With the 7.5 release of PostgreSQL not too far away, and news of new
features sponsored by Fujitsu and Software Research Associates (SRA)
we decided to take a look at the PostgreSQL project and what users might be
able to expect in the coming months. We spoke to PostgreSQL steering
committee member Bruce Momjian about the upcoming 7.5 release, and the
"state" of PostgreSQL. According to Momjian, "the project is doing
We're very organized and thorough in the way we do stuff. That's kind of
paid off [in that] every three or four months it seems like we're making
another kind of milestone in what we can do with Postgres in terms of
adoption and features. It's kind of hard to put it into words, I've stopped
getting surprised at how successful it's been.
Though each new release is a milestone, Momjian said that the 7.5 release
would have an unusual number of new features. In part, that's thanks to
Fujitsu and SRA underwriting the development of tablespaces, nested transactions development and support for Java server-side programming. Momjian is employed by SRA to work with PostgreSQL and the community, and says the
company approached him to broker arrangements with developers already
working on those features:
Big missing functionality typically takes weeks to develop, very hard for
developers to spend weeks volunteering, they've got to put food on the
table. Fujitsu would supply X amount of money for the amount of time
they're spending working on these features, [which were] very slow going
because they were only spending a few hours a week... the infusion of cash
allowed them to commit weeks.
The tablespace feature will allow a database to be spread across multiple
storage devices. Currently, PostgreSQL requires all of a database to exist
on a single filesystem. This can be a problem for performance and space
reasons. In 7.5, by default, PostgreSQL will continue to store everything
on the same filesystem, but Momjian said that an administrator will be able
to use tablespaces to move a table or entire database to another
filesystem. Even better, Momjian says that this will not impact an
application using the database -- so existing applications will not need to
be rewritten to use a database that takes advantage of tablespaces.
Oracle users and developers will know nested transactions by the name
"savepoints." This feature in 7.5 will give developers "better
control over failure cases with multi-statement locks" and allow
developers a better option than simply causing an entire transaction to
fail if one statement fails. Momjian noted that PostgreSQL already had
"a robust system" but that developers porting applications
from Oracle needed finer control than the current PostgreSQL system
allows. "Some applications needed logic that would say 'I want to try
inserting, but if that fails, I want to do something else.'"
Another feature in 7.5 of interest to many users will be point-in-time
recovery. With point-in-time recovery, PostgreSQL will allow users to
recover information "up to the instant of hardware failure."
Of course, not all PostgreSQL users are defectors from the Oracle camp. The
focus of late for many open source projects seems to be on the "enterprise"
features, which might lead hobbyist and small business users to wonder
whether those projects will continue to be suitable for their use. We asked
whether focus on enterprise features might detract from the "little guy,"
and he said that while PostgreSQL 7.5 will have many features that are
aimed directly at the enterprise users, the PostgreSQL project isn't losing
sight of the small-scale users. In fact, there are several features that
are directly aimed at the little guy rather than enterprise users.
One of those features is direct import of comma-separated value (CSV)
files. Momjian said that many users have asked for the ability to directly
import a CSV file produced by a spreadsheet program or other utility. Prior
to 7.5, users would have to convert those files into a suitable format for
PostgreSQL to import using a Perl script or other utility -- but with 7.5
users will be able to "load CSV natively right into Postgres."
Another "little guy" feature of interest in 7.5 is the ability to change
the data type of a column. In prior versions of PostgreSQL, it would be
necessary to add a new column, import data from the existing column into
the new column, drop the old column and then rename the new column to
change the data type. In 7.5, users will be able to simply alter the
data type of a column in one easy step.
Momjian also said that the Postgres developers do worry about "bloat," and
that "we've managed to come very far with adding features, without
impacting performance or readability [of the PostgreSQL code.]" On
average, he said that PostgreSQL adds "maybe 50,000 lines every year
to the code...no feature goes in unless it fits like a glove."
Though not part of the 7.5 release, the recently announced Slony-I
replication system bears mentioning as well. The Slony-I replication
system, sponsored by Afilias, does
asynchronous master-to-slave replication, slave promotion and failover.
In addition to the obvious new features, there's also a little work
underneath the hood that will benefit PostgreSQL users as well. Momjian
told LWN that the PostgreSQL team had done a "major redesign"
in the way that PostgreSQL buffers disk writes, which will result in a
"serious performance improvement" in the next release.
Though perhaps of little interest to the LWN readership, Momjian also
pointed out that 7.5 will be the first version of PostgreSQL to have a
native port to Win32:
We feel that the Windows port is important to highlight the accomplishments
of open source to the people running on the Windows platform. You can't
show how good open source is if it's not running on their platform.
There is no set date for the 7.5 release yet, but he said that it should be
out be out by the end of the year, once the project has been able to
conduct extensive testing of all the new features. After the release, he
predicts "increased migration from proprietary databases," and
notes that the PostgreSQL project is already seeing 1,000 to 2,000
downloads per week of the unofficial, unadvertised testing release of
PostgreSQL for Windows.
In all, the next release of PostgreSQL should be quite impressive, and
allow a number of organizations to dump expensive proprietary databases for
an open source alternative.
Comments (13 posted)
The 2004 Ottawa Linux Symposium
starts on July 21. The content this year looks as good as ever: the
includes well-known Linux developers from all over the
world. As usual, the talks place OLS at the forefront of kernel-oriented
Linux conferences, with some don't-miss desktop topics thrown in as well.
It will be a great gathering for anybody interested in where Linux is
going, or who just wants to hang out with a lot of developers and drink too
much beer. At least, for anybody who has registered; OLS is sold out and
is no longer accepting registrations.
Once again, OLS will be preceded by the invitation-only Kernel Summit. At
the same time, the Desktop
Developer's Conference will be happening upstairs; registration for
that event is still open.
The 2004 event will be the sixth annual Ottawa Linux Symposium. We talked
briefly with OLS founder and organizer Andrew Hutton about the event.
LWN: The sixth Ottawa Linux Symposium will be happening next month. Can you
tell us how this event got its start? What inspired you to create OLS?
After attending Linux Expo in North Carolina in 1998 and 1999 and the Atlanta
Linux Showcase I noticed that the technical events were in danger of being
overshadowed by the Dot.Com inspired multi-million dollar marketing events
that were beginning to happen at that time. Nobody I knew would voluntarily
go to one of these new marketing events. At about 4am one morning while
thinking about this problem I asked Alan Cox if he'd consider coming to
Ottawa and doing the keynote for a new event on the other end of the
spectrum, a pure technical event. He said something like 'sure haven't been
to Canada yet, why not' and 3 months later we had the first Linux Symposium.
OLS has become one of the definitive gatherings of free software
developers, especially in the kernel area. How is it that OLS is able
to attract such an impressive list of participants - many of whom have
to travel a long way to get there - every year?
Content, content, content. Above all else we try to attract the best leading
edge content we can. The goal is to create an environment in which nobody
goes to a presentation without learning something new about the subject.
This year, the Desktop Developers Conference will be happening
immediately prior to OLS. Can you tell us a little about this event and
your expectations for it?
The goal is to bring together the various parties involved in a functional
free desktop from kernel people, to X developers, distribution builders,
desktop infrastructure people (GNOME/KDE/etc) and application developers to
share experiences and discuss the areas in which future cooperation is
LWN: The 2004 Kernel Summit will also be happening just before OLS. Do you
expect to host more such events in the future, along the lines of the
successful "miniconfs" which accompany Linux.Conf.Au?
For smaller groups we've encouraged this for years. The Desktop Developers'
Conference will be the first of the more public ones though. It may or may
not remain adjacent to the Linux Symposium in the future. The main reason it
is this year is that despite all the buzz you've heard about the future of
the desktop, there isn't a lot of support for it yet and this makes it easier
for people to justify attending both at this time.
LWN: Another Linux.Conf.Au idea that seems to work well is moving the
conference to a different city every year. Might we ever be able to
look forward to the Jasper or Victoria Linux Symposium?
Probably not. We discuss this every year and people just enjoy coming to
Ottawa ever year. Ottawa is a nice tourist town these days, and has the
facilities we require all within walking distance. One of the great things
about OLS is never needing a car.
The Symposium is currently limited to about 500 attendees. Do you think
you may ever allow OLS to become larger? Why?
There are two main reasons. Space and communications overhead. It is nice to
have time to find and sit and chat with all the people you're looking for
during the event. We do end up a bit larger than 500 some years, but for now
the space we have isn't suitable either. To keep things productive keeping
it small is key.
As usual, LWN editor Jonathan Corbet will be present at OLS and the Kernel
Summit this year.
Comments (none posted)
Anybody who is curious about what benefits software patents might bring to
Europe need look no further than UK
, entitled "A method of searching the internet and an
internet search engine." This patent, held by the Italian company Godado
Italia Srl, was first filed in May, 2000; it was assigned last February.
What does this patent cover?
Upon receipt of a search signification, a search is conducted for
web sites having a textual match with the search signification. In
addition, the thesaurus database is searched to determined the
category of meaning to which the search signification belongs and
the meaning of the search signification thus determined is used to
identify related significations having a correlation with the
meaning of the search signification. The enquirer is then provided
with a list of web sites having a textual match with the search
signification and with a list of related significations as a
suggestion for supplementary research.
In other words, a search engine with the advanced capability of looking up
additional search terms in a thesaurus and telling the user about those terms.
Godado is not content to sit on this patent. The company has applied with
the EPO for a
Europe-wide patent, and has also filed a claim in Italy. With those in
hand, Godado has selected its first target: the financial portal Portalino. For the curious, Portalino has
demand letter (in Italian); your editor has created an English translation to go along with it.
Essentially, the letter accuses Portalino of the heinous crime of running a
search engine, claims that said search engine is an infringement of
Godado's patent, and demands that the search engine be shut down
One might assume that Godado does not intend to content itself with
harassing Portalino; according to this Punto Informatico
article, the patent has already been filed in Spain, Portugal, Germany,
and France (along with the UK and Italy). A new litigation company, it
would seem, has been turned loose in Europe.
This patent was not filed until 2000; chances are that, with a bit of (yes)
searching, sufficient prior art can be found to invalidate it. This will
not be the last shakedown attempt by a company wielding a suspect patent,
however, especially if the European Union blesses software patents in their
full glory. Godado shows that U.S.-style software patent hassles
can become part of the European landscape. Unless, of course, the
EU manages to avoid the imposition of union-wide software patents.
Comments (8 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: OIS vulnerability guidelines; New vulnerabilities in esearch, kernel, Pure-FTPd, and xdm
- Kernel: TCP window scaling and broken routers; Crypographic signatures on modules; /proc permissions.
- Distributions: Fedora Core 3 and the community; Conectiva Linux 10; Resala Linux
- Development: KRename: a Batch Renamer, new versions of Glom, Slony, afick, Quixote,
WaveSurfer, Bakery, GARNOME, KRelais, Monster Masher, gtkmm, Liferea,
anyInventory, Gnumeric, Galeon, GCC, SLIME.
- Press: The politics of the free software community, the
European software patent debate, Apple releases Rendezvous,
Linspire on Dell in .EU, free Cisco manual, customizing GNOME,
Netcraft recommends Firefox.
- Announcements: Mandrakesoft to acquire Edge-IT, OSDL college affiliate program,
July Linux Gazette and LinuxFocus, ESR analysis on the term "open source",
Minneapolis Cluster Summit, Advogato returns.