"Jeffrey W. Baker" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> writes:
> I think the largest speedup will be to dump the multiphase merge and
> merge all tapes in one pass, no matter how large M.  Currently M is
> capped at 6, so a sort of 60GB with 1GB sort memory needs 13 passes over
> the tape.  It could be done in a single pass heap merge with N*log(M)
> comparisons, and, more importantly, far less input and output.

I had more or less despaired of this thread yielding any usable ideas
:-( but I think you have one here.  The reason the current code uses a
six-way merge is that Knuth's figure 70 (p. 273 of volume 3 first
edition) shows that there's not much incremental gain from using more
tapes ... if you are in the regime where number of runs is much greater
than number of tape drives.  But if you can stay in the regime where
only one merge pass is needed, that is obviously a win.

I don't believe we can simply legislate that there be only one merge
pass.  That would mean that, if we end up with N runs after the initial
run-forming phase, we need to fit N tuples in memory --- no matter how
large N is, or how small work_mem is.  But it seems like a good idea to
try to use an N-way merge where N is as large as work_mem will allow.
We'd not have to decide on the value of N until after we've completed
the run-forming phase, at which time we've already seen every tuple
once, and so we can compute a safe value for N as work_mem divided by
largest_tuple_size.  (Tape I/O buffers would have to be counted too
of course.)

It's been a good while since I looked at the sort code, and so I don't
recall if there are any fundamental reasons for having a compile-time-
constant value of the merge order rather than choosing it at runtime.
My guess is that any inefficiencies added by making it variable would
be well repaid by the potential savings in I/O.

                        regards, tom lane

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