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

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

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

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.”

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