After reading Simon’s blog post, I can’t help but try to give some details about what it is exactly that I’m working on. As he said, there are several aspects to extensions in PostgreSQL, it all begins here: Chapter 35. Extending SQL.

It’s possible, and mostly simple enough, to add your own code or behavior to PostgreSQL, so that it will use your code and your semantics while solving user queries. That’s highly useful and it’s easy to understand how so when you look at some projects like PostGIS, ip4r (index searches of ip in a range, not limited to CIDR notation), or our own Key Value Store, hstore.

So, what’s in an Extension?

An extension in its simple form is a SQL script that you load on your database, but manage separately. Meaning you don’t want the script to be part of your backups. Often, that kind of script will create new datatypes and operators, support functions, user functions and index support, and then it would include some C code that ships in a shared library object.

As far as PostgreSQL is concerned, at least in the current version of my patch, the extension is first a meta information file that allows to register it. We currently call that the control file. Then, it’s an SQL script that is executed by the server when you create the extension.

If it so happens that the SQL script depends on some shared library objects file, this has to be present at the right place ( MODULE_PATHNAME) for the extension to be successfully created, but that’s always been the case.

The problem with current releases of PostgreSQL, that the extension patch is solving, is the pg_dump and pg_restore support. We said it, you don’t want the SQL script to be part of your dump, because it’s not maintained in your database, but in some code repository out there. What you want is to be able to install the extension again at the file system level then pg_restore your database — that depends on it being there.

And that’s exactly what the extension patch provides. By now having a SQL object called an extension, and maintained in the new pg_extension catalog, we have an Oid to refer to. Which we do by recording a dependency between any object created by the script and the extension Oid, so that pg_dump can be instructed to skip those.


So, let’s have a look at what you can do if you play with a patched development server version, or if you play directly from the git repository at;a=shortlog;h=refs/heads/extension

dim ~ createdb exts
dim ~ psql exts
psql (9.1devel)
Type "help" for help.

dim=# \dx+
                                                        List of extensions
        Name        | | |                               Description                               
 adminpack          | | | Administrative functions for PostgreSQL
 auto_username      | | | functions for tracking who changed a table
 autoinc            | | | functions for autoincrementing fields
 btree_gin          | | | GIN support for common types BTree operators
 btree_gist         | | | GiST support for common types BTree operators
 chkpass            | | | Store crypt()ed passwords
 citext             | | | case-insensitive character string type
 cube               | | | data type for representing multidimensional cubes
 dblink             | | | connect to other PostgreSQL databases from within a database
 dict_int           | | | example of an add-on dictionary template for full-text search
 dict_xsyn          | | | example of an add-on dictionary template for full-text search
 earthdistance      | | | calculating great circle distances on the surface of the Earth
 fuzzystrmatch      | | | determine similarities and distance between strings
 hstore             | | | storing sets of key/value pairs
 int_aggregate      | | | integer aggregator and an enumerator (obsolete)
 intarray           | | | one-dimensional arrays of integers: functions, operators, index support
 isn                | | | data types for the international product numbering standards
 lo                 | | | managing Large Objects
 ltree              | | | data type for hierarchical tree-like structure
 moddatetime        | | | functions for tracking last modification time
 pageinspect        | | | inspect the contents of database pages at a low level
 pg_buffercache     | | | examine the shared buffer cache in real time
 pg_freespacemap    | | | examine the free space map (FSM)
 pg_stat_statements | | | tracking execution statistics of all SQL statements executed
 pg_trgm            | | | determine the similarity of text, with indexing support
 pgcrypto           | | | cryptographic functions
 pgrowlocks         | | | show row locking information for a specified table
 pgstattuple        | | | obtain tuple-level statistics
 prefix             | | | Prefix Match Indexing
 refint             | | | functions for implementing referential integrity
 seg                | | | data type for representing line segments, or floating point intervals
 tablefunc          | | | various functions that return tables, including crosstab(text sql)
 test_parser        | | | example of a custom parser for full-text search
 timetravel         | | | functions for implementing time travel
 tsearch2           | | | backwards-compatible text search functionality (pre-8.3)
 unaccent           | | | text search dictionary that removes accents
(36 rows)

Ok I’ve edited the output in a visible way, to leave the Version and Custom Variable Classes column out. It’s taking lots of screen place and it’s not that useful here. Maybe the classes one will even get dropped out of the patch before reaching 9.1, we’ll see.

Let’s pick an extension there and install it in our new database:

exts=# create extension pg_trgm;
NOTICE:  Installing extension 'pg_trgm' from '/Users/dim/pgsql/exts/share/contrib/pg_trgm.sql', with user data
exts=# \dx
                                           List of extensions
  Name   |  |  |                       Description                       
 pg_trgm |  |  | determine the similarity of text, with indexing support
(1 row)

See, that was easy enough. Same thing, the extra columns have been removed. So, what’s in this extension, will you ask me, what are those objects that you would normally (that is, before the patch) find in your pg_dump backup script?

exts=# select * from pg_extension_objects('pg_trgm');
    class     | classid | objid |                                                                objdesc                                                                 
 pg_extension |    3996 | 18498 | extension pg_trgm
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18499 | function set_limit(real)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18500 | function show_limit()
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18501 | function show_trgm(text)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18502 | function similarity(text,text)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18503 | function similarity_op(text,text)
 pg_operator  |    2617 | 18504 | operator %(text,text)
 pg_type      |    1247 | 18505 | type gtrgm
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18506 | function gtrgm_in(cstring)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18507 | function gtrgm_out(gtrgm)
 pg_type      |    1247 | 18508 | type gtrgm[]
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18509 | function gtrgm_consistent(internal,text,integer,oid,internal)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18510 | function gtrgm_compress(internal)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18511 | function gtrgm_decompress(internal)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18512 | function gtrgm_penalty(internal,internal,internal)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18513 | function gtrgm_picksplit(internal,internal)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18514 | function gtrgm_union(bytea,internal)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18515 | function gtrgm_same(gtrgm,gtrgm,internal)
 pg_opfamily  |    2753 | 18516 | operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_opclass   |    2616 | 18517 | operator class gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_amop      |    2602 | 18518 | operator 1 %(text,text) of operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18519 | function 1 gtrgm_consistent(internal,text,integer,oid,internal) of operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18520 | function 2 gtrgm_union(bytea,internal) of operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18521 | function 3 gtrgm_compress(internal) of operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18522 | function 4 gtrgm_decompress(internal) of operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18523 | function 5 gtrgm_penalty(internal,internal,internal) of operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18524 | function 6 gtrgm_picksplit(internal,internal) of operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18525 | function 7 gtrgm_same(gtrgm,gtrgm,internal) of operator family gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18526 | function gin_extract_trgm(text,internal)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18527 | function gin_extract_trgm(text,internal,smallint,internal,internal)
 pg_proc      |    1255 | 18528 | function gin_trgm_consistent(internal,smallint,text,integer,internal,internal)
 pg_opfamily  |    2753 | 18529 | operator family gin_trgm_ops for access method gin
 pg_opclass   |    2616 | 18530 | operator class gin_trgm_ops for access method gin
 pg_amop      |    2602 | 18531 | operator 1 %(text,text) of operator family gin_trgm_ops for access method gin
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18532 | function 1 btint4cmp(integer,integer) of operator family gin_trgm_ops for access method gin
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18533 | function 2 gin_extract_trgm(text,internal) of operator family gin_trgm_ops for access method gin
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18534 | function 3 gin_extract_trgm(text,internal,smallint,internal,internal) of operator family gin_trgm_ops for access method gin
 pg_amproc    |    2603 | 18535 | function 4 gin_trgm_consistent(internal,smallint,text,integer,internal,internal) of operator family gin_trgm_ops for access method gin
(38 rows)

This function main intended users are the extension authors themselves, so that it’s easy for them to figure out which system identifier (the objid column) has been attributed to some SQL objects from their install script. With this knowledge, you can prepare some upgrade scripts. But that’s for another patch altogether, so we’ll get back to the matter in another blog entry.

So we chose trgm as an example, let’s follow the documentation and create a test table and a custom index in there, just so that the extension is put to good use. Then let’s try to DROP our extension, because we’re testing the infrastructure, right?

exts=# create table test(id bigint, name text);
exts=# CREATE INDEX idx_test_name ON test USING gist (name gist_trgm_ops);
exts=# drop extension pg_trgm;
ERROR:  cannot drop extension pg_trgm because other objects depend on it
DETAIL:  index idx_test_name depends on operator class gist_trgm_ops for access method gist
HINT:  Use DROP ... CASCADE to drop the dependent objects too.

Of course PostgreSQL is smart enough here — the extension patch had nothing special to do to achieve that, apart from recording the dependencies. Next, as we didn’t drop extension pg_trgm cascade;, it’s still in the database. So let’s see what a pg_dump will look like. As it’s quite a lot of text to paste, let’s see the pg_restore catalog instead. And that’s a feature that needs to be known some more, too.

dim ~ pg_dump -Fc exts | pg_restore -l | grep -v '^;'
1812; 1262 18497 DATABASE - exts dim
1; 3996 18498 EXTENSION - pg_trgm 
1813; 0 0 COMMENT - EXTENSION pg_trgm 
6; 2615 2200 SCHEMA - public dim
1814; 0 0 COMMENT - SCHEMA public dim
1815; 0 0 ACL - public dim
320; 2612 11602 PROCEDURAL LANGUAGE - plpgsql dim
1521; 1259 18543 TABLE public test dim
1809; 0 18543 TABLE DATA public test dim
1808; 1259 18549 INDEX public idx_test_name dim

As you see, the only SQL object that got into the backup are an EXTENSION and its COMMENT. Nothing like the types or the functions that the pg_trgm script creates.

What does it means to extension authors?

In order to be an extension, you have to prepare a control file where to give the necessary information to register your script. This file must be named extension.control if the script is named extension.sql, at least at the moment. This file can benefit from some variable expansion too, like does the current, in that if you provide an file the term VERSION will be expanded to whatever $(VERSION) is set to in your Makefile.

If you never wrote a C coded extension for PostgreSQL, this might look complex and irrelevant. Baseline is that you need a Makefile so that you can benefit easily from the PostgreSQL infrastructure work and have the make install operation place your files at the right place, including the new control file.

That’s it for today, folks

A next blog entry will detail what happens with extensions providing user data, and the CREATE EXTENSION name WITH NO DATA; variant. Stay tuned!