41.3. Memory Management

Table of Contents
SPI_palloc -- allocate memory in the upper executor context
SPI_repalloc -- reallocate memory in the upper executor context
SPI_pfree -- free memory in the upper executor context
SPI_copytuple -- make a copy of a row in the upper executor context
SPI_returntuple -- prepare to return a tuple as a Datum
SPI_modifytuple -- create a row by replacing selected fields of a given row
SPI_freetuple -- free a row allocated in the upper executor context
SPI_freetuptable -- free a row set created by SPI_execute or a similar function
SPI_freeplan -- free a previously saved plan

PostgreSQL allocates memory within memory contexts, which provide a convenient method of managing allocations made in many different places that need to live for differing amounts of time. Destroying a context releases all the memory that was allocated in it. Thus, it is not necessary to keep track of individual objects to avoid memory leaks; instead only a relatively small number of contexts have to be managed. palloc and related functions allocate memory from the "current" context.

SPI_connect creates a new memory context and makes it current. SPI_finish restores the previous current memory context and destroys the context created by SPI_connect. These actions ensure that transient memory allocations made inside your procedure are reclaimed at procedure exit, avoiding memory leakage.

However, if your procedure needs to return an object in allocated memory (such as a value of a pass-by-reference data type), you cannot allocate that memory using palloc, at least not while you are connected to SPI. If you try, the object will be deallocated by SPI_finish, and your procedure will not work reliably. To solve this problem, use SPI_palloc to allocate memory for your return object. SPI_palloc allocates memory in the "upper executor context", that is, the memory context that was current when SPI_connect was called, which is precisely the right context for a value returned from your procedure.

If SPI_palloc is called while the procedure is not connected to SPI, then it acts the same as a normal palloc. Before a procedure connects to the SPI manager, the current memory context is the upper executor context, so all allocations made by the procedure via palloc or by SPI utility functions are made in this context.

When SPI_connect is called, the private context of the procedure, which is created by SPI_connect, is made the current context. All allocations made by palloc, repalloc, or SPI utility functions (except for SPI_copytuple, SPI_returntuple, SPI_modifytuple, and SPI_palloc) are made in this context. When a procedure disconnects from the SPI manager (via SPI_finish) the current context is restored to the upper executor context, and all allocations made in the procedure memory context are freed and cannot be used any more.

All functions described in this section may be used by both connected and unconnected procedures. In an unconnected procedure, they act the same as the underlying ordinary server functions (palloc, etc.).