41.2. Views and the Rule System
Views in PostgreSQL are implemented using the rule system. In fact, there is essentially no difference between:
CREATE VIEW myview AS SELECT * FROM mytab;
compared against the two commands:
CREATE TABLE myview (
same column list as mytab); CREATE RULE "_RETURN" AS ON SELECT TO myview DO INSTEAD SELECT * FROM mytab;
because this is exactly what the
CREATE VIEW command does internally. This has some side effects. One of them is that the information about a view in the PostgreSQL system catalogs is exactly the same as it is for a table. So for the parser, there is absolutely no difference between a table and a view. They are the same thing: relations.
SELECT Rules Work
ON SELECT are applied to all queries as the last step, even if the command given is an
DELETE. And they have different semantics from rules on the other command types in that they modify the query tree in place instead of creating a new one. So
SELECT rules are described first.
Currently, there can be only one action in an
ON SELECT rule, and it must be an unconditional
SELECT action that is
INSTEAD. This restriction was required to make rules safe enough to open them for ordinary users, and it restricts
ON SELECT rules to act like views.
The examples for this chapter are two join views that do some calculations and some more views using them in turn. One of the two first views is customized later by adding rules for
DELETE operations so that the final result will be a view that behaves like a real table with some magic functionality. This is not such a simple example to start from and this makes things harder to get into. But it's better to have one example that covers all the points discussed step by step rather than having many different ones that might mix up in mind.
The real tables we need in the first two rule system descriptions are these:
CREATE TABLE shoe_data ( shoename text, -- primary key sh_avail integer, -- available number of pairs slcolor text, -- preferred shoelace color slminlen real, -- minimum shoelace length slmaxlen real, -- maximum shoelace length slunit text -- length unit ); CREATE TABLE shoelace_data ( sl_name text, -- primary key sl_avail integer, -- available number of pairs sl_color text, -- shoelace color sl_len real, -- shoelace length sl_unit text -- length unit ); CREATE TABLE unit ( un_name text, -- primary key un_fact real -- factor to transform to cm );
As you can see, they represent shoe-store data.
The views are created as:
CREATE VIEW shoe AS SELECT sh.shoename, sh.sh_avail, sh.slcolor, sh.slminlen, sh.slminlen * un.un_fact AS slminlen_cm, sh.slmaxlen, sh.slmaxlen * un.un_fact AS slmaxlen_cm, sh.slunit FROM shoe_data sh, unit un WHERE sh.slunit = un.un_name; CREATE VIEW shoelace AS SELECT s.sl_name, s.sl_avail, s.sl_color, s.sl_len, s.sl_unit, s.sl_len * u.un_fact AS sl_len_cm FROM shoelace_data s, unit u WHERE s.sl_unit = u.un_name; CREATE VIEW shoe_ready AS SELECT rsh.shoename, rsh.sh_avail, rsl.sl_name, rsl.sl_avail, least(rsh.sh_avail, rsl.sl_avail) AS total_avail FROM shoe rsh, shoelace rsl WHERE rsl.sl_color = rsh.slcolor AND rsl.sl_len_cm >= rsh.slminlen_cm AND rsl.sl_len_cm <= rsh.slmaxlen_cm;
CREATE VIEW command for the
shoelace view (which is the simplest one we have) will create a relation
shoelace and an entry in
pg_rewrite that tells that there is a rewrite rule that must be applied whenever the relation
shoelace is referenced in a query's range table. The rule has no rule qualification (discussed later, with the non-
SELECT rules, since
SELECT rules currently cannot have them) and it is
INSTEAD. Note that rule qualifications are not the same as query qualifications. The action of our rule has a query qualification. The action of the rule is one query tree that is a copy of the
SELECT statement in the view creation command.
The two extra range table entries for
OLD that you can see in the
pg_rewrite entry aren't of interest for
Now we populate
shoelace_data and run a simple query on a view:
INSERT INTO unit VALUES ('cm', 1.0); INSERT INTO unit VALUES ('m', 100.0); INSERT INTO unit VALUES ('inch', 2.54); INSERT INTO shoe_data VALUES ('sh1', 2, 'black', 70.0, 90.0, 'cm'); INSERT INTO shoe_data VALUES ('sh2', 0, 'black', 30.0, 40.0, 'inch'); INSERT INTO shoe_data VALUES ('sh3', 4, 'brown', 50.0, 65.0, 'cm'); INSERT INTO shoe_data VALUES ('sh4', 3, 'brown', 40.0, 50.0, 'inch'); INSERT INTO shoelace_data VALUES ('sl1', 5, 'black', 80.0, 'cm'); INSERT INTO shoelace_data VALUES ('sl2', 6, 'black', 100.0, 'cm'); INSERT INTO shoelace_data VALUES ('sl3', 0, 'black', 35.0 , 'inch'); INSERT INTO shoelace_data VALUES ('sl4', 8, 'black', 40.0 , 'inch'); INSERT INTO shoelace_data VALUES ('sl5', 4, 'brown', 1.0 , 'm'); INSERT INTO shoelace_data VALUES ('sl6', 0, 'brown', 0.9 , 'm'); INSERT INTO shoelace_data VALUES ('sl7', 7, 'brown', 60 , 'cm'); INSERT INTO shoelace_data VALUES ('sl8', 1, 'brown', 40 , 'inch'); SELECT * FROM shoelace; sl_name | sl_avail | sl_color | sl_len | sl_unit | sl_len_cm -----------+----------+----------+--------+---------+----------- sl1 | 5 | black | 80 | cm | 80 sl2 | 6 | black | 100 | cm | 100 sl7 | 7 | brown | 60 | cm | 60 sl3 | 0 | black | 35 | inch | 88.9 sl4 | 8 | black | 40 | inch | 101.6 sl8 | 1 | brown | 40 | inch | 101.6 sl5 | 4 | brown | 1 | m | 100 sl6 | 0 | brown | 0.9 | m | 90 (8 rows)
This is the simplest
SELECT you can do on our views, so we take this opportunity to explain the basics of view rules. The
SELECT * FROM shoelace was interpreted by the parser and produced the query tree:
SELECT shoelace.sl_name, shoelace.sl_avail, shoelace.sl_color, shoelace.sl_len, shoelace.sl_unit, shoelace.sl_len_cm FROM shoelace shoelace;
and this is given to the rule system. The rule system walks through the range table and checks if there are rules for any relation. When processing the range table entry for
shoelace (the only one up to now) it finds the
_RETURN rule with the query tree:
SELECT s.sl_name, s.sl_avail, s.sl_color, s.sl_len, s.sl_unit, s.sl_len * u.un_fact AS sl_len_cm FROM shoelace old, shoelace new, shoelace_data s, unit u WHERE s.sl_unit = u.un_name;
To expand the view, the rewriter simply creates a subquery range-table entry containing the rule's action query tree, and substitutes this range table entry for the original one that referenced the view. The resulting rewritten query tree is almost the same as if you had typed:
SELECT shoelace.sl_name, shoelace.sl_avail, shoelace.sl_color, shoelace.sl_len, shoelace.sl_unit, shoelace.sl_len_cm FROM (SELECT s.sl_name, s.sl_avail, s.sl_color, s.sl_len, s.sl_unit, s.sl_len * u.un_fact AS sl_len_cm FROM shoelace_data s, unit u WHERE s.sl_unit = u.un_name) shoelace;
There is one difference however: the subquery's range table has two extra entries
shoelace old and
shoelace new. These entries don't participate directly in the query, since they aren't referenced by the subquery's join tree or target list. The rewriter uses them to store the access privilege check information that was originally present in the range-table entry that referenced the view. In this way, the executor will still check that the user has proper privileges to access the view, even though there's no direct use of the view in the rewritten query.
That was the first rule applied. The rule system will continue checking the remaining range-table entries in the top query (in this example there are no more), and it will recursively check the range-table entries in the added subquery to see if any of them reference views. (But it won't expand
new — otherwise we'd have infinite recursion!) In this example, there are no rewrite rules for
unit, so rewriting is complete and the above is the final result given to the planner.
Now we want to write a query that finds out for which shoes currently in the store we have the matching shoelaces (color and length) and where the total number of exactly matching pairs is greater than or equal to two.
SELECT * FROM shoe_ready WHERE total_avail >= 2; shoename | sh_avail | sl_name | sl_avail | total_avail ----------+----------+---------+----------+------------- sh1 | 2 | sl1 | 5 | 2 sh3 | 4 | sl7 | 7 | 4 (2 rows)
The output of the parser this time is the query tree:
SELECT shoe_ready.shoename, shoe_ready.sh_avail, shoe_ready.sl_name, shoe_ready.sl_avail, shoe_ready.total_avail FROM shoe_ready shoe_ready WHERE shoe_ready.total_avail >= 2;
The first rule applied will be the one for the
shoe_ready view and it results in the query tree:
SELECT shoe_ready.shoename, shoe_ready.sh_avail, shoe_ready.sl_name, shoe_ready.sl_avail, shoe_ready.total_avail FROM (SELECT rsh.shoename, rsh.sh_avail, rsl.sl_name, rsl.sl_avail, least(rsh.sh_avail, rsl.sl_avail) AS total_avail FROM shoe rsh, shoelace rsl WHERE rsl.sl_color = rsh.slcolor AND rsl.sl_len_cm >= rsh.slminlen_cm AND rsl.sl_len_cm <= rsh.slmaxlen_cm) shoe_ready WHERE shoe_ready.total_avail >= 2;
Similarly, the rules for
shoelace are substituted into the range table of the subquery, leading to a three-level final query tree:
SELECT shoe_ready.shoename, shoe_ready.sh_avail, shoe_ready.sl_name, shoe_ready.sl_avail, shoe_ready.total_avail FROM (SELECT rsh.shoename, rsh.sh_avail, rsl.sl_name, rsl.sl_avail, least(rsh.sh_avail, rsl.sl_avail) AS total_avail FROM (SELECT sh.shoename, sh.sh_avail, sh.slcolor, sh.slminlen, sh.slminlen * un.un_fact AS slminlen_cm, sh.slmaxlen, sh.slmaxlen * un.un_fact AS slmaxlen_cm, sh.slunit FROM shoe_data sh, unit un WHERE sh.slunit = un.un_name) rsh, (SELECT s.sl_name, s.sl_avail, s.sl_color, s.sl_len, s.sl_unit, s.sl_len * u.un_fact AS sl_len_cm FROM shoelace_data s, unit u WHERE s.sl_unit = u.un_name) rsl WHERE rsl.sl_color = rsh.slcolor AND rsl.sl_len_cm >= rsh.slminlen_cm AND rsl.sl_len_cm <= rsh.slmaxlen_cm) shoe_ready WHERE shoe_ready.total_avail > 2;
This might look inefficient, but the planner will collapse this into a single-level query tree by “pulling up” the subqueries, and then it will plan the joins just as if we'd written them out manually. So collapsing the query tree is an optimization that the rewrite system doesn't have to concern itself with.
41.2.2. View Rules in Non-
Two details of the query tree aren't touched in the description of view rules above. These are the command type and the result relation. In fact, the command type is not needed by view rules, but the result relation may affect the way in which the query rewriter works, because special care needs to be taken if the result relation is a view.
There are only a few differences between a query tree for a
SELECT and one for any other command. Obviously, they have a different command type and for a command other than a
SELECT, the result relation points to the range-table entry where the result should go. Everything else is absolutely the same. So having two tables
t2 with columns
b, the query trees for the two statements:
SELECT t2.b FROM t1, t2 WHERE t1.a = t2.a; UPDATE t1 SET b = t2.b FROM t2 WHERE t1.a = t2.a;
are nearly identical. In particular:
The range tables contain entries for the tables
The target lists contain one variable that points to column
bof the range table entry for table
The qualification expressions compare the columns
aof both range-table entries for equality.
The join trees show a simple join between
The consequence is, that both query trees result in similar execution plans: They are both joins over the two tables. For the
UPDATE the missing columns from
t1 are added to the target list by the planner and the final query tree will read as:
UPDATE t1 SET a = t1.a, b = t2.b FROM t2 WHERE t1.a = t2.a;
and thus the executor run over the join will produce exactly the same result set as:
SELECT t1.a, t2.b FROM t1, t2 WHERE t1.a = t2.a;
But there is a little problem in
UPDATE: the part of the executor plan that does the join does not care what the results from the join are meant for. It just produces a result set of rows. The fact that one is a
SELECT command and the other is an
UPDATE is handled higher up in the executor, where it knows that this is an
UPDATE, and it knows that this result should go into table
t1. But which of the rows that are there has to be replaced by the new row?
To resolve this problem, another entry is added to the target list in
UPDATE (and also in
DELETE) statements: the current tuple ID (CTID). This is a system column containing the file block number and position in the block for the row. Knowing the table, the CTID can be used to retrieve the original row of
t1 to be updated. After adding the CTID to the target list, the query actually looks like:
SELECT t1.a, t2.b, t1.ctid FROM t1, t2 WHERE t1.a = t2.a;
Now another detail of PostgreSQL enters the stage. Old table rows aren't overwritten, and this is why
ROLLBACK is fast. In an
UPDATE, the new result row is inserted into the table (after stripping the CTID) and in the row header of the old row, which the CTID pointed to, the
xmax entries are set to the current command counter and current transaction ID. Thus the old row is hidden, and after the transaction commits the vacuum cleaner can eventually remove the dead row.
Knowing all that, we can simply apply view rules in absolutely the same way to any command. There is no difference.
41.2.3. The Power of Views in PostgreSQL
The above demonstrates how the rule system incorporates view definitions into the original query tree. In the second example, a simple
SELECT from one view created a final query tree that is a join of 4 tables (
unit was used twice with different names).
The benefit of implementing views with the rule system is that the planner has all the information about which tables have to be scanned plus the relationships between these tables plus the restrictive qualifications from the views plus the qualifications from the original query in one single query tree. And this is still the situation when the original query is already a join over views. The planner has to decide which is the best path to execute the query, and the more information the planner has, the better this decision can be. And the rule system as implemented in PostgreSQL ensures that this is all information available about the query up to that point.
41.2.4. Updating a View
What happens if a view is named as the target relation for an
DELETE? Doing the substitutions described above would give a query tree in which the result relation points at a subquery range-table entry, which will not work. There are several ways in which PostgreSQL can support the appearance of updating a view, however.
If the subquery selects from a single base relation and is simple enough, the rewriter can automatically replace the subquery with the underlying base relation so that the
DELETE is applied to the base relation in the appropriate way. Views that are “simple enough” for this are called automatically updatable. For detailed information on the kinds of view that can be automatically updated, see CREATE VIEW.
Alternatively, the operation may be handled by a user-provided
INSTEAD OF trigger on the view. Rewriting works slightly differently in this case. For
INSERT, the rewriter does nothing at all with the view, leaving it as the result relation for the query. For
DELETE, it's still necessary to expand the view query to produce the “old” rows that the command will attempt to update or delete. So the view is expanded as normal, but another unexpanded range-table entry is added to the query to represent the view in its capacity as the result relation.
The problem that now arises is how to identify the rows to be updated in the view. Recall that when the result relation is a table, a special CTID entry is added to the target list to identify the physical locations of the rows to be updated. This does not work if the result relation is a view, because a view does not have any CTID, since its rows do not have actual physical locations. Instead, for an
DELETE operation, a special
wholerow entry is added to the target list, which expands to include all columns from the view. The executor uses this value to supply the “old” row to the
INSTEAD OF trigger. It is up to the trigger to work out what to update based on the old and new row values.
Another possibility is for the user to define
INSTEAD rules that specify substitute actions for
DELETE commands on a view. These rules will rewrite the command, typically into a command that updates one or more tables, rather than views. That is the topic of Section 41.4.
Note that rules are evaluated first, rewriting the original query before it is planned and executed. Therefore, if a view has
INSTEAD OF triggers as well as rules on
DELETE, then the rules will be evaluated first, and depending on the result, the triggers may not be used at all.
Automatic rewriting of an
DELETE query on a simple view is always tried last. Therefore, if a view has rules or triggers, they will override the default behavior of automatically updatable views.
If there are no
INSTEAD rules or
INSTEAD OF triggers for the view, and the rewriter cannot automatically rewrite the query as an update on the underlying base relation, an error will be thrown because the executor cannot update a view as such.