PostgreSQL, or as it is commonly known “Postgres”, is an object-relational database management system (ORDBMS) that emphasises extensibility and standards-compliance. As a database server, its main function is to store data, securely while using the best practices available, and retrieve it later, when requested by other software applications. It does this on the same computer or those running on another computer across a network or the internet.
PostgreSQL can handle any size workload, ranging from small single-machine applications to large internet-facing applications with many concurrent users. Recent versions also include replication of the database itself for security and scalability.
PostgreSQL implements the majority of the SQL:2011 standard, is ACID-compliant and transactional, including DDL statements. The system also avoids locking issues using multiversion concurrency control (MVCC), provides immunity to dirty reads and full serializability, while handling complex SQL queries using many indexing methods that are not available in other databases.
PostgreSQL provides updatable views and materialized views, triggers, foreign keys and supports functions and stored procedures, along with other expandability. There are also a large number of extensions written by third parties.
In addition to the possibility of working with the major proprietary and open source databases, PostgreSQL supports migration from them, by its extensive standard SQL support and available migration tools.
PostgreSQL is cross-platform and runs on many operating systems including Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and Microsoft Windows. Mac OS X, starting with OS X 10.7 Lion, offers the server as its standard default database in the server edition, and PostgreSQL client tools in the desktop edition.
How it all started
PostgreSQL evolved from the Ingres project at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1982, the project leader, Michael Stonebraker, left Berkeley to make a proprietary version of Ingres. Returning in 1985, Stonebraker started a post-Ingres project to address the problems with contemporary database systems that had become increasingly clear during the early 1980s.
The new project was POSTGRES, and was focused on adding the fewest features needed to completely support types. These features included the ability to define types and to fully describe relationships, something that was widely used in the past but maintained completely by the user. In Postgres, the database “understood” relationships, and could retrieve information in related tables in a natural way using rules. Postgres used many of the ideas of Ingres, but not its code.
PostgreSQL 9.4 Beta
On May 15th PostgreSQL 9.4 Beta was released.This is the latest version of the database management system which contains the following features:
• JSONB: 9.4 includes the new JSONB “binary JSON type. This new storage format for document data is higher-performance, and comes with indexing functions and operators for manipulating JSON data.
• Replication: The new Data Change Streaming API allows decoding and transformation of the replication stream. This lays the foundation for new replication tools that support high-speed and more flexible replication and scale-out solutions.
• Materialized views with “Refresh Concurrently”, which permit fast-response background summary reports for complex data.
• ALTER SYSTEM SET, which enables modifications to postgresql.conf from the SQL command line and from remote clients, easing administration tasks.
These features expand the capabilities of PostgreSQL, and introduce new syntax, APIs and management interfaces.
There are several other secondary features which include:
• Dynamic Background Workers
• Replication Slots
• Write Scalability improvements
• Aggregate performance improvements
• Reductions in WAL volume
• GIN indexes up to 50% smaller and faster
• Updatable security barrier views
• New array manipulation and table functions
• Time-delayed standbys
• MVCC system catalog updates
• Decrease lock level for some ALTER TABLE commands
• Backup throttling
• WITHIN GROUP
Along with all of these changes, there have been several internal changes in the inner workings of the Write Ahead Log (WAL), GIN indexes, replication, aggregation and management of the system catalogs.
The PostgreSQL community appears confident that as systems like MongoDB grow in popularity, relational systems will keep on advancing and this latest release shows this.
“We definitely see PostgreSQL evolving with new capabilities popularized by NoSQL,” chief architect at PostgreSQL company EnterpriseDB, Robert Haas said. “PostgreSQL is a relational database, so it is very flexible and extensible, and as new formats like JSON emerge and become popular, it’s natural for us to introduce support for those in PostgreSQL… And with the HSTORE contrib module, PostgreSQL has had the capacity to support key/value stores since 2006, pre-dating many of the NoSQL advances.”
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