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pgsentinel – sampling active session history

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PostgreSQL provides session activity. However, in order to gather activity behavior user have to sample the pg_stat_activity view multiple times. pgsentinel is an extension to record active session history and also link the activity with query statistics (pg_stat_statements).

The module must be loaded by adding pgsentinel to shared_preload_libraries in postgresql.conf, means that a server restart is needed to add or remove the module.

When pgsentinel is enabled, it collects the history of session activity:

  • It's implemented as in-memory ring buffer where samples are written with given (configurable) period. Therefore, user can see some number of recent samples depending on history size (configurable).

In combination with pg_stat_statements this extension can also link the session activity with query statistics.

To get more granular queries statistic pgsentinel extension samples the pg_stat_statements view:

  • at the same time it is sampling the active sessions
  • only for the queryid that were associated to an active session (if any) during the sampling

pgsentinel launches special background worker for gathering the sessions activity.


pgsentinel is implemented as an extension and not available in default PostgreSQL installation. It is available from github under the same license as GNU AFFERO GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE and supports PostgreSQL 9.6+.


pgsentinel is a PostgreSQL extension which requires PostgreSQL 9.6 or higher. Before build and install you should ensure the following:

  • PostgreSQL version is 9.6 or higher.
  • You have development package of PostgreSQL installed or you built PostgreSQL from source.
  • Your PATH variable is configured so that pg_config command available, or set PG_CONFIG variable.

Typical installation procedure may look like this:

As pgsentinel uses the pg_stat_statements extension (officially bundled with PostgreSQL) for tracking which queries get executed in your database, add the following entries to your postgres.conf:

$ shared_preload_libraries = 'pg_stat_statements,pgsentinel'
$ # Icncrease the max size of the query strings Postgres records
$ track_activity_query_size = 2048
$ # Track statements generated by stored procedures as well
$ pg_stat_statements.track = all

restart the postgresql daemon and create the extension:

$ git clone
$ cd pgsentinel/src
$ make
$ sudo make install
$ psql DB -c "CREATE EXTENSION pgsentinel;"


pgsentinel reports the active session history activity through the pg_active_session_history view:

Column Type Collation Nullable Default
ash_time timestamp with time zone
datid oid
datname text
pid integer
leader_pid integer
usesysid oid
usename text
application_name text
client_addr text
client_hostname text
client_port integer
backend_start timestamp with time zone
xact_start timestamp with time zone
query_start timestamp with time zone
state_change timestamp with time zone
wait_event_type text
wait_event text
state text
backend_xid xid
backend_xmin xid
top_level_query text
query text
cmdtype text
queryid bigint
backend_type text
blockers integer
blockerpid integer
blocker_state text

You could see it as samplings of pg_stat_activity providing more information:

  • ash_time: the sampling time
  • top_level_query: the top level statement (in case PL/pgSQL is used)
  • query: the statement being executed (not normalised, as it is in pg_stat_statements, means you see the values)
  • queryid: the queryid of the statement which links to pg_stat_statements
  • blockers: the number of blockers
  • blockerpid: the pid of the blocker (if blockers = 1), the pid of one blocker (if blockers > 1)
  • blocker_state: state of the blocker (state of the blockerpid)

pgsentinel also reports the queries statistics history through the pg_stat_statements_history view:

Column Type Collation Nullable Default
ash_time timestamp with time zone
userid oid
dbid oid
queryid bigint
calls bigint
total_exec_time double precision
rows bigint
shared_blks_hit bigint
shared_blks_read bigint
shared_blks_dirtied bigint
shared_blks_written bigint
local_blks_hit bigint
local_blks_read bigint
local_blks_dirtied bigint
local_blks_written bigint
temp_blks_read bigint
temp_blks_written bigint
blk_read_time double precision
blk_write_time double precision
plans bigint
total_plan_time double precision
wal_records bigint
wal_fpi bigint
wal_bytes numeric

The fields description are the same as for pg_stat_statements (except for the ash_time one, which is the time of the active session history sampling).

The worker is controlled by the following GUCs:

Parameter name Data type Description Default value Min value
pgsentinel_ash.sampling_period int4 Period for history sampling in seconds 1 1
pgsentinel_ash.max_entries int4 Size of pg_active_session_history in-memory ring buffer 1000 1000
pgsentinel.db_name char database the worker should connect to postgres
pgsentinel_ash.track_idle_trans boolean track session in idle in transaction state false
pgsentinel_pgssh.max_entries int4 Size of pg_stat_statements_history in-memory ring buffer 1000 1000
pgsentinel_pgssh.enable boolean enable pg_stat_statements_history false


  • Some fields may be NULL depending on the version (for example, leader_pid is NULL for version <= 13.0...)

See how to query the view in this short video

Alt text

The videos are available on youtube


If you're lacking of some functionality in pgsentinel
then you're welcome to make pull requests.