuration files, which can be located as shown in the Finding the configuration settings for your session recipe in Chapter 3, Server Configuration.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Add or edit this line in your postgresql.conf file:
    listen_addresses = '*'
  2. Add the following line as the first line of pg_hba.conf to allow access to all databases for all users with an encrypted password:
    host      all       all    scram-sha-256
  3. After changing listen_addresses, we restart the PostgreSQL server, as explained in the Updating the parameter file recipe in Chapter 3, Server Configuration.


    This recipe assumes that postgresql.conf does not include any other configuration files, which is the case in a default installation. If changing listen_addresses in postgresql.conf does not seem to work, perhaps that setting is overridden by another configuration file. Check out the recipe we just mentioned for more details.

How it works…

The listen_addresses parameter specifies which IP addresses to listen to. This allows you to flexibly enable and disable listening on interfaces of multiple Network Interface Cards (NICs) or virtual networks on the same system. In most cases, we want to accept connections on all NICs, so we use *, meaning all IP addresses. But the user could also specify the IP address of a given interface. For instance, you might decide to be listening only on connections coming through a specific VPN.

The pg_hba.conf file contains a set of host-based authentication rules. Each rule is considered in sequence until one rule matches the incoming connection and is applied for authentication, or the attempt is specifically rejected with a reject method, which is also implemented as a rule.

The rule that we added to the pg_hba.conf file means that a remote connection that specifies any user or database on any IP address will be asked to authenticate using a SCRAM-SHA-256-encrypted password. The following are the parameters required for SCRAM-SHA-256-encrypted passwords:

  • Type: For this, host means a remote connection.
  • Database: For this, all means for all databases. Other names match exactly, except when prefixed with a plus (+) symbol, in which case we mean a group role rather than a single user. You can also specify a comma-separated list of users or use the @ symbol to include a file with a list of users. You can even specify sameuser so that the rule matches when you specify the same name for the user and database.
  • User: For this, all means for all users. Other names match exactly, except when prefixed with a plus (+) symbol, in which case we mean a group role rather than a single user. You can also specify a comma-separated list of users, or use the @ symbol to include a file with a list of users.
  • CIDR-ADDRESS: This consists of two parts: an IP address and a subnet mask. The subnet mask is specified as the number of leading bits of the IP address that make up the mask. Thus, /0 means 0 bits of the IP address so that all IP addresses will be matched. For example, would mean matching the first 24 bits, so any IP address of the 192.168.0.x form would match. You can also use samenet or samehost.
  • Method: For this, scram-sha-256 means that PostgreSQL will ask the client to provide a password encrypted with SCRAM-SHA-256. A common choice is peer, which is enabled by default and described in the There’s more… section of this recipe. Another common (and discouraged!) setting is trust, which effectively means no authentication. Other authentication methods include GSSAPI, SSPI, LDAP, RADIUS, and PAM. PostgreSQL connections can also be made using SSL, in which case client SSL certificates provide authentication. See the Using SSL certificates to authenticate the client recipe in Chapter 6, Security, for more details.

Don’t use the password authentication method in pg_hba.conf as this sends the password in plain text (it has been deprecated for years). This is not a real security issue if your connection is encrypted with SSL, but there are normally no downsides with SCRAM-SHA-256 anyway, and you have extra security for non-SSL connections.

There’s more…

We have mentioned peer authentication as a method that allows password-less connections via Unix sockets. It is enabled by default, but only on systems that have Unix sockets, meaning that it does not exist on Windows: this is why the Windows installer asks you to insert the administrator password during installation.

When using a Unix socket connection, the client is another process running on the same host; therefore, Postgres can reliably get the OS username under which the client is running. The logic of peer authentication is to allow a connection attempt if the client’s OS username is identical to the database username being used for the connection. Hence, if there is a database user with exactly the same name as an OS user, then that user can benefit from password-less authentication.

It is a safe technique, which is why it is enabled by default. In the special case of the postgres user, you can connect as a database superuser in a password-less way. This is not a security breach because PostgreSQL actually runs as the postgres OS user, so if you log in to the server with that user, then you are allowed to access all the data files.

When installing PostgreSQL on your Linux laptop, an easy way to enable your own access is to create a database user identical to your OS username, and also a database with the same name. This way, you can use psql with your normal OS user for password-less connections. Of course, to create the user and the database you need first to connect as the predefined postgres superuser, which you can do by running psql as the postgres OS user.

In earlier versions of PostgreSQL, access through the network was enabled by adding the -i command-line switch when you started the server. This is still a valid option, but now it is just equivalent to specifying the following:

listen_addresses = '*'

So, if you’re reading some notes about how to set things up and this is mentioned, be warned that those notes are probably long out of date. They are not necessarily wrong, but it’s worth looking further to see whether anything else has changed.

See also

Look at the installer and/or OS-specific documentation to find the standard location of the files.


Using the pgAdmin 4 GUI tool

Graphical administration tools are often requested by system administrators. PostgreSQL has a range of tool options. In this book, we’ll cover pgAdmin 4.

pgAdmin 4 is a client application that sends and receives SQL to and from PostgreSQL, displaying the results for you. The admin client can access many database servers, allowing you to manage a fleet of servers. The tool works in both standalone app mode and within web browsers.

How to do it…

pgAdmin 4 is usually named just pgAdmin. The 4 at the end has a long history but isn’t that important. It is more of an “epoch” than a release level; pgAdmin 4 replaces the earlier pgAdmin 3. Instructions to download and install it can be found at https://www.pgadmin.org/.

When you start pgAdmin, you will be prompted to register a new server.

Give your server a name on the General tab, and then click the Connection tab, as shown in the screenshot, and fill in the five basic connection parameters, as well as the other information. You should uncheck the Save password? option:

Figure 1.3: The server connection properties

If you have many database servers, you can group them together. I suggest keeping any replicated servers together in the same server group. Give each server a sensible name.

Once you’ve added a server, pgAdmin will connect to it and display information about it, using the information that you have added.

The default screen is Dashboard, which presents a few interesting graphs based on the data it polls from the server. That’s not very useful, so click on the Statistics tab.

You will then get access to the main browser screen, with the object tree view on the left and statistics on the right, as shown in the following screenshot:

Figure 1.4: The pgAdmin tree view with the Statistics tab

pgAdmin easily displays much of the data that is available from PostgreSQL. The information is context-sensitive, allowing you to navigate and see everything quickly and easily. Except for the dashboard, the information is not dynamically updated; this will occur only when you navigate the application, where every click will refresh the data, so bear this in mind when using the application.

pgAdmin also provides Grant Wizard. This is useful for DBAs for review and immediate maintenance. In the example shown in the screenshot, the user first selected the Sequences on the navigation tree and then selected Tools Grant Wizard. This will open a pop-up window to select the objects on which privileges will be granted to a selected role:

Figure 1.5: Grant Wizard: selecting sequences to grant privileges to a role

The pgAdmin query tool allows you to have multiple active sessions. The query tool has a good-looking visual Explain feature, which displays the EXPLAIN plan for your query. To do this, go to Tools Query Tool. Write your query in the Query text box, and then click on the E (Explain) button, as shown in the following screenshot. The graphical execution tree is shown below the query:

Figure 1.6: The visual Explain feature

How it works…

pgAdmin provides a wide range of features, many of which are provided by other tools as well. This gives us the opportunity to choose which of those tools we want. For many reasons, it is best to use the right tool for the right job, and that is always a matter of expertise, experience, and personal taste.

pgAdmin submits SQL to the PostgreSQL server and displays the results quickly and easily. As a database browser, it is fantastic. For performing small DBA tasks, it is ideal. As you might’ve guessed from these comments, I don’t recommend GUI tools for every task.

Scripting is an important technique for DBAs. You keep an exact copy of the task executed, so you document all the actions in a way that is automatically repeatable, and you can edit and resubmit if problems occur. It’s also easy to put all the tasks in a script into a single transaction, which isn’t possible using the current GUI tools. For scripting, I strongly recommend the psql utility, which has many additional features that you’ll increasingly appreciate over time.

Although I recommend psql as a scripting tool, many people find it convenient as a query tool. Some people may find this strange and assume that it is a choice for experts only. Two great features of psql as an interactive query tool are the online help for SQL and the tab completion feature, which allows you to build up SQL quickly without having to remember the syntax. This is why the Using the psql query and scripting tool recipe (which we recommend particularly for more information) is named that way.

pgAdmin provides the PSQL Tool in the Tools menu, which allows you to run psql alongside pgAdmin. This is a great innovation and allows you to get the power of a GUI alongside the power of psql.

pgAdmin also provides pgAgent, a job scheduler, which we will discuss in Chapter 7, Database Administration.

A quick warning! When you create an object in pgAdmin, the object will be created with a mixed-case name if you use capitals or spaces anywhere in the object name. If I ask for a table named MyTable, the only way to access that table is by referring to it in double quotes as "MyTable". See the Handling objects with quoted names recipe in Chapter 5, Tables and Data:

Figure 1.7: Table options

See also

You may also be interested in commercial tools of various kinds for PostgreSQL. A full listing is given in the PostgreSQL software catalog at http://www.postgresql.org/download/products/1.


Using the psql query and scripting tool

psql is the query tool supplied as a part of the core distribution of PostgreSQL, so it is available in all environments and works similarly in all of them. This makes it an ideal choice for developing portable applications and techniques.

psql provides features for use as both an interactive query tool and as a scripting tool.

Getting ready

From here on, we will assume that the psql command alone is enough to allow you access to the PostgreSQL server. This assumes that all your connection parameters are defaults, or that you have set environment variables appropriately, as previously explained in the Enabling access for remote/network users recipe.

Written in full, the connection parameters will be either of these options:

psql -h myhost -p 5432 -d mydb -U myuser
psql postgresql://myuser@myhost:5432/mydb

The default value for the port (-p) is 5432. By default, mydb and myuser are both identical to the operating system’s username. The default myhost on Windows is localhost, while on Unix, we use the default directory for Unix socket connections. The location of such directories varies across distributions and is set at compile time. However, note that you don’t actually need to know its value because, on local connections, both the server and the client are normally compiled together, so they use the same default.

How to do it…

The command that executes a single SQL command and prints the output is the easiest, as shown here:

$ psql -c "SELECT current_time"
(1 row)

The -c command is non-interactive. If we want to execute multiple commands, we can write those commands in a text file and then execute them using the -f option. This command loads a very small and simple set of examples:

$ psql -f examples.sql

The contents of the examples.sql file are as follows:

SET client_encoding = 'UTF8';
SET standard_conforming_strings = on;
SET check_function_bodies = false;
SET xmloption = content;
SET client_min_messages = warning;
SET row_security = off;
SET default_tablespace = '';
SET default_table_access_method = heap;
SET search_path = myschema;
CREATE TABLE mytable (
    id integer PRIMARY KEY,
    col1 text
CREATE TABLE mytable2 (
    id integer,
    fid integer REFERENCES mytable(id),
    col2 timestamp with time zone DEFAULT clock_timestamp(),
    PRIMARY KEY (id, fid)
COPY mytable (id, col1) FROM stdin;
1	Ananas
2	Banana
3	Cucumber
4	Dasheen
5	Endive
COPY mytable2 (id, fid, col2) FROM stdin;
1001	1	2023-11-15 18:49:14.84806+01
1001	2	2023-11-15 18:49:14.848334+01
1002	5	2023-11-15 18:49:14.848344+01

The above command produces the following output when successful, which is a list of command tags that show the command that was executed, and how many rows were affected:


The examples.sql script is very similar to a dump file produced by PostgreSQL backup tools, so this type of file and the output it produces are very common; in fact, we produced it by creating a dump file and then removing some parts that were not needed by this example.

When a command is executed successfully, PostgreSQL outputs a command tag equal to the name of that command; this is how the preceding output was produced.

The psql tool can also be used with both the -c and -f modes together; each one can be used multiple times. In this case, it will execute all the commands consecutively:

$ psql -c "SELECT current_time" –f examples.sql -c "SELECT current_time"
(1 row)
   ...output removed for clarity...
(1 row)

The psql tool can also be used in interactive mode, which is the default, so it requires no option:

$ psql

The first interactive command you’ll need is the following:

postgres=# help

You can then enter SQL or other commands. The following is the last interactive command you’ll need:

postgres=# \quit

Unfortunately, you cannot type quit on its own, nor can you type \exit or other options. Sorry – it’s just \quit, or \q for short!

How it works…

In psql, you can enter the following two types of command:

  • psql meta-commands
  • SQL

A meta-command is a command for the psql client, which may (or may not) send SQL to the database server, depending on what it actually does, whereas an SQL command is always sent to the database server. An example of a meta-command is \q, which tells the client to disconnect. All lines that begin with \ (a backslash) as the first non-blank character are presumed to be meta-commands of some kind.

If it isn’t a meta-command, it’s SQL, in which case psql keeps reading SQL until we find a semicolon, so we can spread SQL across many lines and format it any way we find convenient.

The help command is the only exception. We provide this for people who are completely lost, which is a good thought; so let’s start from there ourselves.

There are two types of help commands, which are as follows:

  • \?: This provides help on psql meta-commands.
  • \h: This provides help on specific SQL commands.

Consider the following snippet as an example:

postgres=# \h DELETE
Command: DELETE
Description: delete rows of a table
[ WITH [ RECURSIVE ] with_query [, ...] ]
DELETE FROM [ ONLY ] table [ [ AS ] alias ]
    [ USING usinglist ]
    [ WHERE condition | WHERE CURRENT OF cursor_name ]
    [ RETURNING * | output_expression [ AS output_name ] [,]]

I find this a great way to discover and remember options and syntax. You’ll also appreciate having the ability to scroll back through the previous command history if your terminal allows it.

You’ll get a lot of benefits from tab completion, which will fill in the next part of the syntax when you press the Tab key. This also works for object names, so you can type in just the first few letters and then press Tab; all the options will be displayed. Thus, you can type in just enough letters to make the object name unique and then hit Tab to get the rest of the name.

Like most programming languages, SQL also supports comments. One-line comments begin with two dashes, as follows:

-- This is a single-line comment

Multiline comments are similar to those in C and Java:

Multiline comment
line 2
line 3

You’ll probably agree that psql looks a little daunting at first, with strange backslash commands. I do hope you’ll take a few moments to understand the interface and keep digging for more information. The psql tool is one of the most surprising parts of PostgreSQL, and it is incredibly useful for database administration tasks when used alongside other tools.

There’s more…

psql works across releases and works well with older versions. It may not work at all with newer server versions, so use the latest client level of the server you are accessing.

See also

Check out some other useful features of psql, which are as follows:

  • Informational metacommands, such as \d, \dn, and more
  • Formatting, for output, such as \x
  • Execution timing using the \timing command
  • Input/output and editing commands, such as \copy, \i, and \o
  • Automatic startup files, such as .psqlrc
  • Substitutable parameters (variables), such as \set and \unset
  • Access to the OS command line using \!
  • Crosstab views with \crosstabview
  • Conditional execution, such as \if, \elif, \else, and \endif

Changing your password securely

If you are using password authentication, then you may wish to change your password from time to time. This can be done from any interface. pgAdmin is a good choice, but here we will show how to do that from psql.

How to do it…

The most basic method is to use the psql tool. The \password command will prompt you once for a new password and again to confirm. Connect to the psql tool and type the following:

postgres=# SET password_encryption = 'scram-sha-256';
postgres=# \password

Enter a new password. This causes psql to send a SQL statement to the PostgreSQL server, which contains an already encrypted password string. An example of the SQL statement sent is as follows:

ALTER USER postgres PASSWORD 'SCRAM-SHA-256$4096:H45+UIZiJUcEXrB9SHlv5Q==$I0mc87UotsrnezRKv9Ijqn/zjWMGPVdy1zHPARAGfVs=:nSjwT9LGDmAsMo+GqbmC2X/9LMgowTQBjUQsl45gZzA=';

Make sure you use the SCRAM-SHA-256 encryption, not the older and easily compromised MD5 encryption. Whatever you do, don’t use postgres as your password. This will make you vulnerable to idle hackers, so make it a little more difficult than that!

Make sure you don’t forget your password either. It may prove difficult to maintain your database if you can’t access it.

How it works…

As changing the password is just an SQL statement, any interface can do this.

If you don’t use one of the main routes to change the password, you can still do it yourself, using SQL from any interface. Note that you need to encrypt your password because if you do submit one in plain text, such as the following, it will be shipped to the server in plaintext:

ALTER USER myuser PASSWORD 'secret';

Luckily, the password in this case will still be stored in an encrypted form, but it will also be recorded in plaintext in the psql history file, as well as in any server and application logs, depending on the actual log-level settings.

PostgreSQL doesn’t enforce a password change cycle, so you may wish to use more advanced authentication mechanisms, such as GSSAPI, SSPI, LDAP, or RADIUS.


Avoiding hardcoding your password

We can all agree that hardcoding your password is a bad idea. This recipe shows you how to keep your password in a secure password file.

Getting ready

Not all database users need passwords; some databases use other means of authentication. Don’t perform this step unless you know you will be using password authentication and you know your password.

First, remove the hardcoded password from where you set it previously. Completely remove the password = xxxx text from the connection string in a program. Otherwise, when you test the password file, the hardcoded setting will override the details you are about to place in the file. Keeping the password hardcoded and in the password file is not any better. Using PGPASSWORD is not recommended either, so remove that as well.

If you think someone may have seen your password, change it before placing it in the secure password file.

How to do it…

A password file contains the usual five fields that we require when connecting, as shown here:


An example of how to set this is as follows:


The password file is located using an environment variable named PGPASSFILE. If PGPASSFILE is not set, a default filename and location must be searched for, as follows:

  • On *nix systems, look for ~/.pgpass.
  • On Windows systems, look for %APPDATA%\postgresql\pgpass.conf, where %APPDATA% is the application data subdirectory in the path (for me, that would be C:\).


    Don’t forget to set the file permissions on the file so that security is maintained. File permissions are not enforced on Windows, although the default location is secure. On *nix systems, you must issue the following command: chmod 0600 ~/.pgpass.

    If you forget to do this, the PostgreSQL client will ignore the .pgpass file. While the psql tool will issue a clear warning, many other clients will just fail silently, so don’t forget!

How it works…

Many people name the password file .pgpass, whether or not they are on Windows, so don’t get confused if they do this.

The password file can contain multiple lines. Each line is matched against the requested host:port:dbname:user combination until we find a line that matches. Then, we use that password.

Each item can be a literal value or *, a wildcard that matches anything. There is no support for partial matching. With appropriate permissions, a user can potentially connect to any database. Using the wildcard in the dbname and port fields makes sense, but it is less useful in other fields. The following are a few examples of wildcards:

  • myhost:5432:*:sriggs:moresecurepw
  • myhost:5432:perf:hannu:okpw
  • myhost:*:perf:gianni:sicurissimo

There’s more…

This looks like a good improvement if you have a few database servers. If you have many different database servers, you may want to think about using a connection service file instead (see the Using a connection service file recipe) or perhaps even storing details on a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) server.


Using a connection service file

As the number of connection options grows, you may want to consider using a connection service file.

The connection service file allows you to give a single name to a set of connection parameters. This can be accessed centrally to avoid the need for individual users to know the host and port of the database, and it is more resistant to future change.

You can set up a system-wide file as well as individual per-user files. The default file paths for these files are /etc/pg_service.conf and ~/.pg_service.conf respectively.

A system-wide connection file controls service names for all users from a single place, while a per-user file applies only to that particular user. Keep in mind that the per-user file overrides the system-wide file – if a service is defined in both files, then the definition in the per-user file will prevail.

How to do it…

First, create a file named pg_service.conf with the following content:


You can then copy it to either /etc/pg_service.conf or another agreed-upon central location. You can then set the PGSYSCONFDIR environment variable to that directory location.

Alternatively, you can copy it to ~/.pg_service.conf. If you want to use a different name, indicate it using PGSERVICEFILE. Either way, you can then specify the name of the service in a connection string, such as in the following example:

psql "service=dbservice1=cookbook user=gciolli"

The service can also be set using an environment variable named PGSERVICE.

How it works…

The connection service file can also be used to specify the user, although that means that the database username will be shared.

The pg_service.conf and .pgpass files can work together, or you can use just one of the two. Note that the pg_service.conf file is shared, so it is not a suitable place for passwords. The per-user connection service file is not shared, but in any case, it seems best to keep things separate and confine passwords to .pgpass.

There’s more...

This feature applies to libpq connections only, so it does not apply to clients using other libraries, such as Java database connectivity (JDBC).


Troubleshooting a failed connection

This recipe is all about what you should do when things go wrong.

Bear in mind that 90% of problems are just misunderstandings, and you’ll quickly be on track again.

How to do it…

Here, we’ve made a checklist to be followed if a connection attempt fails:

  • Check whether the database name and the username are accurate. You may be requesting a service on one system when the database you require is on another system. Recheck your credentials; ensure that you haven’t mixed things up and that you are not using the database name as the username, or vice versa. If you receive an error for too many connections, then you may need to disconnect another session before you can connect or request the administrator to allow further connections.
  • Check for explicit rejections. If you receive the pg_hba.conf rejects connection for host... error message, it means that your connection attempt has been explicitly rejected by the database administrator for that server. You will not be able to connect from the current client system using those credentials. There is little point in attempting to contact the administrator, as you are violating an explicit security policy with what you are attempting to do.
  • Check for implicit rejections. If the error message you receive is no pg_hba.conf entry for..., it means there is no explicit rule that matches your credentials. This is likely an oversight on the part of the administrator and is common in very complex networks. Contact the administrator and request a ruling on whether your connection should be allowed (hopefully) or explicitly rejected in the future.
  • Check whether the connection works with psql. If you’re trying to connect to PostgreSQL from anything other than the psql command-line utility, switch to that now. If you can make psql connect successfully but cannot make your main connection work correctly, the problem may be in the local interface you are using.
  • Check the status of the database server using the pg_isready utility, shipped with PostgreSQL. This tool checks the status of a database server, either local or remote, by establishing a minimal connection. Only the hostname and port are mandatory, which is great if you don’t know the database name, username, or password. The following outcomes are possible:
    • The server is running and accepting connections.
    • The server is running but not accepting connections (because it is starting up, shutting down, or in recovery).
    • A connection attempt was made, but it failed.
    • No connection attempt was made because of a client problem (invalid parameters or out of memory).
  • Check whether the server is up. If a server is shut down, you cannot connect. The typical problem here is simply mixing up the server to which you are connecting. You need to specify the hostname and port, so it’s possible that you are mixing up those details.
  • Check whether the server is up and accepting new connections. A server that is shutting down will not accept new connections, apart from superusers. Also, a standby server may not have the hot_standby parameter enabled, preventing you from connecting.
  • Check whether the server is listening correctly; also, check the port to which the server is actually listening. Confirm that the incoming request is arriving on the interface listed in the listen_addresses parameter. Check whether it is set to * for remote connections and localhost for local connections.
  • Check whether the database name and username exist. It’s possible that the database or user no longer exists.
  • Check the connection request – that is, check whether the connection request was successful and was somehow dropped following the connection. You can confirm this by looking at the server log when the following parameters are enabled:
    log_connections = on
    log_disconnections = on
  • Check for other reasons for disconnection. If you are connecting to a standby server, it is possible that you have been disconnected because of hot standby conflicts. See Chapter 12, Replication and Upgrades, for more information.

There’s more…

Client authentication and security are the rapidly changing areas in subsequent major PostgreSQL releases. You will also find differences between maintenance release levels. The PostgreSQL documents on this topic can be viewed at http://www.postgresql.org/docs/current/interactive/client-authentication.html.

Always check which release level you are using before consulting the manual or asking for support. Many problems are caused simply by confusing the capabilities between release levels.


PostgreSQL in the cloud

Like many other systems, PostgreSQL is available in the cloud as a Database as a Service (DBaaS). These services create and manage databases for you, with high availability and backup included. So it’s less work, but not zero work, and you still have responsibilities…which you will see later.

Getting ready

We will select EDB’s BigAnimal as an example of a PostgreSQL cloud service, since EDB has the largest number of contributors to open source PostgreSQL, over the longest period.

EDB’s BigAnimal creates clusters within your own cloud account, allowing you to understand and control the costs you incur when running PostgreSQL. So, the first step is to log in to your host cloud account: https://www.biganimal.com/.

How to do it…

Using EDB’s BigAnimal as a specific example, navigate through these steps:

  1. If you don’t have an account, you can sign in using the Free Trial at http://biganimal.com/; click Try for free, sign up, and sign in. This will take you to Step 5 of this sequence. If you do already have an account, then you can start at Step 2.
  2. Connect to the cloud portal – for example, Azure. If you have multiple accounts, as we do, then make sure you are connected to the right account. BigAnimal is then available as a marketplace subscription.
  3. Go to https://portal.biganimal.com/:

Figure 1.8: The portal welcome screen

  1. Manage your cloud limits, if necessary.
  2. Select Create New Cluster, and then set Cluster Name and Password:

Figure 1.9: The portal main screen

  1. In this example, we will create a cluster called Cluster2. Specify Database Type. Select the software type and version – for example, PostgreSQL 16. Select the cloud provider and distribution across region(s) – for example, Azure and Central India:

Figure 1.10: BigAnimal database type

  1. Specify the instance type and key details, all of which will then be provisioned for you:
    • Specify the instance type – for instance, D4s v3:
      • How many CPUs? (such as 4 vCPUs)
      • How much RAM? (such as 16GB RAM)
    • Specify storage:
      • Volume type? (Azure Premium Storage)
      • Provisioned IOPS? (4 Gi, 120 IOPS, 25 MB/s)
    • Specify other aspects:
      • Networking? (Public)
      • High availability? (Yes)
      • HA clusters are configured with a single primary and two replica nodes using streaming physical replication. Clusters are configured across availability zones automatically. synchronous_replication is configured by default.
  2. Create the cluster. Wait for the cluster to be built, which will usually be very quick, yet varies according to the options selected in the previous step. Assume it will take 1 hour to avoid sitting and watching it:

Figure 1.11: The BigAnimal progress bar

  1. Set up Connection Info for our new Cluster2:

Figure 1.12: EDB’s BigAnimal connection details

Test the connection and then set up the connection details, as discussed in earlier recipes. Assign the new instance a shortcut name, since remembering a node name such as p-r5w2xuuuos.pg.biganimal.io will not be easy!

How it works…

The cloud (or DBaaS) means that PostgreSQL is managed for you, so this is all you need to do.

EDB’s BigAnimal provides a GUI to allow you to create PostgreSQL clusters manually on demand. One of the main themes in this cookbook is using repeatable, scriptable mechanisms where possible, so I recommend that you use either a Command-Line Interface (CLI) or an Application Programming Interface (API). The API uses a RESTful interface to define and manage clusters.

Note that when you run a database service, you still have these and other responsibilities:

  • You are responsible for contacting the support team if things are not as you think they should be.
  • You are responsible for keeping your passwords to the cluster secure.
  • You are responsible for creating users with appropriate access rights to your data.
  • You are responsible for choosing whether to enable high availability and for noting the availability level offered by the service.
  • You are responsible for data modeling, query performance, and scaling the cluster to meet your performance needs.
  • You are responsible for choosing the appropriate resources for your workload, including instance type, storage, and connections. You are also responsible for managing your cloud resource limits to ensure the underlying infrastructure can scale.
  • You are responsible for periodically restoring and verifying the restores to ensure that archives are completed frequently and successfully to meet your needs.
  • You are responsible for paying!

So, the cloud is a good way forward, but not a way to avoid taking full responsibility for your overall application and database.

There’s more…

Cloud services are also available from these and others:

  • Aiven
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Crunchy
  • Google
  • Microsoft

PostgreSQL with Kubernetes

In this recipe, we discuss Kubernetes (K8s for short), the industry’s most prominent solution for automated application deployment, scaling, and management. It is free software, vendor neutral, and maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

CloudNativePG (CNPG) is the newest and fastest-rising Kubernetes operator for PostgreSQL. In other words, it provides automation around the entire Postgres lifecycle, taking care of deployment, scaling, and the management of database clusters.

In this recipe, we’ll use Minikube, a lightweight and fuss-free Kubernetes distribution for testing software deployment. It’s not suitable for production usage, but whatever we do in Minikube also holds true for any Kubernetes cluster, so you can take what you learn here and apply it to production-ready clusters.

Getting ready

First off, we install Minikube to provide a minimal Kubernetes cluster. Install Docker (or Podman) from your OS’s default package manager, then visit https://minikube.sigs.k8s.io/docs/start/ to find download and installation instructions for your operating system and architecture. For example, if you use Debian, then the installation is as simple as:

curl -LO \https://storage.googleapis.com/minikube/releases/latest/minikube_latest_amd64.deb
sudo dpkg -i minikube_latest_amd64.deb

Next, assuming that your user has permission to use Docker, you can start Minikube with:

minikube start

At this point, you can install the kubectl utility, which lets you interact with the Kubernetes cluster:

minikube kubectl -- get pods -A

The above command is a bit verbose; you can wrap it in a shorter alias:

alias kubectl="minikube kubectl --"

Now everything should be ready; you can verify that by running:

kubectl get nodes
minikube   Ready    control-plane   12m   v1.27.4

which means that you’re ready to start your CloudNativePG journey.

How to do it...

In order to install the latest version (at the time of writing, v1.21.0) of the CloudNativePG operator into your Kubernetes cluster, run:

kubectl apply -f \

We verify the installation with:

kubectl get deployment -n cnpg-system cnpg-controller-manager
NAME                      READY   UP-TO-DATE   AVAILABLE   AGE
cnpg-controller-manager   0/1     1            0           15s

Let’s deploy a sample PostgreSQL cluster.

Kubernetes works in a declarative way: you declare what the cluster should look like, and then CNPG (the operator) will perform all the necessary operations that will end up with the cluster in the exact state that you declared.

In practice, we create a YAML file called sample-cluster.yaml with the following content:

apiVersion: postgresql.cnpg.io/v1
kind: Cluster
  name: sample-cluster
  instances: 3
    size: 1Gi

And then we apply that file by running:

kubectl apply -f sample-cluster.yaml

We can check what is going on by seeing which Postgres pods are up and running:

kubectl get pods
NAME                            READY   STATUS            RESTARTS   AGE
sample-cluster-1-initdb-74xf7   0/1     PodInitializing   0          30s

Looks like we’re not done yet. Give it a moment, and then you will see:

kubectl get pods
sample-cluster-1   1/1     Running   0          2m19s
sample-cluster-2   1/1     Running   0          1m41s
sample-cluster-3   1/1     Running   0          1m12s

Our Postgres nodes are up! They are now ready to be accessed by applications running inside the Kubernetes cluster by connecting to the following Services created by CNPG:

kubectl get svc
NAME                TYPE        CLUSTER-IP      EXTERNAL-IP   PORT(S)    AGE
kubernetes          ClusterIP       <none>        443/TCP    77m
sample-cluster-r    ClusterIP   <none>        5432/TCP   42m
sample-cluster-ro   ClusterIP   <none>        5432/TCP   42m
sample-cluster-rw   ClusterIP    <none>        5432/TCP   42m

The sample-cluster-rw Service lets you connect to the primary node for read/write operations, sample-cluster-ro to standbys only for read-only operations, and sample-cluster-r to any node (including the primary) for read operations.

You can find more sample configurations with more features at https://cloudnative-pg.io/documentation/current/samples/.

How it works…

The operator defines a new Kubernetes resource called Cluster, representing a PostgreSQL cluster made up of a single primary and an optional number of physical replicas that co-exist in the chosen Kubernetes namespace for high availability and offloading of read-only queries.

Applications in the Kubernetes cluster can now access the Postgres database through the Service that the operator manages, without worrying about which node is primary and whether the primary changes due to a failover or switchover. For applications from outside the Kubernetes cluster, you need to expose Postgres via TCP by configuring a Service or Ingress object.

In our cluster, 1 GB of disk space was allocated for Postgres in the default Kubernetes storage. Be aware that we deployed Postgres with the default configuration, which is conservative and safe for testing on a laptop, but definitely not suitable for production usage.

You can find CNPG’s extensive documentation, which describes all you can do with the operator, including detailed Prometheus monitoring, backup and recovery, upgrades, migration, scaling, etc., and how to configure it for production use, at https://cloudnative-pg.io/documentation/current/.

There’s more...

CloudNativePG is able to react to the failure of a PostgreSQL instance by performing failover and/or creating new replicas, depending on what is needed to restore the desired state, which in our example is one primary node and two physical replicas.

We recommend this method for Kubernetes PostgreSQL deployments because it is not an attempt to shoehorn Postgres into Kubernetes with additional sidecar software to take care of the high availability aspect. It is built from the ground up with Postgres-specific resources, while respecting the cloud-native declarative conventions and using Kubernetes’s built-in facilities and features.

High availability has historically been a complex subject for PostgreSQL, as for other database systems, because the most difficult part is to diagnose failures correctly. The various middleware tools – for which we refer you to Chapter 12, Replication and Upgrades – employ a number of techniques to reduce the risk of doing the wrong thing due to a mistaken diagnosis.

Kubernetes changes the way high availability is achieved because it provides a very reliable interface for detecting node failures. CNPG is called “native” because it follows this approach strictly, and as a result it is becoming very popular in the Kubernetes world, probably also because people who are experienced with Kubernetes will recognize this approach as familiar and reliable.

CloudNativePG is the first PostgreSQL-related project to aim for CNCF certification through the Sandbox/Incubation/Graduation process. You can find the CNPG repository at https://github.com/cloudnative-pg/cloudnative-pg.


PostgreSQL with TPA

Trusted Postgres Architect (TPA) is a software based on Ansible that can be used to deploy database clusters on a variety of platforms.

In this recipe, we will use TPA to configure and deploy a small cluster on our own Linux workstation.

This recipe uses TPA’s docker platform, which is meant to be used only for test clusters. TPA currently supports two other platforms:

  • The aws platform, to provision and use instances on AWS EC2
  • The bare platform, to use existing instances (including bare-metal and already provisioned servers)

For more information on how to use these platforms, please refer to the corresponding TPA documentation pages:

Getting ready

First, we need to install TPA, which is free software, released under the GPL v3 license. Therefore, you can download it from public repositories, as explained in the installation instructions:


Make sure you have the latest version installed; you can check it by typing:

tpaexec info

At the time when this recipe was written, TPA version 23.23 was the latest release available. Given that TPA tries hard to keep compatibility with clusters installed using previous versions, you should definitely always use the latest version of TPA, and be able to repeat this recipe even with releases newer than 23.23.

Then, we need to install Docker. If you don’t have it already on your laptop you can install it as described here: https://www.enterprisedb.com/docs/tpa/latest/platform-docker/#installing-docker.

In the common microservices approach, each container runs a specific service. The way TPA uses Docker is quite different because each container runs a miniature copy of a Linux OS. This approach is not meant for production use, but it is a great way to test the behavior of a cluster with minimal resource use.

How to do it...

This is our first TPA example, so we will deploy the smallest possible PostgreSQL cluster, composed of a single instance with a backup server. No replication, no high availability (which most of the time means no production!)

First, we create the cluster configuration using the tpaexec configure command as follows:

tpaexec configure myfirstcluster --architecture M1 \
  --platform docker --enable-repmgr --postgresql 16

This command creates a directory named myfirstcluster with the following contents:

├── commands
│   ├── status.yml -> /opt/EDB/TPA/architectures/M1/commands/status.yml
│   ├── switchover.sh -> /opt/EDB/TPA/architectures/M1/commands/switchover.sh
│   ├── switchover.yml -> /opt/EDB/TPA/architectures/M1/commands/switchover.yml
│   └── upgrade.yml -> /opt/EDB/TPA/architectures/M1/commands/upgrade.yml
├── config.yml
└── deploy.yml -> /opt/EDB/TPA/architectures/M1/deploy.yml

The commands directory contains some symlinks to commands that are specific to the architecture that we have chosen, while deploy.yml is a symlink to the playbook used for the deploy command. As you can see, all these are files distributed together with TPA, which are linked to this cluster directory so they can easily be used.

The only new file that has been created by this invocation is config.yml, which describes the cluster. It is effectively a template that the user can modify if they want to fine-tune the cluster; in fact, editing that file is quite common because only some of the settings can be specified as options of the tpaexec configure command.

We created a configuration file specifying this architecture:


As we want a smaller example, we will now edit config.yml to remove some of the instances because in this first example, we just want to deploy one PostgreSQL instance and one Barman instance instead of the full M1 architecture, which by default includes a three-node physical replication cluster plus a Barman node, which also acts as a log server and as a monitoring server.

Let’s locate the instances section, at the end of the file:

- Name: kennel
  backup: karma
  location: main
  node: 1
  - primary
- Name: quintet
  location: main
  node: 2
  - replica
  upstream: kennel
- Name: karma
  location: main
  node: 3
  - barman
  - log-server
  - monitoring-server
- Name: kinship
  location: dr
  node: 4
  - replica
  upstream: quintet

The instance names in your example will likely be different every time you run tpaexec configure because TPA by default picks them at random from a built-in list of words; however, the structure will be the same.

From there, we can remove:

  • The physical replicas – that is, instances 2 and 4 (here, quintet and kinship)
  • The additional roles for the Barman instance – that is, log-server and monitoring-server from instance 3 (here, karma)

We end up with the following instances section:

- Name: kennel
  backup: karma
  location: main
  node: 1
  - primary
- Name: karma
  location: main
  node: 3
  - barman

After making these changes, we can deploy the cluster, which is as simple as issuing the following command:

tpaexec deploy myfirstcluster

This command will display copious output, ending like this after a few minutes:

PLAY RECAP *********************************************************************
karma                      : ok=177  changed=40   unreachable=0    failed=0    skipped=163  rescued=0    ignored=0   
kennel                     : ok=316  changed=97   unreachable=0    failed=0    skipped=222  rescued=0    ignored=1   
localhost                  : ok=4    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0    skipped=0    rescued=0    ignored=0   
real	5m35.687s
user	1m13.249s
sys	0m30.098s

The output is also collected in the ansible.log file, with millisecond timestamps, if you need to inspect the (many) steps afterward.

Now that we have a cluster, we can use it. Let’s connect with SSH to the Postgres host:

$ cd myfirstcluster
$ ssh -F ssh_config kennel
[root@kennel ~]# su - postgres
postgres@kennel:~ $ psql
psql (15.4)
Type "help" for help.
We can also open another terminal and connect to the Barman host:
$ ssh -F ssh_config karma
Last login: Mon Sep 18 21:35:41 2023 from
[root@karma ~]# su - barman
[barman@karma ~]$ barman list-backup all
kennel 20230918T213317 - Mon Sep 18 21:33:19 2023 - Size: 22.2 MiB - WAL Size: 0 B
kennel 20230918T213310 - Mon Sep 18 21:33:11 2023 - Size: 22.2 MiB - WAL Size: 36.2 KiB
kennel 20230918T213303 - Mon Sep 18 21:33:05 2023 - Size: 22.2 MiB - WAL Size: 36.8 KiB

There’s more

TPA reads the config.yml file, where the cluster is described in a declarative way, and then performs all the actions needed to deploy the cluster, or to modify an already-deployed cluster if config.yml has been changed since the last run of the deploy command.

The tpaexec deploy command automatically performs the preliminary tpaexec provision, which is the step where TPA populates the Ansible inventory based on the contents of config.yml and then creates the required resources, such as SSH keys, passwords, and instances. Here, “instances” means:

  • Containers, when using the docker platform
  • VMs, when using the aws platform
  • Nothing, when using the bare platform (TPA will expect “bare metal” instances, in the sense that they exist already and TPA has sudo SSH access to them)

For more details, please refer to the TPA online documentation:

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About the Authors
  • Gianni Ciolli

    Gianni Ciolli is Vice President and Field CTO at EDB; he was Global Head of Professional Services at 2ndQuadrant until it was acquired by EDB. Gianni has been a PostgreSQL consultant, trainer, and speaker at many PostgreSQL conferences in Europe and abroad over more than 10 years. He has a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Florence. He has worked with free and Open-Source software since the 1990s and is active in the community. He lives between Frankfurt and London and plays the piano in his spare time

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  • Boriss Mejías

    Boriss Mejias is a Senior Solutions Architect at EDB, building on his experience as PostgreSQL consultant and trainer at 2ndQuadrant. He has been working with open source software since the beginning of the century contributing to several projects both with code and community work. He has a PhD in Computer Science from the Université catholique de Louvain, and an Engineering degree from Universidad de Chile.Complementary to his role as Solutions Architect, he gives PostgreSQL training and is a regular speaker at PostgreSQL conferences. He loves spending time with his family and playing air guitar

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  • Jimmy Angelakos

    Jimmy Angelakos is a Systems and Database Architect and recognized PostgreSQL expert. He studied Computer Science at the University of Aberdeen, has worked with Open-Source tools for 25+ years, is an active member of PostgreSQL Europe and occasional contributor to the PostgreSQL project. He also speaks frequently at database and Free & Open-Source Software conferences

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  • Vibhor Kumar

    Vibhor Kumar, Global VP at EDB, is a pioneering data tech leader. He manages a global team of engineers, optimizing clients' Postgres databases for peak performance and scalability. He advises Fortune 500 clients, including many Financial Institutes, in innovating and transforming their data platforms. His past experience spans IBM, BMC Software, and CMC Ltd. He holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Lucknow and a Master's from the Army Institute of Management. As a certified expert in numerous technologies, he often shares his insights on DevOps, cloud, and database optimization through blogging and speaking at events

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  • Simon Riggs

    Simon Riggs is a Major Developer of PostgreSQL since 2004. Formerly, Simon was the Founder and CEO of 2ndQuadrant, acquired by EDB in 2020. Simon has contributed widely to PostgreSQL, initiating new projects, contributing ideas, committing many important features as well and working directly with database architects and users on advanced solutions

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