Many of you might have wondered why some system views and monitoring statistics in PostgreSQL can contain incomplete query strings. The answer is that in PostgreSQL, it’s a configuration parameter that determines when a query will be cut off: track_activity_query_size. This blog post explains what this parameter does and how it can be used to its greatest advantage.
Why PostgreSQL cuts off queries
Some system views and extensions will show you which queries are currently running (pg_stat_activity) or which ones have eaten up the most time in the past (pg_stat_statements). Those system views are super important: I can strongly encourage you to make good use of this vital information. However, many of you might have noticed that queries are sometimes cut off prematurely. There are some important reasons for premature query cut off: in PostgreSQL, the content of both views comes from a shared memory segment which is not dynamic for reasons of efficiency. Therefore PostgreSQL allocates a fixed chunk of memory which is then used. If the query you want to look at does not fit into this piece of memory, it will be cut off. There is not much you can do about it apart from simply increasing track_activity_query_size so that everything you need is there.
The question is now: What is the best value to use when adjusting track_activity_query_size? There is no clear answer to this question. As always: it depends on your needs. If you happen to use Hibernate or some other ORM, I find a value around 32k (32.786 bytes) quite useful. Some other ORMs (Object Relational Mappers) will need similar values so that PostgreSQL can expose the entire query in a useful way.
Allocating memory using track_activity_query_size
You have to keep in mind that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you increase track_activity_query_size in postgresql.conf the database will allocate slightly more than “max_connections x track_activity_query_size” bytes at database startup time to store your queries. While increasing the memory allocation of “track_activity_query_size” is surely a good investment on most systems you still have to be aware of this issue to avoid excessive memory usage. On a big system the downside of not having the data is usually larger, however. I therefore recommend always changing this parameter in ordner to see what is going on on your servers.
track_activity_query_size: Avoiding painful restarts
As stated before PostgreSQL uses shared memory (or mapped memory depending on your system) to store these kind of statistics. For that reason, PostgreSQL cannot dynamically change the size of the memory segment. Changing track_activity_query_size therefore also requires you to restart PostgreSQL which can be pretty nasty on a busy system. That’s why it makes sense to have the parameter already correctly set when the server is deployed.
If you are unsure how to configure postgresql.conf in general check out our config generator which is available online on our website. If you want to find out more about PostgreSQL security we also encourage you to take a look at our blog post about pg_permissions.