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 PostgreSQL and TimescaleDB so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how PostgreSQL and TimescaleDB 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.
PostgreSQL vs TimescaleDB Breakdown
Time Series Database
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.
TimescaleDB is built on top of PostgreSQL and inherits its architecture. It extends PostgreSQL with time-series-specific optimizations and functions, allowing it to manage time series data efficiently. It can be deployed as a single node, in a multi-node setup, or in the cloud as a managed service.
PostgreSQL license (similar to MIT or BSD)
Timescale License (for TimescaleDB Community Edition); Apache 2.0 (for core PostgreSQL)
Web applications, geospatial data, business intelligence, analytics, content management systems, financial applications, scientific applications
Monitoring, observability, IoT, real-time analytics, financial market data
Supports vertical scaling, horizontal scaling through partitioning, sharding, and replication using available tools
Horizontally scalable through native support for partitioning, replication, and sharding. Offers multi-node capabilities for distributing data and queries across nodes.
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.
TimescaleDB is an open source time series database built on top of PostgreSQL. It was created to address the challenges of managing time series data, such as scalability, query performance, and data retention policies. TimescaleDB was first released in 2017 and has since become a popular choice for storing and analyzing time series data due to its PostgreSQL compatibility, performance optimizations, and flexible data retention policies.
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.
TimescaleDB for Time Series Data
TimescaleDB is specifically designed for time series data, making it a natural choice for storing and querying such data. It provides several advantages for time series data management like horizontal scalability, columnar storage, and retention policy support. However, TimescaleDB may not be the best choice for all time series use cases. One example would be if an application requires very high write throughput or real-time analytics, other specialized time series databases like InfluxDB may be more suitable.
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.
TimescaleDB Key Concepts
- Hypertable: A hypertable is a distributed table that is partitioned by time and possibly other dimensions, such as device ID or location. It is the primary abstraction for storing time series data in TimescaleDB and is designed to scale horizontally across multiple nodes.
- Chunk: A chunk is a partition of a hypertable, containing a subset of the hypertable’s data. Chunks are created automatically by TimescaleDB based on a specified time interval and can be individually compressed, indexed, and backed up for better performance and data management.
- Distributed Hypertables: For large-scale deployments, TimescaleDB supports distributed hypertables, which partition data across multiple nodes for improved query performance and fault tolerance.
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.
TimescaleDB is an extension built on PostgreSQL, inheriting its relational data model and SQL support. However, TimescaleDB extends PostgreSQL with custom data structures and optimizations for time series data, such as hypertables and chunks.
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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.
TimescaleDB automatically partitions time series data tables using hypertables and chunks, which simplifies data management and improves query performance.
Time series focused SQL functions
TimescaleDB provides several specialized SQL functions and operators for time series data application scenarios, such as time_bucket, first, and last, which simplify querying and aggregating time series data.
As mentioned earlier, TimescaleDB extends PostgreSQL’s query planner for writing and querying time series data, including optimizations like time-based indexing and chunk pruning.
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.
TimescaleDB Use Cases
Monitoring and metrics
TimescaleDB is well-suited for storing and analyzing monitoring and metrics data, such as server performance metrics, application logs, and sensor data. Its hypertable structure and query optimizations make it easy to store, query, and visualize large volumes of time series data.
IoT data storage
TimescaleDB can be used to store and analyze IoT data, such as sensor readings and device status information. Its support for automatic partitioning and specialized SQL interfaces simplifies the management and querying of large-scale IoT datasets.
TimescaleDB is suitable for storing and analyzing financial data, such as stock prices, exchange rates, and trading volumes. Its query optimizations and specialized SQL functions make it easy to perform time-based aggregations and analyze trends in financial data.
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.
TimescaleDB Pricing Model
TimescaleDB is available in two editions: TimescaleDB Open Source and TimescaleDB Cloud. The open-source edition is free to use and can be self-hosted, while the cloud edition is a managed service with a pay-as-you-go pricing model based on storage, compute, and data transfer usage. TimescaleDB Cloud offers various pricing tiers with different levels of resources and features, such as continuous backups and high availability.
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