Comparing Pgpool-II and PgBouncer

10 min read
Aug 7, 2019

While I was in the process of determining different HA solutions for PostgreSQL, Pgpool and PgBouncer both came into the equation on multiple occasions. So I decided to evaluate them and determine what kind of performance they could handle. I did this because most of the blogs I saw on the internet were tested on laptops with limited resources. In this evaluation, I used my Google Cloud account to spin up some servers to use for testing more of a real-world scenario where servers have to communicate with one another, and each server has more dedicated processing power and memory. I configured an application server to send traffic using pgbench to both Pgpool and PgBouncer to see what type of performance I could achieve and analyzed some of the contributing factors to why they performed the way they did.


I set up a number of servers to simulate a typical environment, with different layers of infrastructure. I was still limited by the amount of resources I had within my Google Cloud environment which was 24 CPUs total between all instances.
  • Application server with HAProxy to split traffic to the proxy layer: 4 CPU / 3.6 GB Memory (CentOS 7)
  • Two proxy layer servers for Pgpool or PgBouncer to be installed: 4 CPU / 3.6 GB Memory (CentOS 7)
  • Two database layer servers with PostgreSQL 10.6: 4 CPU / 15 GB Memory (PostgreSQL configure Shared Buffer was increased to 4GB) (CentOS 7)

PostgreSQL Setup

To build the PostgreSQL 10 servers, I used a previous method to set up and install the database servers using this blog ( It is a four-server setup that contains a master, two replicas, and a witness using Repmgr to handle replication and failover. Once the servers were set up I had to power down the second replica and the witness server in order to have enough CPUs for the other servers due to my CPU limit within Google Cloud. I then increased the shared_buffers to 4096 MB and increased work_mem to 64MB for better performance of the PostgreSQL server. You can find more information here: Now I have a master and a replica to handle the incoming traffic and to do read/write splitting across my PostgreSQL servers for scaling my read traffic. From the configuration within that blog, I also added the proxy layer servers to my pg_hba file to allow database traffic into the servers. Using trust should only be done in testing solutions. You should use md5 and passwords in a production environment
host repmgr repmgr trust
 host repmgr repmgr trust

Pgpool-II-10 Setup

For Pgpool, I first installed the PostgreSQL yum repository and then installed the Pgpool packages from that repository. Pgpool comes with some preconfigured config files and I configured Pgpool with the master/slave configuration and customized it to my setup. This way Pgpool could detect who the master server is and route write traffic to it accordingly. 1) Install PostgreSQL yum repo for PostgreSQL 10:
yum install -y
 yum install -y pgpool-II-10.x86_64
2) Copy the master-slave default config as our primary configuration:
cd /etc/pgpool-II-10
 cp pgpool.conf.sample-master-slave pgpool.conf
3) Modified the configuration file with my setup. I made sure to update the pid file path, as the default one does not work. Find the settings in the default file and update them according to your setup.:
listen_addresses = '*'
 pid_file_name = '/var/run/pgpool-II-10/'
 master_slave_sub_mode = 'stream'
 pool_passwd = ''
 sr_check_period = 1
 sr_check_user = 'repmgr'
 sr_check_password = 'repmgr'
 sr_check_database = 'repmgr'
 backend_hostname0 = 'psql-1'
 backend_port0 = 5432
 backend_weight0 = 1
 backend_data_directory0 = '/var/lib/pgsql/10/data/'
 backend_flag0 = 'ALLOW_TO_FAILOVER'
 backend_hostname1 = 'psql-2'
 backend_port1 = 5432
 backend_weight1 = 1
 backend_data_directory1 = '/var/lib/pgsql/10/data/'
 backend_flag1 = 'ALLOW_TO_FAILOVER'
4) Copy the default PCP config file for Pgpool administration:
cp pcp.conf.sample pcp.conf
5) Create MD5 key of the admin password:
pg_md5 pgpool_pass
6) Update the pcp.conf file with the username and password of the PCP Admin account:
7) Create a password file for easy execution of the Pgpool admin commands:
touch ~/.pcppass
 chmod 600 ~/.pcppass
 vim ~/.pcppass
8) Enable and start the Pgpool service:
systemctl enable pgpool-II-10
 systemctl start pgpool-II-10
 systemctl status pgpool-II-10
9) Example of running a pcp command and checking the status of node 0:
pcp_node_info -U pgpool_admin -w 0
 psql-1 5432 1 0.333333 waiting master 0 1970-01-01 00:00:00

PgBouncer Setup

I installed PgBouncer the same way as I did Pgpool, by using the PostgreSQL 10 repository. I then configured it two different ways. For the first configuration, I pointed the first PgBouncer server to the master node, and the second PgBouncer to the slave to test it without Pgpool involved. With that type of setup, the application would have to be configured to send traffic to the correct location. Since I am only dealing with read traffic and am more interested in performance testing, I am not worrying about the routing of read/write traffic and will only be sending read traffic. For the second round of testing, I configured PgBouncer to point to Pgpool on the same server. Pgpool then sends the traffic to the database servers. 1) Install PgBouncer:
yum install -y pgbouncer
2) Edit the pgbouncer configuration at /etc/pgbouncer/pgbouncer.ini to add the database to send traffic to:
 repmgr = host=psql-1 dbname=repmgr # Used when testing without Pgpool
 repmgr = host= port=9999 dbname=repmgr # Used when testing with Pgpool
 listen_addr = *
3) Create a new userlist at /etc/pgbouncer/userlist.txt that will contain a list of users that are allowed to use PgBouncer. Since I am using trust I do not have a password configured:
"repmgr" ""
4) Enable and start the service:
systemctl enable pgbouncer
 systemctl start pgbouncer

Application Server Setup

To get pgbench installed on the application server, I installed the PostgreSQL 10 client from the PostgreSQL yum repository. Next, to split the traffic across the proxy layer, I installed HAProxy and configured it to send traffic across the two servers. To redirect traffic from Pgpool and PgBouncer, I would just update the port in the HAProxy configuration and reload the configuration. 1) Install PostgreSQL client and HAProxy:
yum install -y
 yum install -y postgresql10 haproxy
2) Configure HAProxy in /etc/haproxy/haproxy.cfg:
frontend pg_pool_cluster
  bind *:54321
  acl d1 dst_port 54321
  use_backend pgpool if d1
  default_backend pgpool
 backend pgpool
  mode tcp
  balance roundrobin
  option tcp-check
  option log-health-checks
  server pgpool-1 inter 1000 fall 2 rise 1 check port 9999
  server pgpool-2 inter 1000 fall 5 rise 1 check port 9999
3) Enable and start HAProxy:
systemctl enable haproxy
 systemctl start haproxy
I then used the following command with pgbench to initialize the testing database on my primary PostgreSQL server:
pgbench repmgr -h psql-1 -U repmgr -i -s 50 pgpooltest
These are the pgbench commands I used to hit the local HAProxy server and change the number of connections going in:
pgbench repmgr -U repmgr -h -p54321 -P 5 -S -T 30 -c 100 pgpooltest

Pgpool Testing

In the first setup, I configured pgbench to send traffic to the local HAProxy server which then split the traffic across the two Pgpool servers. Pgpool is then configured to load balance the traffic across the two PostgreSQL servers. Because Pgpool can detect the master and slaves, it can automatically route traffic writes to the master and read traffic to both servers. Having more than one Pgpool server helped increase the throughput as the connections started to increase. When starting the Pgpool server I noticed in the process list that it created a new process for each potential connection that could come in. I believe this could be part of the reason that the performance drops as you increase the number of connections. The key to note on this graph is that I was hitting my peak performance around 50 to 100 connections. I will use this information in my final setup. On average I was seeing around a 30-40% CPU utilization because of the proxy part of Pgpool analyzing the queries. I tried turning on local memory query caching within Pgpool and with my workload it only hurt performance instead of improving it.
Connections are total connections across both servers.
 Transactions are read only per second.

PgBouncer Testing

In the second setup, I configured pgbench to send traffic to the local HAProxy server which then split the traffic across the two PgBouncer servers. PgBouncer, as stated previously, is not a proxy; it is strictly a connection pool manager. Because of this we have to configure each PgBouncer server to point to a single PostgreSQL instance. HAProxy allows me to split the read traffic across the two PgBouncer servers, which then sends the traffic to the two PostgreSQL servers. PgBouncer server 1 sends traffic to the PostgreSQL master, and PgBouncer server sends traffic to the PosgreSQL replica. In a production setup, your application would have to have the ability to send read traffic to one location and write traffic to another in order to utilize PgBouncer to split read and write traffic. On average, the PgBouncer servers only utilized had 3% CPU utilization. This was because PgBouncer doesn't have a proxy and is not analyzing the queries passing through it.
Connections are total connections across both servers.
 Transactions are read only per second.

PgBouncer --> Pgpool Testing

In my final setup, I noticed that Pgpool didn't handle connections too well and after you went over 100 connections, performance started to be impacted. So I set up a connection limit in PGpool to 100. This way, Pgpool will not degrade in performance with more than 100 connections. Then I placed PGBouncer in front of Pgpool and placed a connection limit within PgBouncer to around 2000 connections so that connections pour into PgBouncer and PgBouncer will manage the connections and queue queries as needed. This way, with a large number of connections coming in, PgBouncer will keep the level of traffic going into Pgpool at its optimal level of 100 connections. I saw an average of around 30% utilization on the proxy layer servers.
Connections are total connections across both servers.
 Transactions are read only per second.

Comparing Results

By utilizing PgBouncer to ensure that Pgpool is getting the optimal amount of connections, we can see that we have significantly improved the performance of Pgpool with a higher number of connections. Going from around 15k transactions/sec at 1000 total connections (500 per server), to ~25k transactions/sec at the same number of connections just by placing PgBouncer in front of it and ensuring that only the optimal number of connections go into Pgpool.

Key Takeaways

  • PgBouncer does not inspect queries and does a beautiful job at managing connections, keeping for very low CPU utilization.
  • If not using Pgpool, then read-write splitting needs to be done by the application. Peak performance is achieved without Pgpool inspecting the traffic, but requires more work in order to split the traffic at the application, and then setting up other methods to route the traffic.
  • Pgpool doesn't manage connections too well as it spawns a new process for each connection on service start. But combined with PgBouncer, it can sustain better performance.
  • Pgpool is a proxy and analyzes the queries, and can route traffic accordingly. It can also detect who the master is in a replication setup and redirect write traffic automatically. This work causes higher CPU utilization on the servers.
  • Pgpool drops in performance with a higher number of connections. With four CPUs, 100 connections per server was around the max before performance started dropping.
  • Pgpool, with over 25 connections, had a performance improvement by adding PgBouncer in front of it. If you need more than 100 connections on each PgPool server, then PgBouncer is a "must have".
  • If you are using Pgpool, it only makes sense to use PgBouncer with it.

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