Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How can PostgreSQL 9.3 beta1 help you?

PostgreSQL 9.3 beta1 is now available. Giving early access to software is always a good idea to test out evolutionary, revolutionary, radical ideas because unless it is field tested, it has not gone through its trial by fire to be proven gold.

There are many new changes introduced in PostgreSQL 9.3 beta1 and I do have few favorites in them.

For example Disk page checksums to detect filesystem failures. In fact this would allow VMware to use the now standard disk page checksum instead of a custom feature. This highly debated feature is required to identify silent bit corruptions (or deter malicious ones). I have been told in talks with database administrators (not just PostgreSQL DBAs) that typically in a year they would face one such incident atleast where one of the disk would show such a bit rot which goes unnoticed without any instrumentations to catch it.

Another change that goes in the right direction is how PostgreSQL maps the shared memory. This small change now allows no kernel changes to be done to start the database with a bigger shared buffer pool. This now allows one less cookbook step to be done to get the database working. Considering that in this cloud world where there are 100,000 VMs running databases one less step is a huge increase in productivity since this step actually required privileges higher than the database instance owner.

Yet another favorite feature is the custom background workers. This new mechanism is certainly a popular one in our team at VMware where are using it heavily to move some of the changes that we had done into custom background workers deployed as extensions and allowed us to align with core PostgreSQL and extra features enabled as extensions as needed.

Next I want to talk of three features : Writeable Foreign Tables and pgsql Foreign Data Wrapper and Automatically update VIEWs together. These features on its own itself are very useful and generic. However when used together it actually opens new possibilities using multiple federated PostgreSQL databases shards with single logical view of the whole database as one. Quite Powerful if you think about it. I hope to see people trying these fundamental features into new derived features now made possible.

Also new JSON functions help PostgreSQL on its evolution to be the Data Platform not just for relational data but also document data.

While I have barely scratched the surface of all the new features in PostgreSQL 9.3 beta1, I am already excited with this release and the possibilities I see going forward  in the world of data.
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