We are experiencing exactly the same problem here, and we use 7.4 on
Linux/i386 SMP (2 processors). Our databases does even more access:
about 30k selects per hour, 10k updates and inserts per hour

Vacuum analyze is done daily.

We migrated our database to a new server. Initially, everything was fine,
and pretty fast. In a week or so, Vacuum performance is pretty slow. What
was done in 15 minutes now takes 2 hours. Postgres is consuming a lot of
CPU power and, when the system is in peak period, it's even worse.

Sure, we have a large database. 3 tables have more than 10M records, but
more or less suddenly, we're having a heavy performance prejudice.

> This almost sounds like a problem (fixed in 7.4 I believe) where some
> system catalog indexes would get huge over time, and couldn't be
> vacuumed  or reindexed while the database was up in multi-user mode.
> I'll defer to Tom or Bruce or somebody to say if my guess is even
> close...
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