About the Greenplum Architecture

About the Greenplum Architecture

Greenplum Database is a massively parallel processing (MPP) database server with an architecture specially designed to manage large-scale analytic data warehouses and business intelligence workloads.

MPP (also known as a shared nothing architecture) refers to systems with two or more processors that cooperate to carry out an operation, each processor with its own memory, operating system and disks. Greenplum uses this high-performance system architecture to distribute the load of multi-terabyte data warehouses, and can use all of a system's resources in parallel to process a query.

Greenplum Database is based on PostgreSQL open-source technology. It is essentially several PostgreSQL database instances acting together as one cohesive database management system (DBMS). It is based on PostgreSQL 8.2.15, and in most cases is very similar to PostgreSQL with regard to SQL support, features, configuration options, and end-user functionality. Database users interact with Greenplum Database as they would a regular PostgreSQL DBMS.

The internals of PostgreSQL have been modified or supplemented to support the parallel structure of Greenplum Database. For example, the system catalog, optimizer, query executor, and transaction manager components have been modified and enhanced to be able to execute queries simultaneously across all of the parallel PostgreSQL database instances. The Greenplum interconnect (the networking layer) enables communication between the distinct PostgreSQL instances and allows the system to behave as one logical database.

Greenplum Database also includes features designed to optimize PostgreSQL for business intelligence (BI) workloads. For example, Greenplum has added parallel data loading (external tables), resource management, query optimizations, and storage enhancements, which are not found in standard PostgreSQL. Many features and optimizations developed by Greenplum make their way into the PostgreSQL community. For example, table partitioning is a feature first developed by Greenplum, and it is now in standard PostgreSQL.

Greenplum Database stores and processes large amounts of data by distributing the data and processing workload across several servers or hosts. Greenplum Database is an array of individual databases based upon PostgreSQL 8.2 working together to present a single database image. The master is the entry point to the Greenplum Database system. It is the database instance to which clients connect and submit SQL statements. The master coordinates its work with the other database instances in the system, called segments, which store and process the data.

Figure 1. High-Level Greenplum Database Architecture

The following topics describe the components that make up a Greenplum Database system and how they work together.

About the Greenplum Master

The Greenplum Database master is the entry to the Greenplum Database system, accepting client connections and SQL queries, and distributing work to the segment instances.

Greenplum Database end-users interact with Greenplum Database (through the master) as they would with a typical PostgreSQL database. They connect to the database using client programs such as psql or application programming interfaces (APIs) such as JDBC or ODBC.

The master is where the global system catalog resides. The global system catalog is the set of system tables that contain metadata about the Greenplum Database system itself. The master does not contain any user data; data resides only on the segments. The master authenticates client connections, processes incoming SQL commands, distributes workloads among segments, coordinates the results returned by each segment, and presents the final results to the client program.

About the Greenplum Segments

Greenplum Database segment instances are independent PostgreSQL databases that each store a portion of the data and perform the majority of query processing.

When a user connects to the database via the Greenplum master and issues a query, processes are created in each segment database to handle the work of that query. For more information about query processes, see About Greenplum Query Processing.

User-defined tables and their indexes are distributed across the available segments in a Greenplum Database system; each segment contains a distinct portion of data. The database server processes that serve segment data run under the corresponding segment instances. Users interact with segments in a Greenplum Database system through the master.

Segments run on a servers called segment hosts. A segment host typically executes from two to eight Greenplum segments, depending on the CPU cores, RAM, storage, network interfaces, and workloads. Segment hosts are expected to be identically configured. The key to obtaining the best performance from Greenplum Database is to distribute data and workloads evenly across a large number of equally capable segments so that all segments begin working on a task simultaneously and complete their work at the same time.

About the Greenplum Interconnect

The interconect is the networking layer of the Greenplum Database architecture.

The interconnect refers to the inter-process communication between segments and the network infrastructure on which this communication relies. The Greenplum interconnect uses a standard 10-Gigabit Ethernet switching fabric.

By default, the interconnect uses User Datagram Protocol (UDP) with flow control for interconnect traffic to send messages over the network. The Greenplum software performs packet verification beyond what is provided by UDP. This means the reliability is equivalent to Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), and the performance and scalability exceeds TCP. If the interconnect used TCP, Greenplum Database would have a scalability limit of 1000 segment instances. With UDP as the current default protocol for the interconnect, this limit is not applicable. For information about the types of interconnect supported by Greeplum Database, see server configuration parameter gp_interconnect_type in the Greenplum Database Reference Guide.