It very much depends on details of your setup and requirements.
Note that since Postgres 11, only adding a column with a volatile
DEFAULT still triggers a table rewrite. Unfortunately, this is your case.
If you have sufficient free space on disk - at least 110 % of
pg_size_pretty((pg_total_relation_size(tbl)) - and can afford a share lock for some time and an exclusive lock for a very short time, then create a new table including the
uuid column using
CREATE TABLE AS. Why?
The below code uses a function from the additional
Lock the table against concurrent changes in
SHARE mode (still allowing concurrent reads). Attempts to write to the table will wait and eventually fail. See below.
Copy the whole table while populating the new column on the fly - possibly ordering rows favorably while being at it.
If you are going to reorder rows, be sure to set
work_mem high enough to do the sort in RAM or as high as you can afford (just for your session, not globally).
Then add constraints, foreign keys, indices, triggers etc. to the new table. When updating large portions of a table it is much faster to create indices from scratch than to add rows iteratively. Related advice in the manual.
When the new table is ready, drop the old and rename the new to make it a drop-in replacement. Only this last step acquires an exclusive lock on the old table for the rest of the transaction - which should be very short now.
It also requires that you delete any object depending on the table type (views, functions using the table type in the signature, ...) and recreate them afterwards.
Do it all in one transaction to avoid incomplete states.
LOCK TABLE tbl IN SHARE MODE;
SET LOCAL work_mem = '???? MB'; -- just for this transaction
CREATE TABLE tbl_new AS
SELECT uuid_generate_v1() AS tbl_uuid, <list of all columns in order>
ORDER BY ??; -- optionally order rows favorably while being at it.
ALTER TABLE tbl_new
ALTER COLUMN tbl_uuid SET NOT NULL
, ALTER COLUMN tbl_uuid SET DEFAULT uuid_generate_v1()
, ADD CONSTRAINT tbl_uuid_uni UNIQUE(tbl_uuid);
-- more constraints, indices, triggers?
DROP TABLE tbl;
ALTER TABLE tbl_new RENAME tbl;
-- recreate views etc. if any
This should be fastest. Any other method of updating in place has to rewrite the whole table as well, just in a more expensive fashion. You would only go that route if you don't have enough free space on disk or cannot afford to lock the whole table or generate errors for concurrent write attempts.
What happens to concurrent writes?
Other transaction (in other sessions) trying to
DELETE in the same table after your transaction has taken the
SHARE lock, will wait until the lock is released or a timeout kicks in, whichever comes first. They will fail either way, since the table they were trying to write to has been deleted from under them.
The new table has a new table OID, but concurrent transaction have already resolved the table name to the OID of the previous table. When the lock is finally released, they try to lock the table themselves before writing to it and find that it's gone. Postgres will answer:
ERROR: could not open relation with OID 123456
123456 is the OID of the old table. You need to catch that exception and retry queries in your app code to avoid it.
If you cannot afford that to happen, you have to keep your original table.
Keeping the existing table, alternative 1
Update in place (possibly running the update on small segments at a time) before you add the
NOT NULL constraint. Adding a new column with NULL values and without
NOT NULL constraint is cheap.
Since Postgres 9.2 you can also create a
CHECK constraint with
The constraint will still be enforced against subsequent inserts or updates
That allows you to update rows peu à peu - in multiple separate transactions. This avoids keeping row locks for too long and it also allows dead rows to be reused. (You'll have to run
VACUUM manually if there is not enough time in between for autovacuum to kick in.) Finally, add the
NOT NULL constraint and remove the
NOT VALID CHECK constraint:
ALTER TABLE tbl ADD CONSTRAINT tbl_no_null CHECK (tbl_uuid IS NOT NULL) NOT VALID;
-- update rows in multiple batches in separate transactions
-- possibly run VACUUM between transactions
ALTER TABLE tbl ALTER COLUMN tbl_uuid SET NOT NULL;
ALTER TABLE tbl ALTER DROP CONSTRAINT tbl_no_null;
Related answer discussing
NOT VALID in more detail:
Keeping the existing table, alternative 2
Prepare the new state in a temporary table,
TRUNCATE the original and refill from the temp table. All in one transaction. You still need to take a
SHARE lock before preparing the new table to prevent losing concurrent writes.
Details in these related answer on SO: