Mirror a remote Postgresql table (dblink + materialized view)

Keep a local copy a remote PostgreSQL table.

It is very useful to have a copy of a production table in a local server. Among some reasons, we have:

  • No worries about messing with production data;
  • Still, having some realistic data to work with;
  • Low latency (for big tables, or heavy data types).

To achieve this, we can make use of some PostgreSQL features:

  • dblink extension;
  • materialized views;
  • postgis extension (when dealing with GIS data).

With this setup, we can maintain a local mirrored version of a remote database table. We can also refresh the data easily, to keep it updated with the remote database.

dblink is a module that supports connections to other PostgreSQL databases from within a database session.

Enable the extension with:

CREATE EXTENSION dblink;

dblink executes a query (usually a SELECT, but it can be any SQL statement that returns rows) in a remote database.

SELECT * FROM 
  dblink('dbname=otherdb hostaddr=otherhost user=otheruser password=otherpass options=-csearch_path=',
         'select proname, prosrc from pg_proc')
AS t1(proname name, prosrc text);

More info about the dblink extension here.

Materialized Views

Materialized views in PostgreSQL use the rule system like views do, but persist the results in a table-like form. The main differences between:

CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW mymatview AS SELECT * FROM mytab;

and:

CREATE TABLE mymatview AS SELECT * FROM mytab;

are that the materialized view cannot subsequently be directly updated and that the query used to create the materialized view is stored in exactly the same way that a view’s query is stored, so that fresh data can be generated for the materialized view with:

REFRESH MATERIALIZED VIEW mymatview;

More info about materialized views here.

Create the mirrored table

The benefit of a materialized view with the dblink extesion allow us to have a copy of a remote table.

The following command creates a copy of a remote table as a materialized view:


--DROP MATERIALIZED IEW IF EXISTS mv_users;

CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW mv_users AS 
	SELECT
		t1.id, t1.name, t1.email, t1.password
	FROM dblink('
		dbname=somedb hostaddr=somehost user=someuser password=somepass options=-csearch_path='::text,
		'SELECT id, name, email, password FROM users'::text) 
	t1(id integer, name character varying(255), email character varying(255), password character varying(255))
WITH DATA;

In order to refresh a materialized view concurrently, we must create an index on it:


CREATE UNIQUE INDEX index_mv_users
  ON mv_users
  USING btree
  (id);

We can refresh this materialized view in order to get updated data from the remote server:

REFRESH MATERIALIZED VIEW CONCURRENTLY mv_users WITH DATA;

Materialized Views can not be directly updated

This solution works very well to read only tables in a local server.

If we ever need to update this mirrored table (update, insert, delete) you can:

Create a copy of the materialized view, as a table

This first approach create copy of the data, as another table:

CREATE TABLE users AS TABLE mv_users;

This way, you can update the created table as needed. The only drawback is that this table will only contain the data, no PRIMARY KEYS, SEQUENCES, CONSTRAINTS or INDEXES

You can create them later, if you want.


Create an identical table, and use the view to fill it with data

This approach requires a bit more of setup, but it will make the update process easier. You can also use a normal VIEW since you will only use it to fill the data in a brand new table.

  • Create a local table with the same schema:

--DROP TABLE IF EXISTS users;

CREATE TABLE users
(
  id serial NOT NULL,
  name character varying(255) NOT NULL,
  email character varying(255) NOT NULL,
  password character varying(255) NOT NULL,
  CONSTRAINT users_pkey PRIMARY KEY (id)
);

OTHER CONSTRAINTS, INDEXES, ETC.. 
 
  • With an identical schema, you can use the materialized view to fill it with data:

INSERT INTO users (id, name, email, password)
SELECT id, name, email, password from mv_users;

  • Since we also selected the id field (serial), we need to fix the sequence:
SELECT setval('users_id_seq', (SELECT MAX(id) FROM users)+1);

This will set the sequence’s next value to the next available id


This way you get an identical table of the remote server.

  • You can refresh the data by TRUNCATING the table and using the view to fill it again.
  • You can also tweak the INSERT INTO … SELECT query to only insert the missing rows, for example.

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