RealTime IT News

PostgreSQL: 10 Years And Counting

TORONTO -- What would a birthday party be without presents? Good thing PostgreSQL didn't have to find out.

The open source database project celebrated its 10th year this weekend at its Anniversary Summit event held here.

PostgreSQL luminary Bruce Momjian's keynote highlighted the birthday celebration, which included 41 speakers spread across 20 sessions. The event also yielded a number of "presents" from some of PostegreSQL's corporate friends including Skype, Sun Microsystems and EnterpriseDB among others.

Though PostgreSQL is officially celebrating its 10th anniversary, the underlying technology from which it spun off is double that age.

UC Berkely launched the Postgres project in 1985 under its own BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) open source license. Postgre went through a number of iterations until 1994 when it released Postgres95, which included a SQL language interpreter.

In 1996, Marc Fournier, together with Bruce Momjian and others, spun Postgres95 out from its UC Berkeley academic confines and began the open source effort renamed PostgreSQL.

"When we started this project we kind of had this sort of duct tape and chewing gum kind of feel to it," Momjian told the assembled PostgreSQL faithful.

"We never really anticipated the kind of history that we've had in the past decade and I don't think anyone could have really understood it."

Momjian recounted how in the early years of the project, he would spend a lot of time working on the project and never had the expectation of receiving any kind of compensation for it.

In fact he had hoped that neither his employer or his wife would find out how much time he was actually spending on the project.

"When I had to fess up to my wife and she asked why aren't you spending time with the family, I didn't really have a good answer for that," Momjian remarked as the audience erupted into laughter.

Things did change over time and Momjian recounted in a visual exercise of pressed PostgreSQL CDs how various PostgreSQL backers have come and gone. More developers became involved with the project and the code grew.

Details of how PostgreSQL code will grow emerged over the course of the two-day weekend event.

Skype, which sponsored the event, presented two new pieces of PostgreSQL technology. Skype developer Hannu Krosing said in a presentation that the company was looking to scale to up to a billion customers.

PostgreSQL, which Skype uses, does not scale as easily as Krosing would like and, as such, he determined that Skype (and by extension PostgreSQL) needs horizontal partitioning.

To that end Krosing detailed a new technology called PL/Proxy, which is a new language for data partitioning.

"If any partition server fails, only data on that partition is unavailable during partition server failover," Krosing explained.

"If there are performance problems with partition servers just add more partitions."

Skype also has improved management of PostgreSQL databases.

Skype developer Akso Oja detailed something he called SkyTools, which help Skype (and now other PostgreSQL users) solve certain management tasks, including hot-failover, generic queuing and replication.

Developers from Japan's NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) detailed in a session four new pieces of technology to enhance PostgreSQL, including a new checkpoint algorithm, a high-speed loader, a parallel database system and backup improvements.

In another session, Sun Microsystems, which is now a major backer of PostgreSQL, discussed the inclusion of its DTrace technology in the project.

EnterpriseDB, which is commercializing PostgreSQL in addition to being a major sponsor, announced a $25,000 donation to the project.

Not bad for a 10 year old.

In the end though, the success of PostgreSQL, as with any open source project, is ultimately about the people who are involved in its community.

"Probably the biggest thing that strikes me is the dedication that everyone in this room has to work in the community and help other engineers solve their problems," Momjian said.

"I think that's really what makes the community what it is and I think it's what helps to retain a lot of people, helps to make things happen and make Postgres what it is today."