Choosing the right database is a critical choice when building any software application. All databases have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to performance, so deciding which database has the most benefits and the most minor downsides for your specific use case and data model is an important decision. Below you will find an overview of the key concepts, architecture, features, use cases, and pricing models of ClickHouse and PostgreSQL so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how ClickHouse and PostgreSQL perform for workloads involving time series data, not for all possible use cases. Time series data typically presents a unique challenge in terms of database performance. This is due to the high volume of data being written and the query patterns to access that data. This article doesn’t intend to make the case for which database is better; it simply provides an overview of each database so you can make an informed decision.
ClickHouse vs PostgreSQL Breakdown
ClickHouse can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or as a managed service.
PostgreSQL can be deployed on various platforms, such as on-premises, in virtual machines, or as a managed cloud service like Amazon RDS, Google Cloud SQL, or Azure Database for PostgreSQL.
PostgreSQL license (similar to MIT or BSD)
Real-time analytics, big data processing, event logging, monitoring, IoT, data warehousing
Web applications, geospatial data, business intelligence, analytics, content management systems, financial applications, scientific applications
Horizontally scalable, supports distributed query processing and parallel execution
Supports vertical scaling, horizontal scaling through partitioning, sharding, and replication using available tools
ClickHouse is an open source columnar database management system designed for high-performance online analytical processing (OLAP) tasks. It was developed by Yandex, a leading Russian technology company. ClickHouse is known for its ability to process large volumes of data in real-time, providing fast query performance and real-time analytics. Its columnar storage architecture enables efficient data compression and faster query execution, making it suitable for large-scale data analytics and business intelligence applications.
PostgreSQL, also known as Postgres, is an open-source relational database management system that was first released in 1996. It has a long history of being a robust, reliable, and feature-rich database system, widely used in various industries and applications. PostgreSQL is known for its adherence to the SQL standard and extensibility, which allows users to define their own data types, operators, and functions. It is developed and maintained by a dedicated community of contributors and is available on multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux, and macOS.
ClickHouse for Time Series Data
ClickHouse can be used for storing and analyzing time series data effectively, although it is not explicitly optimized for working with time series data. While ClickHouse can query time series data very quickly once ingested, it tends to struggle with very high write scenarios where data needs to be ingested in smaller batches so it can be analyzed in real time.
PostgreSQL for Time Series Data
PostgreSQL can be used for time series data storage and analysis, although it was not specifically designed for this use case. With its rich set of data types, indexing options, and window function support, PostgreSQL can handle time series data. However, Postgres will not be as optimized for time series data as specialized time series databases when it comes to things like data compression, write throughput, and query speed. PostgreSQL also lacks a number of features that are useful for working with time series data like downsampling, retention policies, and custom SQL functions for time series data analysis.
ClickHouse Key Concepts
- Columnar storage: ClickHouse stores data in a columnar format, which means that data for each column is stored separately. This enables efficient compression and faster query execution, as only the required columns are read during query execution.
- Distributed processing: ClickHouse supports distributed processing, allowing queries to be executed across multiple nodes in a cluster, improving query performance and scalability.
- Data replication: ClickHouse provides data replication, ensuring data availability and fault tolerance in case of hardware failures or node outages.
- Materialized Views: ClickHouse supports materialized views, which are precomputed query results stored as tables. Materialized views can significantly improve query performance, as they allow for faster data retrieval by avoiding the need to recompute the results for each query.
PostgreSQL Key Concepts
- MVCC: Multi-Version Concurrency Control is a technique used by PostgreSQL to allow multiple transactions to be executed concurrently without conflicts or locking.
- WAL: Write-Ahead Logging is a method used to ensure data durability by logging changes to a journal before they are written to the main data files.
- TOAST: The Oversized-Attribute Storage Technique is a mechanism for storing large data values in a separate table to reduce the main table’s disk space consumption.
ClickHouse’s architecture is designed to support high-performance analytics on large datasets. ClickHouse stores data in a columnar format. This enables efficient data compression and faster query execution, as only the required columns are read during query execution. ClickHouse also supports distributed processing, which allows for queries to be executed across multiple nodes in a cluster. ClickHouse uses the MergeTree storage engine as its primary table engine. MergeTree is designed for high-performance OLAP tasks and supports data replication, data partitioning, and indexing.
PostgreSQL is a client-server relational database system that uses the SQL language for querying and manipulation. It employs a process-based architecture, with each connection to the database being handled by a separate server process. This architecture provides isolation between different users and sessions. PostgreSQL supports ACID transactions and uses a combination of MVCC, WAL, and other techniques to ensure data consistency, durability, and performance. It also supports various extensions and external modules to enhance its functionality.
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ClickHouse is designed for real-time analytics and can process large volumes of data with low latency, providing fast query performance and real-time insights.
ClickHouse’s columnar storage format enables efficient data compression, reducing storage requirements and improving query performance.
ClickHouse supports materialized views, which can significantly improve query performance by precomputing and storing query results as tables.
PostgreSQL allows users to define custom data types, operators, and functions, making it highly adaptable to specific application requirements.
PostgreSQL has built-in support for full-text search, enabling users to perform complex text-based queries and analyses.
With the PostGIS extension, PostgreSQL can store and manipulate geospatial data, making it suitable for GIS applications.
ClickHouse Use Cases
Large-scale data analytics
ClickHouse’s high-performance query engine and columnar storage format make it suitable for large-scale data analytics and business intelligence applications.
ClickHouse’s real-time analytics capabilities enable organizations to generate real-time reports and dashboards, providing up-to-date insights for decision-making.
Log and event data analysis
ClickHouse’s ability to process large volumes of data in real-time makes it a suitable choice for log and event data analysis, such as analyzing web server logs or application events.
PostgreSQL Use Cases
PostgreSQL is a popular choice for large-scale enterprise applications due to its reliability, performance, and feature set.
With the PostGIS extension, PostgreSQL can be used for storing and analyzing geospatial data in applications like mapping, routing, and geocoding.
As a relational database, PostgreSQL is a good fit for pretty much any application that involves transactional workloads.
ClickHouse Pricing Model
ClickHouse is an open source database and can be deployed on your own hardware. The developers of ClickHouse have also recently created ClickHouse Cloud which is a managed service for deploying ClickHouse.
PostgreSQL Pricing Model
PostgreSQL is open source software, and there are no licensing fees associated with its use. However, costs can arise from hardware, hosting, and operational expenses when deploying a self-managed PostgreSQL server. Several cloud-based managed PostgreSQL services, such as Amazon RDS, Google Cloud SQL, and Azure Database for PostgreSQL, offer different pricing models based on factors like storage, computing resources, and support.
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