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The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 3 - Server Administration Guide
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 274 pages
ISBN 9781906966072
RRP £9.95 ($14.95)

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4.4.4 Background Writer

There is a separate server process called the background writer, whose function is to issue writes of “dirty” (new or modified) shared buffers. It writes shared buffers so server processes handling user queries seldom or never need to wait for a write to occur. However, the background writer does cause a net overall increase in I/O load, because while a repeatedly-dirtied page might otherwise be written only once per checkpoint interval, the background writer might write it several times as it is dirtied in the same interval. The parameters discussed in this subsection can be used to tune the behavior for local needs.

bgwriter_delay (integer)
Specifies the delay between activity rounds for the background writer. In each round the writer issues writes for some number of dirty buffers (controllable by the following parameters). It then sleeps for bgwriter_delay milliseconds, and repeats. The default value is 200 milliseconds (200ms). Note that on many systems, the effective resolution of sleep delays is 10 milliseconds; setting bgwriter_delay to a value that is not a multiple of 10 might have the same results as setting it to the next higher multiple of 10. This parameter can only be set in the ‘postgresql.conf’ file or on the server command line.
bgwriter_lru_maxpages (integer)
In each round, no more than this many buffers will be written by the background writer. Setting this to zero disables background writing (except for checkpoint activity). The default value is 100 buffers. This parameter can only be set in the ‘postgresql.conf’ file or on the server command line.
bgwriter_lru_multiplier (floating point)
The number of dirty buffers written in each round is based on the number of new buffers that have been needed by server processes during recent rounds. The average recent need is multiplied by bgwriter_lru_multiplier to arrive at an estimate of the number of buffers that will be needed during the next round. Dirty buffers are written until there are that many clean, reusable buffers available. (However, no more than bgwriter_lru_maxpages buffers will be written per round.) Thus, a setting of 1.0 represents a “just in time” policy of writing exactly the number of buffers predicted to be needed. Larger values provide some cushion against spikes in demand, while smaller values intentionally leave writes to be done by server processes. The default is 2.0. This parameter can only be set in the ‘postgresql.conf’ file or on the server command line.

Smaller values of bgwriter_lru_maxpages and bgwriter_lru_multiplier reduce the extra I/O load caused by the background writer, but make it more likely that server processes will have to issue writes for themselves, delaying interactive queries.

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