On Wed, Mar 7, 2012 at 7:55 PM, Robert Haas <robertmh...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> But it would mean we have about 1.7x  more runs that need to be merged
>> (for initially random data).  Considering the minimum merge order is
>> 6, that increase in runs is likely not to lead to an additional level
>> of merging, in which case the extra speed of building the runs would
>> definitely win.  But if it does cause an additional level of merge, it
>> could end up being a loss.
> That's true, but the real hit to the run size should be quite a bit
> less than 1.7x, because we'd also be using memory more efficiently,
> and therefore more tuples should fit.

I'm not sure I believe the 1.7x.  Keep in mind that even after
starting a new tape we can continue to read in new tuples that belong
on the first tape. So even if you have tuples that are more than N
positions out of place (where N is the size of your heap) as long as
you don't have very many you can keep writing out the first tape for
quite a while.

I suspect analyzing truly random inputs is also a bit like saying no
compression algorithm can work on average. Partly sorted data is quite
common and the tapesort algorithm would be able to do a lot of cases
in a single merge that the quicksort and merge would generate a large
number of merges for.

All that said, quicksort and merge would always do no more i/o in
cases where the total number of tuples to be sorted is significantly
less than N^2 since that would be guaranteed to be possible to process
with a single merge pass. (Where "significantly less" has something to
do with how many tuples you have to read in one i/o to be efficient).
That probably covers a lot of cases, and Postgres already has the
stats to predict when it would happen, more or less.

Fwiw when I was doing the top-k sorting I did a bunch of experiements
and came up with a rule-of-thumb that our quicksort was about twice as
fast as our heapsort. I'm not sure whether that's a big deal or not in
this case. Keep in mind that the only win would be reducing the cpu
time on a sort where every tuple was being written to disk and read
back. For most users that won't run noticeably faster, just reduce cpu
time consumption.


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