PostgreSQL to Citus

This command instructs pgloader to load data from a database connection. Automatic discovery of the schema is supported, including build of the indexes, primary and foreign keys constraints. A default set of casting rules are provided and might be overloaded and appended to by the command.

Automatic distribution column backfilling is supported, either from commands that specify what is the distribution column in every table, or only in the main table, then relying on foreign key constraints to discover the other distribution keys.

Here’s a short example of migrating a database from a PostgreSQL server to another:

load database
from pgsql:///hackathon
into pgsql://localhost:9700/dim

with include drop, reset no sequences

cast column impressions.seen_at to "timestamp with time zone"

distribute companies using id
-- distribute campaigns using company_id
-- distribute ads using company_id from campaigns
-- distribute clicks using company_id from ads, campaigns
-- distribute impressions using company_id from ads, campaigns

Everything works exactly the same way as when doing a PostgreSQL to PostgreSQL migration, with the added fonctionality of this new distribute command.

Distribute Command

The distribute command syntax is as following:

distribute <table name> using <column name>
distribute <table name> using <column name> from <table> [, <table>, ...]
distribute <table name> as reference table

When using the distribute command, the following steps are added to pgloader operations when migrating the schema:

  • if the distribution column does not exist in the table, it is added as the first column of the table

  • if the distribution column does not exists in the primary key of the table, it is added as the first column of the primary of the table

  • all the foreign keys that point to the table are added the distribution key automatically too, including the source tables of the foreign key constraints

  • once the schema has been created on the target database, pgloader then issues Citus specific command create_reference_table() and create_distributed_table() to make the tables distributed

Those operations are done in the schema section of pgloader, before the data is loaded. When the data is loaded, the newly added columns need to be backfilled from referenced data. pgloader knows how to do that by generating a query like the following and importing the result set of such a query rather than the raw data from the source table.

Citus Migration Example

With the migration command as above, pgloader adds the column company_id to the tables that have a direct or indirect foreign key reference to the companies table.

We run pgloader using the following command, where the file ./test/citus/company.load contains the pgloader command as shown above.

$ pgloader --client-min-messages sql ./test/citus/company.load

The following SQL statements are all extracted from the log messages that the pgloader command outputs. We are going to have a look at the impressions table. It gets created with a new column company_id in the first position, as follows:

CREATE TABLE "public"."impressions"
  company_id                bigint,
  "id"                      bigserial,
  "ad_id"                   bigint default NULL,
  "seen_at"                 timestamp with time zone default NULL,
  "site_url"                text default NULL,
  "cost_per_impression_usd" numeric(20,10) default NULL,
  "user_ip"                 inet default NULL,
  "user_data"               jsonb default NULL

The original schema for this table does not have the company_id column, which means pgloader now needs to change the primary key definition, the foreign keys constraints definitions from and to this table, and also to backfill the company_id data to this table when doing the COPY phase of the migration.

Then once the tables have been created, pgloader executes the following SQL statements:

SELECT create_distributed_table('"public"."companies"', 'id');
SELECT create_distributed_table('"public"."campaigns"', 'company_id');
SELECT create_distributed_table('"public"."ads"', 'company_id');
SELECT create_distributed_table('"public"."clicks"', 'company_id');
SELECT create_distributed_table('"public"."impressions"', 'company_id');

Then when copying the data from the source PostgreSQL database to the new Citus tables, the new column (here company_id) needs to be backfilled from the source tables. Here’s the SQL query that pgloader uses as a data source for the ads table in our example:

SELECT "campaigns".company_id::text, "ads".id::text, "ads".campaign_id::text,
       "ads".name::text, "ads".image_url::text, "ads".target_url::text,
       "ads".impressions_count::text, "ads".clicks_count::text,
       "ads".created_at::text, "ads".updated_at::text

  FROM       "public"."ads"
       JOIN "public"."campaigns"
         ON ads.campaign_id =

The impressions table has an indirect foreign key reference to the company table, which is the table where the distribution key is specified. pgloader will discover that itself from walking the PostgreSQL catalogs, and you may also use the following specification in the pgloader command to explicitely add the indirect dependency:

distribute impressions using company_id from ads, campaigns

Given this schema, the SQL query used by pgloader to fetch the data for the impressions table is the following, implementing online backfilling of the data:

SELECT "campaigns".company_id::text, "impressions".id::text,
       "impressions".ad_id::text, "impressions".seen_at::text,

  FROM      "public"."impressions"

       JOIN "public"."ads"
         ON impressions.ad_id =

       JOIN "public"."campaigns"
         ON ads.campaign_id =

When the data copying is done, then pgloader also has to install the indexes supporting the primary keys, and add the foreign key definitions to the schema. Those definitions are not the same as in the source schema, because of the adding of the distribution column to the table: we need to also add the column to the primary key and the foreign key constraints.

Here’s the commands issued by pgloader for the impressions table:

CREATE UNIQUE INDEX "impressions_pkey"
    ON "public"."impressions" (company_id, id);

ALTER TABLE "public"."impressions"
  ADD CONSTRAINT "impressions_ad_id_fkey"
     FOREIGN KEY(company_id,ad_id)
      REFERENCES "public"."ads"(company_id,id)

Given a single line of specification distribute companies using id then pgloader implements all the necessary schema changes on the fly when migrating to Citus, and also dynamically backfills the data.

Citus Migration: Limitations

The way pgloader implements reset sequence does not work with Citus at this point, so sequences need to be taken care of separately at this point.