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Redshift Database Information Schema

Redshift Database Information Schema


This article delves into the Redshift database schema, specifically focusing on its information schema implementation. We’ll explore how it compares to similar tools in other database systems, such as Microsoft SQL Server and PostgreSQL. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of how to leverage Redshift’s system tables to optimize your data management strategies.

What is an Information Schema in MS SQL Server?

Before we dive into Redshift’s specifics, let’s start with a familiar reference point: Microsoft SQL Server’s Information Schema.

Understanding the Basics

In MS SQL Server, the Information Schema is a set of views that provide metadata about the objects in a database. It’s a standardized way to access information about tables, columns, views, and other database objects.

For example, to view all tables in a database using MS SQL Server’s Information Schema, you might use a query like this:


This query would return a list of all base tables in the current database.

Redshift Database Schema: Information Tools

Now, let’s turn our attention to Redshift, an Amazon Web Services petabyte-scale data warehouse. While Redshift is based on PostgreSQL, it has its own set of system tables and views that serve a similar purpose to the Information Schema in other database systems.

System Tables in Redshift

Redshift provides a set of system tables that store metadata about the cloud data, its tables, and other objects. These system tables are prefixed with “PG_” and “STL_”, “STV_”, or “SVV_”.

Redshift Database Information Schema - System Tables Diagram

Here are some key system tables in Redshift:

  1. PG_TABLE_DEF: Contains information about table definitions.
  2. SVV_COLUMNS: Provides a view of all columns in the database.
  3. SVV_TABLES: Offers a view of all tables in the database.

Let’s look at an example of how to use these tables:

SELECT tablename, "column", type, encoding
FROM pg_table_def
WHERE schemaname = 'public';

This query will return information about all columns in tables within the ‘public’ schema, including their names, data types, and encoding.

Redshift Database Schema Queries

To get a comprehensive view of your Redshift database schema, you can use queries that combine information from multiple system tables. Here’s an example:

n.nspname AS schema_name,
c.relname AS table_name,
a.attname AS column_name,
t.typname AS data_type
pg_catalog.pg_class c
pg_catalog.pg_namespace n ON n.oid = c.relnamespace
pg_catalog.pg_attribute a ON a.attrelid = c.oid
pg_catalog.pg_type t ON t.oid = a.atttypid
c.relkind = 'r' -- Only regular tables
AND n.nspname NOT IN ('pg_catalog', 'information_schema')
AND a.attnum > 0 -- Exclude system columns
schema_name, table_name, a.attnum;

This query provides a detailed view of your Redshift database schema, including schema names, table names, column names, and data types.

Comparing Redshift and PostgreSQL Information Tools

Given that Redshift is based on PostgreSQL, it’s natural to wonder about the similarities and differences in their information schema tools.

PostgreSQL Information Schema

PostgreSQL, like MS SQL Server, has an INFORMATION_SCHEMA that complies with the SQL standard. It provides views that offer information about all database objects.

For example, to list all tables in PostgreSQL, you might use:

SELECT table_name
FROM information_schema.tables
WHERE table_schema = 'public';

Redshift vs PostgreSQL

While Redshift is based on PostgreSQL, it doesn’t include the standard INFORMATION_SCHEMA. Instead, it provides its own system tables and views. This is due to Redshift’s specialized nature as a columnar data warehouse, which requires different optimization and management tools.

However, many of the concepts are similar. For instance, where PostgreSQL has information_schema.tables, Redshift has SVV_TABLES. Both provide metadata about tables in the database, but the specifics of what information is available and how it’s accessed may differ.

Leveraging Redshift’s System Tables for Performance Optimization

Understanding Redshift’s system tables can help you optimize your database performance. Let’s explore some practical applications.

Identifying Table Skew

Table skew occurs when data is unevenly distributed across slices in Redshift. This can lead to performance issues. You can use system tables to identify skew:

trim(name) AS table,
count(*) AS num_values,
cast(100 * ratio_to_report(count(*)) over () AS decimal(5,2)) AS pct_of_total
FROM svv_diskusage
WHERE name IN ('your_table_name')
GROUP BY name, slice
ORDER BY name, slice;

This query shows the distribution of data across slices for a specific table, helping you identify potential skew issues.

Monitoring Query Performance

Redshift’s STL_QUERY and SVL_QUERY_SUMMARY tables can help you monitor query performance:

q.elapsed/1000000 AS elapsed_seconds,
s.maxtime/1000000 AS step_seconds,
FROM stl_query q
JOIN svl_query_summary s ON q.query = s.query
WHERE q.starttime >= DATEADD(hour, -1, GETDATE())
ORDER BY q.query, s.segment, s.step;

This query provides detailed information about queries run in the last hour, including their execution time and resource usage.

Best Practices for Using Redshift’s Information Schema

To make the most of Redshift’s system tables and views, consider the following best practices:

  1. Regularly monitor table statistics using SVV_TABLE_INFO to ensure your tables are optimized.
  2. Use STL_ALERT_EVENT_LOG to identify and address performance issues proactively.
  3. Leverage SVV_VACUUM_PROGRESS to monitor and manage VACUUM operations.
  4. Utilize SVV_DATASHARE_OBJECTS to manage data sharing across Redshift clusters.

Remember, while these system tables provide valuable insights, querying them frequently can impact performance. Use them judiciously and consider caching results where appropriate.


Understanding and effectively using Redshift’s information schema tools is crucial for managing and optimizing your data warehouse. While it differs from the standard INFORMATION_SCHEMA found in SQL Server and PostgreSQL, Redshift’s system tables and views offer powerful capabilities for monitoring, troubleshooting, and optimizing your database.

By leveraging these tools, you can gain deep insights into your Redshift database schema, monitor performance, and make informed decisions about data management and query optimization. As with any powerful tool, use these capabilities wisely to balance insight gathering with overall system performance.

For those seeking advanced database security and compliance tools, consider exploring DataSunrise. Our user-friendly and flexible solutions offer comprehensive database protection. Visit our website for an online demo and discover how you can enhance your database security today.


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