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Being at the MySQL User Conference: how Postgres fits in

By Selena Deckelmann · April 30, 2009

Tags: conference, database, open-source, postgres

I spent last week in Santa Clara attending the MySQL User Conference. Friends had clued me in that the conference was going to be a riot - with developers from the many forks of MySQL in attendance, all vying for spotlight, and to differentiate themselves from the MySQL core code.

The Oracle announcement of acquiring Sun cast an uncertain and uncomfortable light over the talks about forks, community and the future of MySQL. Many people wondered aloud what development on the core of MySQL’s code would be like now, and what would become of the remaining MySQL engineers.

Would the engineers defect to Monty’s new company? Will Oracle end support of MySQL development? How would MySQL end users feel about the changes? Would there be a surge in interest in Postgres, my favorite open source database?

Of course, it’s a bit early to tell. So, I’ve really got two posts about the trip, and this first one is about PostgreSQL, aka Postgres.

There’s a huge opportunity right now for Postgres to tell its story. Not because of a specific failure on the part of MySQL, but because the Oracle acquisition has raised the consciousness of all of mainstream tech. Developers and IT managers are taking a serious look at Postgres for new development projects, and evaluating their database technology choices with an eye toward whatever Oracle decides to do.

In this window of uncertainty is an opportunity for Postgres advocates to explain what it is that draws us to the project.

As a developer and a sysadmin, my enthusiasm for Postgres comes directly from the people that work on the code. The love of their craft - developing beautiful, purpose-built code - is reflected in the product, the mailing lists and the individuals who make up our community.

When someone asks me why I choose Postgres, I have to first answer that it is because of the people I know who are involved in the project. I trust them, and believe that they make the best technology decisions when it comes to the core of the code.

I believe that there’s room for improvement in extending Postgres’ reach, and speaking to people who don’t already believe the same things that we believe: that conforming to the SQL standard is fundamentally a useful and important goal, that vertical scaling is an important design objective, and that consistency is just as important to excellent user experience as are verbose command names and syntactic sugar extensions.

All of those issues are debated when discussing (typically by people outside of the Postgres community) how the Postgres development is prioritized and how this community works. It is inarguable that in the web space, Postgres lost the race. But the initial goal of the project, I’d argue, wasn’t necessarily to be the most popular end-user database. Now, that may have changed... :)

Meantime, the Postgres community continues to mature. There are clear constraints we need to overcome on the people side. Two that I think about frequently are the need for more code reviewers for patch review and testing, and smoothing over our prickly mailing-list reputation by getting more volunteers responding to requests for information the lists.

During a particularly raucous panel session at the Percona Performance Conference, a friend in the Postgres community commented that he was so happy that our community didn’t have the issues that the MySQL community has. And I said to him that it’s just a matter of time before we experience those issues if Postgres grows as MySQL has.

We will have issues with forks, conflicts and deep-cutting (founded, or unfounded) criticism. So, my advice to all the people I know in the Postgres community is to pay attention to what is happening with MySQL right now, because we can only benefit from being prepared.