We continue our exploration of PostgreSQL build system performance. A long time ago, I wrote an article about how to optimize the performance of make install. This was quite helpful, as it reduced the time from 10.493 s by default to 1.654 s with some tweaks (6x faster). Now, with different hardware, a much newer PostgreSQL, and a new build system looming, let’s take another look.

First, let’s check the time for a standard make install run and then how the optimizations suggested in the old article work.

Command macOS 13 Ubunty 22.04
make install 2.384 s 1.472 s
make install enable_nls=no 1.634 s 1.090 s
make install -s 2.342 s 1.326 s
make install -jN 0.984 s 0.666 s
make install enable_nls=no -s -jN 0.784 s 0.464 s

Ok, the default is already much better than in the olden days. But with some additional techniques applied it’s still 3x faster!

There are two tricks suggested in the old article that I did not show here: First, it suggested using dash instead of the default shell bash at the time. The Ubuntu system used here already uses dash by default. I tried dash on the macOS system, but it performed much worse (weird?). Second, the old article suggested overriding the install program. That information is obsolete, because configure has been changed — in response to that article — to pick up an available install program automatically (commit 9db7ccae20).

Now, in order to compare this to Meson below, we need to check make install-world-bin, so that we install the same set of files. So let’s get some baselines with that command.

Command macOS 13 Ubunty 22.04
make install-world-bin 2.905 s 1.806 s
make install-world-bin enable_nls=no -s -jN 0.857 s 0.542 s

So, all the tricks applied get about the same (or even better than) 3x improvement.


Now let’s look at Meson:

Command macOS 13 Ubunty 22.04
meson install 2.822 s 0.556 s
meson install with -Dnls=disabled 2.734 s 0.424 s
meson install --quiet 2.734 s 0.369 s
meson install --quiet --no-rebuild 2.565 s 0.306 s
meson install --quiet --only-changed 0.489 s 0.243 s
meson install --quiet --only-changed --no-rebuild and -Dnls=disabled 0.347 s 0.177 s

Here, there is also a 3x improvement on Ubuntu and up to 8x improvement on macOS.

Some of the available options are different for Meson than for make. Meson doesn’t have an option to run the installation parallelized. (Note that here, it is really Meson doing the installation. Ninja is not involved. You can call ninja install, but it will just call meson install.) This is unfortunate, but it appears that some of the other options can make up for that a bit.

Recall that the installation time is that interesting because the installation is run during the test suite to create a temporary installation. This happens even if you run a small and fast test (say, you only want to run the pg_basebackup test suite). For that use, the --no-rebuild option is useful, because meson test already did the rebuild (unless you did meson test -no-rebuild!), and so meson install doesn’t need to try it again. And the --only-changed option is useful in that case because you know that the previous files in the temporary installation are from your own previous test runs, so you can trust them to be reliable and keep them if they are up to date. As you can see, skipping these extra copies can save a lot of time on some platforms. So these two options are mainly useful for developers in controlled circumstances, but probably not for production installations or packaging. Note that in the current code, the test setup runs meson install with exactly these options, so this is already taken care of. But it’s also useful to use them manually if you are testing with an external installation.

Some conclusions:

  • Using some of the additional make install or meson install option is still useful to get better performance, but some of the previous tricks are thankfully no longer necessary.

  • If you use Meson and run the tests through Meson, you already get most of the advantages automatically.

  • Linux appears to be faster than macOS for this. (We had already observed something similar before.)

Details on tests setup:

  • Tests where run on tag REL_16_RC1.

  • configure command line: ./configure --prefix=somewhere --enable-nls

  • meson command line: meson setup --auto-features=disabled -Dnls=enabled --prefix=somewhere

  • Parallelism was -j12 on macOS and -j4 on Ubuntu. I just took the number of CPU cores. There were clearly diminishing returns past a certain number.