61.4. Implementation

This section covers implementation details and other tricks that are useful for implementers of SP-GiST operator classes to know.

61.4.1. SP-GiST Limits

Individual leaf tuples and inner tuples must fit on a single index page (8kB by default). Therefore, when indexing values of variable-length data types, long values can only be supported by methods such as radix trees, in which each level of the tree includes a prefix that is short enough to fit on a page, and the final leaf level includes a suffix also short enough to fit on a page. The operator class should set longValuesOK to true only if it is prepared to arrange for this to happen. Otherwise, the SP-GiST core will reject any request to index a value that is too large to fit on an index page.

Likewise, it is the operator class's responsibility that inner tuples do not grow too large to fit on an index page; this limits the number of child nodes that can be used in one inner tuple, as well as the maximum size of a prefix value.

Another limitation is that when an inner tuple's node points to a set of leaf tuples, those tuples must all be in the same index page. (This is a design decision to reduce seeking and save space in the links that chain such tuples together.) If the set of leaf tuples grows too large for a page, a split is performed and an intermediate inner tuple is inserted. For this to fix the problem, the new inner tuple must divide the set of leaf values into more than one node group. If the operator class's picksplit function fails to do that, the SP-GiST core resorts to extraordinary measures described in Section 61.4.3.

When longValuesOK is true, it is expected that successive levels of the SP-GiST tree will absorb more and more information into the prefixes and node labels of the inner tuples, making the required leaf datum smaller and smaller, so that eventually it will fit on a page. To prevent bugs in operator classes from causing infinite insertion loops, the SP-GiST core will raise an error if the leaf datum does not become any smaller within ten cycles of choose method calls.

61.4.2. SP-GiST Without Node Labels

Some tree algorithms use a fixed set of nodes for each inner tuple; for example, in a quad-tree there are always exactly four nodes corresponding to the four quadrants around the inner tuple's centroid point. In such a case the code typically works with the nodes by number, and there is no need for explicit node labels. To suppress node labels (and thereby save some space), the picksplit function can return NULL for the nodeLabels array, and likewise the choose function can return NULL for the prefixNodeLabels array during a spgSplitTuple action. This will in turn result in nodeLabels being NULL during subsequent calls to choose and inner_consistent. In principle, node labels could be used for some inner tuples and omitted for others in the same index.

When working with an inner tuple having unlabeled nodes, it is an error for choose to return spgAddNode, since the set of nodes is supposed to be fixed in such cases.

61.4.3. All-the-Same Inner Tuples

The SP-GiST core can override the results of the operator class's picksplit function when picksplit fails to divide the supplied leaf values into at least two node categories. When this happens, the new inner tuple is created with multiple nodes that each have the same label (if any) that picksplit gave to the one node it did use, and the leaf values are divided at random among these equivalent nodes. The allTheSame flag is set on the inner tuple to warn the choose and inner_consistent functions that the tuple does not have the node set that they might otherwise expect.

When dealing with an allTheSame tuple, a choose result of spgMatchNode is interpreted to mean that the new value can be assigned to any of the equivalent nodes; the core code will ignore the supplied nodeN value and descend into one of the nodes at random (so as to keep the tree balanced). It is an error for choose to return spgAddNode, since that would make the nodes not all equivalent; the spgSplitTuple action must be used if the value to be inserted doesn't match the existing nodes.

When dealing with an allTheSame tuple, the inner_consistent function should return either all or none of the nodes as targets for continuing the index search, since they are all equivalent. This may or may not require any special-case code, depending on how much the inner_consistent function normally assumes about the meaning of the nodes.