v4 Feature Guide

Though the entry point to v4 is almost identical to v3 (with a few additional options!), the guts of PostGraphile have been re-written from the ground up - about 80% of the codebase has been replaced with the new Graphile Engine system which is plugin-based.

Despite this huge change, v4 is still broadly compatible with v3; you can read more about migrating from v3 to v4 in our migration guide.

Headlines:

  • 🚀🚀🚀 Massively improved base performance: up to 55x faster, 90% reduced RAM, 1/20th latency
  • Cluster mode (--cluster-workers 4) for even greater performance still (uses more cores, RAM)
  • Plugin system - no need to maintain a fork; mix and match additional functionality
  • Tidier schema:

    • PostgreSQL extension resources automatically omitted (disable with --include-extension-resources)
    • with --no-ignore-rbac, automatically omit tables and columns you don't have permission to access
    • smart comments for omitting, renaming and deprecating things easily
    • write your own naming functions if you don't like the built in ones!

      • userByAuthorId becomes just author with the help of @graphile-contrib/pg-simplify-inflector
  • One-to-one relationships detected correctly (connection interface still present but deprecated)
  • Simple collections: option to avoid edges / nodes should you so desire
  • GraphQL query batching
  • orderBy more than one column
  • GraphiQL improvements around watch mode
  • Introspection cache (--read-cache / --write-cache)
  • Better errors - with details on why it's occurred and often hints on how to fix!
  • Support for PostgreSQL v10 identity columns
  • Support for actually starting against PostgreSQL v11
  • Support for [email protected] npm module
  • Support for [email protected]
  • PostGraphileRC configuration file
  • CLI --no-server option for writing out GraphQL schema and exiting
  • Better support for common envvars
  • TypeScript typings bundled
  • Lots more hidden features
  • Many many many many fixes
  • Much better PostgreSQL feature support

Performance: goodbye N+1 queries!

The performance of PostGraphile has massively increased over PostGraphQL v3; and the memory usage has decreased too! If you run your database and PostGraphile on different servers then you should find query times are improved even further by the (significant!) reduction in the number of SQL queries that we generate.

I created an example database schema based on the forum example (but with some bells and whistles), filled it with some data, and then benchmarked a number of queries against it (running everything locally on my machine (a 2011 iMac), using the latest LTS release of Node.js for both v3 and v4).

The most extreme improvements came in the form of ThreadViewWithEmoji.graphql. This is a query that emulates loading the data to show a single thread page within a complex forum - the thread itself (and its author), plus the first 20 posts within that thread, their authors, and the emoji responses that each of the posts have received. It uses a computed column for the user fullNames, but other than that it's just regular relations. Here's the results of v4 vs v3 for this query:

  • at concurrency = 1: 12x more requests/second, 90% reduction in RAM usage, and less than 1/10th the latency
  • at concurrency = 10: 17x more requests/second, 92% reduction in RAM usage, and nearly 1/20th the latency
  • at concurrency = 100: 55x more requests/second, 91% reduction in RAM usage, and around 1/40th the latency

Simpler queries still reveal good performance improvements. All in all, PostGraphile v4 is capable of scaling much better than v3. There's still lots of performance improvements to be made - we're not resting on our laurels!

Plugins plugins plugins

PostGraphile's schema generation (and even the introspection itself!) are now provided by a number of Graphile Engine plugins. Graphile Engine was invented for PostGraphile (though it is also suitable for use in other GraphQL projects) to enable easy extensibility of the core system. This means we can now have community led feature development such as postgraphile-plugin-connection-filter (which adds a much more powerful filter engine to PostGraphile that the built in condition argument) without having to have users maintain forks of the project. These plugins can be maintained separately, and might be merged into core at a later point.

It's also possible to turn off, or even replace, built in plugins - and of course to add your own. So you can really customise PostGraphile now! See Schema Plugins for more information.

Tidier schema

PostGraphile no longer includes resources from extensions automatically, so your schema by default only includes the functionality you've added yourself. (Go back to the old behaviour with --include-extension-resources.)

We highly recommend you enable the new --no-ignore-rbac option which tells PostGraphile to omit anything from your GraphQL schema that you do not have access to. This means that if you only do GRANT UPDATE (name, bio) ON users TO graphql_visitor; then the update mutation will only expose the name and bio fields. No more useless GraphQL fields that throw errors when you attempt to use them! This option will probably be enabled by default in v5.

Omitting things

If there's something (a column, table, function, filter, relation) that you don't want to express to GraphQL you can now remove it using our smart comments feature. This feature is highly flexible, so get in touch if you can think of more ways for it to help you build your perfect schema!

Deprecating tables/columns/functions

It's also possible to deprecate fields, tables, functions, etc by adding a "smart comment"; e.g.

comment on column c.person.site is E'@deprecated Use `website` instead\nThe user''s homepage';

Naming things

You no longer have to trust us to come up with the best names for your fields. You can override individual fields using our smart comments feature, or override the names that we auto-generate by using a plugin to override our inflectors with your own.

These naming overrides can be shared like other plugins, for example I've written @graphile-contrib/pg-simplify-inflector which changes fields like userByAuthorId: User into simply author: User - I recommend you check it out.

One-to-one relationships

If you have tables like this:

create table foo (
  id serial primary key
);

create table bar (
  foo_id int not null primary key references foo,
  name text
);

in V3 the one-to-one nature of the relationship was not accounted for, so you would have to query like:

{
  fooById(id: 1) {
    # Due to this being one-to-one, at most one row would ever be returned,
    # however we didn't account for this and returned a connection anyway
    barsByFooId {
      edges {
        node {
          name
        }
      }
    }
  }
}

with v4's native support for these relations you can now use this much neater query:

{
  fooById(id: 1) {
    barByFooId {
      name
    }
  }
}

No more unnecessary indirection!

Don't worry though, we still have the old relation too (to prevent this being a breaking change), we've just deprecated it so it won't show up by default in autocomplete/documentation/etc.

Simple collections

PostGraphile has long supported Relay-compatible connections, but it now supports simple list-based collections too. They're disabled by default, but you can enable both interfaces with --simple-collections both or use the simpler interface exclusively with --simple-collections only.

GraphQL query batching

With the --enable-query-batching option for the CLI; or enableQueryBatching: true for the library you can enable our experimental Query Batching support.

Your GraphQL client will need query batching support to make use of this (non-batched queries still work fine).

For Apollo, you can use the BatchHttpLink link - something like:

import { ApolloClient } from 'apollo-client';
import { BatchHttpLink } from "apollo-link-batch-http";

const link = new BatchHttpLink({ uri: "/graphql" });

const client = new ApolloClient({
  link,
  // other options like cache
});

Order! Order!

Connections now support ordering by an array of columns rather than just one - a much requested feature!

Cache invalidation (Serverless)

People have been running PostGraphile on AWS Lambda and similar environments, and one of the common issues that I hear is that boot up time is too slow. V4 addresses this in two ways:

  1. we offer the --read-cache and --write-cache options that allow plugins (including the introspection plugin!) to cache work that they do up front - note that we do not handle invalidating this cache, so that remains your responsibility.
  2. by changing the minimum requirements of PostGraphile to Node.js 8.6 we can make use of native async/await support, resulting in much less code for Node to parse and execute.

Better support, better errors

  • Many previously invalid enums are now made valid
  • When the introspection results in an empty name, an error is thrown explaining why
  • When schema building results in a naming clash, an error it thrown explaining where the two names originated, and even hinting how to fix the issue
  • When you specify --schema and that schema doesn't exist, you will be warned
  • Tables that end in _input or _patch are renamed to FooInputRecord or similar to avoid clashes with mutation types on other tables
  • Support point, hstore and inet types

Column-level SELECT grants may now work

As part of the performance work, we now select only the fields we need (and we also inline computed columns, in case you're interested!). As such, if you have column-level SELECT grants you may find that this works with PostGraphile now. Note, however, that this will not work with PostGraphile's default mutations, nor with some computed columns. We do not recommend using column-level SELECT grants - instead split your concerns into multiple tables and use the one-to-one relationship feature to link them.

[email protected] and duck-typed pg

In v3 it was quite common to have conflicts with pg - where you had your own version installed, and PostGraphile installed it's own version, and when you passed a pgPool over to PostGraphile it would throw an error. Well no more! We now look at the pgPool you've handed us and if it quacks like a duck pg.Pool then we'll trust you and treat it as a pg.Pool.

Lots of hidden features

There's absolutely loads of things going on under the hood that we've not officially exposed yet. You can use some of this goodness (e.g. pgColumnFilter) by tapping into the graphileBuildOptions setting, but you'll currently have to go digging to see what they are and how they work; and until they're documented they're seen as experimental so there's no guarantees that they won't be removed or modified.

  • handleErrors for overriding how errors are output
  • X-GraphQL-Event-Stream header support
  • using variables in JSON subfields
  • prettier for code formatting