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 DuckDB and PostgreSQL so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how DuckDB 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.
DuckDB vs PostgreSQL Breakdown
DuckDB is intended for use as an embedded database and is primariliy focused on single node performance.
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)
Embedded analytics, Data Science, Data processing, ETL pipelines
Web applications, geospatial data, business intelligence, analytics, content management systems, financial applications, scientific applications
Embedded and single-node focused, with limited support for parallelism
Supports vertical scaling, horizontal scaling through partitioning, sharding, and replication using available tools
DuckDB is an in-process SQL OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) database management system. It is designed to be simple, fast, and feature-rich. DuckDB can be used for processing and analyzing tabular datasets, such as CSV or Parquet files. It provides a rich SQL dialect with support for transactions, persistence, extensive SQL queries, and direct querying of Parquet and CSV files. DuckDB is built with a vectorized engine that is optimized for analytics and supports parallel query processing. It is designed to be easy to install and use, with no external dependencies and support for multiple programming languages.
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.
DuckDB for Time Series Data
DuckDB can be used effectively with time series data. It supports processing and analyzing tabular datasets, which can include time series data stored in CSV or Parquet files. With its optimized analytics engine and support for complex SQL queries, DuckDB can perform aggregations, joins, and other time series analysis operations efficiently. However, it’s important to note that DuckDB is not specifically designed for time series data management and may not have specialized features tailored for time series analysis like some dedicated time series databases.
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.
DuckDB Key Concepts
- In-process: DuckDB operates in-process, meaning it runs within the same process as the application using it, without the need for a separate server.
- OLAP: DuckDB is an OLAP database, which means it is optimized for analytical query processing.
- Vectorized engine: DuckDB utilizes a vectorized engine that operates on batches of data, improving query performance.
- Transactions: DuckDB supports transactional operations, ensuring the atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability (ACID) properties of data operations.
- SQL dialect: DuckDB provides a rich SQL dialect with advanced features such as arbitrary and nested correlated subqueries, window functions, collations, and support for complex types like arrays and structs
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.
DuckDB follows an in-process architecture, running within the same process as the application. It is a relational table-oriented database management system that supports SQL queries for producing analytical results. DuckDB is built using C++11 and is designed to have no external dependencies. It can be compiled as a single file, making it easy to install and integrate into applications.
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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Transactions and Persistence
DuckDB supports transactional operations, ensuring data integrity and durability. It allows for persistent storage of data between sessions.
Extensive SQL Support
DuckDB provides a rich SQL dialect with support for advanced query features, including correlated subqueries, window functions, and complex data types.
Direct Parquet & CSV Querying
DuckDB allows direct querying of Parquet and CSV files, enabling efficient analysis of data stored in these formats.
Fast Analytical Queries
DuckDB is designed to run analytical queries efficiently, thanks to its vectorized engine and optimization for analytics workloads.
Parallel Query Processing
DuckDB can process queries in parallel, taking advantage of multi-core processors to improve query performance.
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.
DuckDB Use Cases
Processing and Storing Tabular Datasets
DuckDB is well-suited for scenarios where you need to process and store tabular datasets, such as data imported from CSV or Parquet files. It provides efficient storage and retrieval mechanisms for working with structured data.
Interactive Data Analysis
DuckDB is ideal for interactive data analysis tasks, particularly when dealing with large tables. It enables you to perform complex operations like joining and aggregating multiple large tables efficiently, allowing for rapid exploration and extraction of insights from your data.
Large Result Set Transfer to Client
When you need to transfer large result sets from the database to the client application, DuckDB can be a suitable choice. Its optimized query processing and efficient data transfer mechanisms enable fast and seamless retrieval of large amounts of data.
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.
DuckDB Pricing Model
DuckDB is a free and open-source database management system released under the permissive MIT License. It can be freely used, modified, and distributed without any licensing costs.
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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