One of my personal areas of work lately is in finding ways to improve the user experience with WAL archiving and pg_receivexlog. A couple of experiments have been done, and one of them has finished as a patch for upstream Postgres, in the shape of this commit:
commit: cada1af31d769a6b607018d68894f2c879ff275f author: Magnus Hagander <firstname.lastname@example.org> date: Tue, 17 Jan 2017 12:10:26 +0100 Add compression support to pg_receivexlog Author: Michael Paquier, review and small changes by me
Combined with replication slots, pg_receivexlog is a nice way to ensure that there is no hole in WAL segments. Compared to the archive_command itself, any failure handling in case of successive failures in archiving a completed segment is easier as there is no need to tweak the parameter of the archive_command or the script used in the command itself to avoid a bloat in pg_xlog, resulting in a crash of Postgres if the partition holding this folder gets full. Any failure handling can happen from a remote position, and there is no need to have a superuser to do this work, only a user with replication rights is enough to drop a slot and unlock the situation. Note though that enforcing the recycling of past segments requires a checkpoint to happen.
The commit above has added a way to compression on-the-fly with zlib WAL records and to store them in .gz files, one for each segment. In those days where disk is cheaper than CPU, compression is not a big deal for many users and they are fine to afford more space to store the same amount of history. However, in cases where Postgres is embedded in a system and the amount of space allowed is controlled it may be a big deal to be able to retain more history using the same amount of space, particularly knowing that a WAL segment compressed with zlib is 3 to 4 times smaller.
The compression option can be activated with a new option switch called --compress, with which can be specified a number from 0 to 9, 0 meaning no compression and 9 the highest level of compression. Note that level 9 is a huge CPU eater and that in an INSERT-only load the compression of each segment may not be able to follow with the WAL generation, resulting in pg_receivexlog complaining that a segment it is requesting has already been removed by a backend checkpoint or, if a replication slot is used, resulting in a crash of the Postgres instance because of pg_xlog getting full.
$ pg_receivexlog –compress=1 -D /path/to/logs/ –verbose pg_receivexlog: starting log streaming at 0/1000000 (timeline 1) pg_receivexlog: finished segment at 0/2000000 (timeline 1) pg_receivexlog: finished segment at 0/3000000 (timeline 1) […]
And this generates many gzip-ready files.
$ ls /path/to/logs/ 000000010000000000000001.gz 000000010000000000000002.gz […] 000000010000000000000027.gz.partial
--synchronous works as well with the compression support and makes sure that the compressed files, even if not completed segments, are still available. Backup and history files are compressed as well.
Another thing to note is that at startup phase, pg_receivexlog scans the directory it writes the WAL data into for existing segments that are on it and decides based on that from which position it needs to continue working on. The committed patch is smart enough to make a difference between compressed, non-compressed, and even partial segments so it is perfectly fine to mix compression or not and keep the same range of segments saved.