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Sequential UUID generators

This PostgreSQL extension implements two UUID generators with sequential patterns, which helps to reduce random I/O patterns associated with regular entirely-random UUID.

Regular random UUIDs are distributed uniformly over the whole range of possible values. This results in poor locality when inserting data into indexes - all index leaf pages are equally likely to be hit, forcing the whole index into memory. With small indexes that's fine, but once the index size exceeds shared buffers (or RAM), the cache hit ratio quickly deteriorates.

Compare this to sequences and timestamps, which have a more sequential pattern and the new data almost always end up in the right-most part of the index (new sequence value is larger than all preceding values, same for timestamp). This results in a nicer and cache-friendlier behavior, but the values are predictable and may easily collide cross machines.

The main goal of the two generators implemented by this extension, is generating UUIDS in a more sequential pattern, but without reducing the randomness too much (which could increase the probability of collision and predictability of the generated UUIDs). This idea is not new, and is described as

This idea is pretty much what the UUID wikipedia article [1] calls COMB (combined-time GUID) and is more more thoroughly explained in [2].

Generators

The extension provides two functions generating sequential UUIDs using either a sequence or timestamp.

  • uuid_sequence_nextval(sequence regclass, block_size int default 65536, block_count int default 65536)

  • uuid_time_nextval(interval_length int default 60, interval_count int default 65536) RETURNS uuid

The default values for parameters are selected to work well for a range of workloads. See the next section explaining the design for additional information about the meaning of those parameters.

Design

The easiest way to make UUIDs more sequential is to use some sequential value as a prefix. For example, we might take a sequence or a timestamp and add random data until we have 16B in total. The resulting values would be almost perfectly sequential, but there are two issues with it:

  • reduction of randomness - E.g. with a sequence producing bigint values this would reduce the randomness from 16B to 8B. Timestamps do reduce the randomness in a similar way, depending on the accuracy. This increases both the collision probability and predictability (e.g. it allows determining which UUIDs were generated close to each other, and perhaps the exact timestamp).

  • bloat - If the values only grow, this may result in bloat in indexes after deleting historical data. This is a well-known issue e.g. with indexes on timestamps in log tables.

To address both of these issues, the implemented generators are designed to wrap-around regularly, either after generating certain number of UUIDs or some amount of time. In both cases, the UUIDs are generates in blocks and have the form of

(block ID; random data)

The size of the block ID depends on the number of blocks and is fixed (depends on generator parameters). For example with the default 64k blocks we need 2 bytes to store it. The block ID increments regularly, and eventually wraps around.

For sequence-based generators the block size is determined by number of UUIDs generated. For example we may use blocks of 256 values, in which case the two-byte block ID may be computed like this:

(nextval('s') / 256) % 65536

So the generator wraps-around every ~16M UUIDs (because 256 * 65536).

For timestamp-based generators, the block size is defined as interval length, with the default value 60 seconds. As the default number of blocks is 64k (same as for sequence-based generators), the bloc may be computed like this

(timestamp / 60) % 65536

Which means the generator wraps around every ~45 days.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universally_unique_identifier

[2] http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=25862