CockroachDB vs. PostgreSQL: A Comprehensive Comparison

BlogsData Engineering


In the world of relational databases, two names that often stand out are CockroachDB and PostgreSQL. Both are powerful database management systems with their own unique features and strengths. In this article, we will delve into the similarities and differences between CockroachDB and PostgreSQL, comparing various aspects such as architecture, scalability, performance, and more. By the end, you will have a clearer understanding of which database system suits your specific requirements.

1. Architecture

CockroachDB and PostgreSQL differ significantly in terms of architecture. PostgreSQL follows a traditional single-master architecture, where a single node is responsible for coordinating read and write operations. On the other hand, CockroachDB is built on a distributed architecture inspired by Google's Spanner. It employs a shared-nothing architecture, where data is distributed across multiple nodes, and each node handles a portion of the workload. This distributed design allows CockroachDB to achieve high availability, fault tolerance, and horizontal scalability.


Scalability is a crucial factor to consider when selecting a database system, especially for applications with growing user bases or large datasets. PostgreSQL can scale vertically by adding more resources to a single node, such as increasing CPU or RAM. However, this approach has limitations. CockroachDB, with its distributed architecture, provides horizontal scalability, meaning it can handle increasing workloads by adding more nodes to the cluster. As a result, CockroachDB excels in scenarios where high scalability is required.

3. High Availability and Fault Tolerance

Ensuring high availability and fault tolerance is vital for critical applications that cannot afford downtime or data loss. PostgreSQL supports various replication methods, such as streaming replication and logical replication, to achieve high availability. However, it requires external solutions like PgBouncer or PgPool to manage failover and load balancing. CockroachDB, on the other hand, incorporates built-in replication and fault tolerance mechanisms. It automatically replicates data across nodes and handles failover and rebalancing, offering native support for high availability.

4. Consistency Models

Consistency models define the behavior of a database system when handling concurrent read and write operations. PostgreSQL follows a traditional ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) model, ensuring strong consistency. It guarantees that each transaction will see a consistent snapshot of the database. CockroachDB, while also adhering to ACID principles, takes a different approach. It utilizes a distributed consensus algorithm called Raft to achieve strong consistency across nodes. This makes it suitable for globally distributed applications where maintaining consistency across geographically distant nodes is crucial.

5. SQL Support and Features

Both CockroachDB and PostgreSQL support SQL and offer a wide range of features. PostgreSQL has been around for a long time and has a mature ecosystem with extensive SQL support and a rich set of features, including advanced indexing options, full-text search, and support for custom data types. CockroachDB aims to be compatible with PostgreSQL's SQL dialect, ensuring most PostgreSQL queries and statements work seamlessly. However, CockroachDB may have some limitations or differences in terms of specific features or optimizations due to its distributed nature.

6. Performance

When it comes to performance, both CockroachDB and PostgreSQL can deliver excellent results, but the specific use case and workload play a significant role. PostgreSQL's single-node architecture may provide better performance for certain scenarios that do not require massive horizontal scalability. CockroachDB's distributed architecture allows it to scale out and handle high write and read workloads across multiple nodes, making it an ideal choice for highly concurrent applications or scenarios with rapidly growing data.

7. Community and Ecosystem

The community and ecosystem surrounding a database system can have a significant impact on its development, support, and availability of third-party tools.

PostgreSQL has a vast and active community that has been growing for several decades. It has a rich ecosystem with numerous extensions, libraries, and tools developed by the community. PostgreSQL also has a robust documentation and online resources, making it easy to find support and solutions to common problems.

CockroachDB, although relatively newer compared to PostgreSQL, has been gaining popularity and building its own community. While the CockroachDB community may not be as large as PostgreSQL's, it is vibrant and continuously growing. Cockroach Labs, the company behind CockroachDB, provides comprehensive documentation, tutorials, and support channels to assist developers and users.

In terms of ecosystem, PostgreSQL has a wider range of third-party tools and integrations due to its long-standing presence. It has excellent compatibility with various frameworks, ORMs (Object-Relational Mappers), and data analysis tools. CockroachDB, being compatible with PostgreSQL's SQL dialect, can leverage many of these existing tools and integrations. However, it's worth noting that not all PostgreSQL extensions or tools may work seamlessly with CockroachDB due to differences in the underlying architecture and distributed nature of CockroachDB.

8. Use Cases

Both CockroachDB and PostgreSQL are versatile and can be used for a wide range of applications. PostgreSQL is a mature and battle-tested database system, making it suitable for traditional use cases, such as web applications, content management systems, and data analytics. It is widely adopted by enterprises and has proven its reliability over time.

CockroachDB, with its distributed architecture and focus on scalability, is well-suited for applications that require high availability, fault tolerance, and global distribution of data. It can handle use cases that demand low-latency access to data from geographically distributed locations, such as multi-region applications or systems with a large user base.

9. Transactions and Concurrency Control

PostgreSQL has a long history of supporting complex transactions and advanced concurrency control mechanisms. It provides features like Serializable Isolation, which ensures the highest level of isolation between concurrent transactions. PostgreSQL's concurrency control mechanisms are well-suited for applications with heavy transactional workloads.

CockroachDB also supports transactions and concurrency control but takes a different approach due to its distributed nature. It employs distributed transactions and utilizes a hybrid logical clock mechanism called Hybrid Logical Clocks (HLC) to maintain causal consistency across distributed nodes. CockroachDB's distributed transactions offer serializability guarantees and can span across multiple nodes, enabling consistency across geographically distributed data.

10. Replication and Sharding

PostgreSQL offers various replication methods, such as streaming replication and logical replication, which allow you to replicate data to standby servers for high availability and read scalability. Sharding, which involves partitioning data across multiple nodes, can be achieved in PostgreSQL using extensions like pg_shard or custom application-level sharding.

CockroachDB, being built with a distributed architecture, incorporates automatic data replication and sharding natively. It uses a technique called range partitioning, where data is automatically divided into ranges and distributed across nodes. CockroachDB handles data replication and rebalancing seamlessly as the cluster scales, simplifying the management of a distributed database.

11. Cloud-Native Capabilities

CockroachDB has been designed with cloud-native deployments in mind. It offers built-in features that align well with cloud environments, such as automatic scaling, load balancing, and easy deployment across multiple cloud providers or on-premises infrastructure. CockroachDB's distributed nature makes it an ideal choice for applications that need to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities and scale dynamically based on demand.

PostgreSQL, while not specifically designed for cloud environments, can still be deployed and managed in the cloud. However, it may require additional configuration and management to fully leverage the cloud's benefits, such as auto-scaling and managed database services.

12. Licensing

Another difference between CockroachDB and PostgreSQL lies in their licensing. PostgreSQL is an open-source database released under the PostgreSQL License, which allows for free use, modification, and distribution. This open-source nature has contributed to its large and active community.

CockroachDB, on the other hand, is also open source but uses a different licensing model. It is released under the Business Source License (BSL), which means it can be used freely but imposes certain limitations on the redistribution of the source code. Cockroach Labs, the company behind CockroachDB, provides additional enterprise features and support through a commercial license.


In conclusion, both CockroachDB and PostgreSQL are powerful relational database management systems with their own unique strengths. PostgreSQL offers a mature ecosystem, strong consistency, and extensive SQL support, making it a reliable choice for a wide range of applications. CockroachDB, on the other hand, excels in scalability, high availability, and fault tolerance, making it an excellent option for applications that require distributed data and global access.

The choice between CockroachDB and PostgreSQL ultimately depends on your specific requirements including scalability needs, desired consistency models, geographic distribution of data, and the level of community support you require. Understanding the architectural differences, performance characteristics, and ecosystem considerations will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your application's needs.

Written by
Soham Dutta


CockroachDB vs. PostgreSQL: A Comprehensive Comparison