How to implement Plans in PostgreSQL with aggregation and spools?

In PostgreSQL, plans are implemented using the query execution plan generated by the query optimizer. Aggregation and spool operations are key components in query plans that allow for efficient processing of aggregate queries. Let’s explore how to implement plans in PostgreSQL with aggregation and spools:


  • Aggregation operations involve grouping and summarizing data using functions like SUM, AVG, COUNT, etc.
  • PostgreSQL uses various techniques for implementing aggregation plans, such as hash-based or sort-based algorithms.
  • Hash-based aggregation uses hash tables to store intermediate results and quickly lookup and update aggregate values.
  • Sort-based aggregation involves sorting the data based on the grouping columns and then performing a sequential scan to compute aggregates.

Spool Operations:

  • Spool operations, also known as materialization or temporary tables, are used to store intermediate query results.
  • PostgreSQL employs spool operations in cases where it is more efficient to store intermediate results in a temporary table rather than recomputing them multiple times.
  • Spool operations are commonly used in complex queries with multiple subqueries or repeated calculations.

Implementing Aggregation and Spools in PostgreSQL:

Let’s consider an example where you have a table named 

orders that stores information about customer orders. Each row in the table represents an order and includes columns such as order_id, customer_id, order_date, and order_total. You want to calculate the total order value for each customer and store the intermediate results in a spool table for further analysis.

Here’s an example query that implements aggregation and spool operations:

CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE intermediate_results AS (
SELECT customer_id, SUM(order_total) AS total_order_value
FROM orders
GROUP BY customer_id
— Perform further analysis on intermediate_results table
SELECT * FROM intermediate_results;

In this example:

  1. The SELECT statement performs the aggregation by calculating the sum of order_total for each customer using the SUM function and grouping by customer_id.
  2. The results are stored in a temporary table called intermediate_results using the CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE statement.
  3. You can then perform further analysis on the intermediate_results table by executing additional queries.

By utilizing aggregation and spool operations, you can efficiently calculate and store intermediate results for complex queries, reducing the need for repetitive computations and improving overall query performance. Temporary tables provide a convenient and efficient way to store and manipulate intermediate data within a session or transaction scope.

About Shiv Iyer 422 Articles
Open Source Database Systems Engineer with a deep understanding of Optimizer Internals, Performance Engineering, Scalability and Data SRE. Shiv currently is the Founder, Investor, Board Member and CEO of multiple Database Systems Infrastructure Operations companies in the Transaction Processing Computing and ColumnStores ecosystem. He is also a frequent speaker in open source software conferences globally.