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Jimmy Guerrero for YugabyteDB

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SQL Tips & Tricks: Counting Rows

Note: This is a cross post of my colleague Karthik Ranganathan's blog that was originally published here.

Getting total row counts of data in tables across various dimensions (per-table, per-schema, and in a given database) is a useful technique to have in one’s tool belt of SQL tricks. While there are a number of use cases for this, my scenario was to get the per-table row counts of all tables in PostgreSQL and YugabyteDB as a first sanity check after migrating an application with the pre-existing data from PostgreSQL to YugabyteDB.

This blog post outlines how to get the following row counts of tables in a database:

  • Row counts broken down per table in the schema
  • Aggregate row counts per schema of the database
  • Aggregate row count across all tables in the database We will create an example database, import two popular SQL datasets – Northwind and SportsDB, and run through the above scenarios on these example databases.

The examples in this blog post, which are essentially dynamic SQL queries on the system catalog tables, must be done with superuser privileges. Also, note that the programmatic generation of SQL queries using catalog tables needs to handle exotic names properly. An instance of a table and a column with an exotic name is shown below.

create table "Some Exotically Named Table"(
  k bigserial primary key,
  "Some Exotically Named Column" text
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While this post does not explicitly discuss the challenges posed by the example above, the SQL functions below handle these cases correctly and do so by incorporating some of the important and well-known techniques necessary to prevent SQL injection attacks.

Create an example database

In order to create a test setup, I simply installed YugabyteDB on my laptop, created a database example, and loaded the Northwind dataset – all of which only took a few minutes to do. For the purpose of simplicity, we’re going to use the default yugabyte user for the operations below. However, creating a dedicated user for each of these datasets with the appropriate privileges is the recommended best practice.

Create an example database and connect to it.

yugabyte=# CREATE DATABASE example;
yugabyte=# \c example
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Create the Northwind tables and import the dataset into the northwind schema.

example=# CREATE SCHEMA northwind;
example=# SET SCHEMA 'northwind';
example=# \i northwind_ddl.sql
example=# \i northwind_data.sql
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You can verify that the tables have been created by running the following command.

example=# \d
                   List of relations
  Schema   |          Name          | Type  |  Owner
 northwind | categories             | table | yugabyte
 northwind | customer_customer_demo | table | yugabyte
 northwind | customer_demographics  | table | yugabyte
 northwind | customers              | table | yugabyte
 northwind | employee_territories   | table | yugabyte
 northwind | employees              | table | yugabyte
 northwind | order_details          | table | yugabyte
 northwind | orders                 | table | yugabyte
 northwind | products               | table | yugabyte
 northwind | region                 | table | yugabyte
 northwind | shippers               | table | yugabyte
 northwind | suppliers              | table | yugabyte
 northwind | territories            | table | yugabyte
 northwind | us_states              | table | yugabyte
(14 rows)
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Next, let’s import the SportsDB dataset into a new schema named sportsdb as shown below.

example=# CREATE SCHEMA sportsdb;
example=# SET SCHEMA 'sportsdb';
example=# \i sportsdb_tables.sql
example=# \i sportsdb_indexes.sql
example=# \i sportsdb_inserts.sql
example=# \i sportsdb_constraints.sql
example=# \i sportsdb_fks.sql
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Create a function for row count

Recall that YugabyteDB re-uses the native PostgreSQL codebase for its query layer (or the SQL processing layer) of the database. This means that the high-level approach to solving this problem is identical in the case of both PostgreSQL and YugabyteDB.

We’ll solve this problem by first creating a user defined function (UDF), count_rows_of_table which counts the number of rows in a single table. Note that this function must be owned by a suitably privileged user, in our example we will use the yugabyte user. This function can subsequently be used in various types of queries to print the desired row counts in the various scenarios. The function definition is shown below.

create function count_rows_of_table(
  schema    text,
  tablename text
  returns   integer

  security  invoker
  language  plpgsql
  query_template constant text not null :=
      select count(*) from "?schema"."?tablename"

  query constant text not null :=
        query_template, '?schema', schema),
     '?tablename', tablename);

  result int not null := -1;
  execute query into result;
  return result;
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You can test the above function by passing in a table (for example, the orders table loaded from the Northwind dataset) as shown below.

example=# SELECT count_rows_of_table('northwind', 'orders');
(1 row)
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Per-table row counts in a given database

The information_schema.tables table in the system catalog contains the list of all tables and the schemas they belong to. Because we are mainly interested in the user tables, we filter out all tables belonging to pg_catalog and information_schema, which are system schemas. We then call the function we defined in the previous section to get the row count for each table.

  count_rows_of_table(table_schema, table_name)
  table_schema not in ('pg_catalog', 'information_schema')
  and table_type = 'BASE TABLE'
order by
  1 asc,
  3 desc;
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The query above outputs a table that contains the row counts of all tables across the various schemas, first sorted by the table_schema column and for each table schema, sorted by the tables with the largest number of rows. If we run the above query on our test database, we should see the following output.

 table_schema |       table_name       | count_rows_of_table
 northwind    | order_details          |                2155
 northwind    | orders                 |                 830
 northwind    | customers              |                  91
 northwind    | products               |                  77

 sportsdb     | affiliations_events    |               13052
 sportsdb     | stats                  |                9398
 sportsdb     | participants_events    |                8700
 sportsdb     | events_documents       |                7915
(121 rows)
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Aggregate row counts per schema

Next, let us say we want to get the total row count across all tables broken down per schema. This can be achieved by using the following query.

SELECT table_schema, SUM(row_count) AS total_rows FROM (
  SELECT table_schema, 
         count_rows_of_table(table_schema, table_name) AS row_count
    FROM information_schema.tables
    WHERE table_schema NOT IN ('pg_catalog', 'information_schema') 
      AND table_type='BASE TABLE'
) AS per_table_count_subquery
  GROUP BY table_schema
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The above uses a subquery to first compute the totals row count per table and performs a GROUP BY operation to get the total number of rows in each schema of the current database. The resulting output is sorted by the schema with the maximum number of rows.

 table_schema | total_rows
 sportsdb     |      79138
 northwind    |       3362
(2 rows)
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Aggregate row count across all tables

The query below simply sums the row counts of the individual tables from the previous step to get a total row count across all the tables. This is done by running the per-table row count as a subquery called per_table_count_subquery and performing a SUM across all the row counts that are the output of that subquery.

with per_table_counts as (
  select count_rows_of_table(table_schema, table_name) as row_count
    from information_schema.tables
    where table_schema not in ('pg_catalog', 'information_schema')
      and table_type='BASE TABLE'
) select sum(row_count) as total_rows
    from per_table_counts;
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Running this on the Northwind example dataset produces the following output.

(1 row)
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This post shows some important SQL techniques for computing row counts for PostgreSQL-compatible databases like YugabyteDB. Please remember that writing programs that generate and execute dynamic SQL must be done with caution, rigorous testing, and thorough peer reviews. Errors bring the risk of wrong results. But far worse than this, they expose your code, and therefore your entire database, to the risks of SQL injection attacks.

The code in the examples above works exactly the same way across PostgreSQL and YugabyteDB. This is by design, due to the reuse of the PostgreSQL query layer in YugabyteDB. Try out your favorite PostgreSQL feature on YugabyteDB, and let us know how it goes on our Community Slack. If you run into any issues, just file an issue on GitHub.

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