Constraint Enforcement and Performance

In some cases, constraint enforcement can significantly affect overall system performance. This is especially true when constraints are enforced on large fact tables that are subject to frequent and concurrent bulk updates. Every update operation that invokes constraint enforcement requires Vertica to check each table row for all constraint violations. Thus, enforcing multiple constraints on a table with a large amount of data can cause noticeable delays.

To minimize the overhead incurred by enforcing constraints, omit constraint enforcement on large, often updated tables. You can evaluate these tables for constraint violations by running ANALYZE_CONSTRAINTS during off-peak hours.

Several aspects of constraint enforcement have specific impact on system performance. These include:

Table Locking

If a table enforces constraints, Vertica sets an insert/validate (IV) lock on that table during a DML operation while it undergoes validation. Only one session at a time can acquire an IV lock on that table. As long as the session retains this lock, no other session can access the table. Lengthy loads is liable to cause performance bottlenecks, especially if multiple sessions try to load the same table simultaneously. For details, see Constraint Enforcement and Locking.

Enforced Constraint Projections

To enforce primary key and unique constraints, Vertica creates special projections that it uses to validate data. Depending on the amount of data in the anchor table, creating the projection might incur significant system overhead.

Rollback in Transactions

Vertica validates enforced constraints for each SQL statement, and rolls back each statement that encounters a constraint violation. You cannot defer enforcement until the transaction commits. Thus, if multiple DML statements comprise a single transaction, Vertica validates each statement separately for constraint compliance, and rolls back any statement that fails validation. It commits the transaction only after all statements in it return.

For example, you might issue ten INSERT statements as a single transaction on a table that enforces UNIQUE on one of its columns. If the sixth statement attempts to insert a duplicate value in that column, that statement is rolled back. However, the other statements can commit.