The first beta for PostgreSQL 8.4 is now out, including dozens of new features and hundreds of patches according to developers. The new release (once finalized) will be the first major release for PostgreSQL since 8.3 came out in February of 2008.
Performance is a key theme in the release overall with improvements across the database. Among them is something called Parallel Restore which is improved in 8.4 to be multi-threaded (and ready for multi-core CPUs). Free Space Map auto-tuning is another key performance improvement as is a new visibility map.
PostgreSQL 8.4 also makes a few improvements on the security side with improved SSL certificate support.
Then there are new SQL improvements that expand the capabilities with, Common Table Expressions & Recursive Joins as well as Default & Variadic parameters for functions.
The timing of the PostgreSQL 8.4 beta is particularly interesting. Next week, MySQL kicks off its annual users conference, amid new speculation that Sun will be bought by IBM — and the recent departures of Monty Widenius and Marten Mickos.