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History of Postgres releases & features

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson
EnterpriseDB has inherited its functionality from two sources.  One of EnterpriseDB's parents is the most advanced Open Source Database yet developed, PostgreSQL.  PostgreSQL has an architecture that is normally reserved for commercial databases and offers wide support in terms of languages and tools.  Below is a brief history of PostgreSQL and an examination of a choice selection of those languages and tools.


Ingres was a project in the early 1970s at the University of California, Berkeley.  Ingres was a research project to create a relational database.  It was to become one of the first of its kind.  Ingres provided roots to many other databases, including the commercial Ingres and Informix databases. 
Pieces of Ingres have made it into many databases; both open and closed source.  If the code itself is not there, then some of the concepts generated by the research project are.
Ingres is the granddaddy of today's relational databases.  While being a relational database, it did not support Structured Query Language (SQL) access.  SQL itself had not been defined at this point. 

University Postgres

Postgres was the UC Berkeley follow on to Ingres.  While it still did not support SQL, it added better type support and better relational support.  The Postgres project was primarily staffed by graduate students and ran from the mid 80s to the mid 90s. 
During this phase, Oracle and IBM were both making strides in the relational database market.  The Oracle Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) and DB2 RDBMS had both been released and both supported SQL access.
UC Berkeley shut down the Postgres project in 1994 to concentrate on more pure database research.  This is about the time open source freeware was starting to become a player in the software development community.


Postgres95 was the beginning of the modern PostgreSQL database.  Postgres95 added SQL support to the database.  Postgres95 was largely a re-write; it was faster, smaller and had new functionality.
The most significant functionality, of course, was the addition of SQL.  While a primitive version of SQL compared to today, it did support much of what is used today.

PostgreSQL 6

In 1996 Postgres95 was renamed PostgreSQL.  The first release of PostgreSQL was version 6.0.  This was the first version of PostgreSQL I ever used.  I did not like it.
PostgreSQL at the time did not support sub-queries or many of the other concepts I was used to working with coming from an Oracle background.   The thing I liked least was the lack of a good embedded programming language.  Using PostgreSQL 6 felt more like using an open source compiler than using a database. 
At this point, Oracle 7 was out and PL/SQL was steadily becoming more robust.  As a database developer, I wanted to spend my time in the database, not in the OS. 
Although to be fair, if I compared Oracle 7 to Oracle 10g, I would prefer to go with the 10g version.  For its time, PostgreSQL 6 was a pretty significant accomplishment.

PostgreSQL 7

PostgreSQL 7.0 was released mid-year in 2000.  This was the most significant release in the history of PostgreSQL so far.
I came back to PostgreSQL around version 7.1 or 7.2.  I liked it much better this time around.  Sub-queries were supported and it was a much easier install.  More importantly, it had an embedded language, PL/pgSQL.  It actually supported several languages but the one I used was PL/pgSQL.
PL/pgSQL was very much like PL/SQL.  As a matter of a fact, the version 7 documentation even added a Porting from PL/SQL section. 
A simple PL/pgSQL function looks like this:
  v_input_parm ALIAS FOR $1;
  v_output INTEGER;
  v_output := v_input_parm + 5;
  RETURN v_output;
' LANGUAGE 'plpgsql';
If you are at all familiar with PL/SQL and have never seen the procedural language for PostgreSQL, you are probably thinking the same thing I did when I first saw it:  "I can program with this database!  It'll be easy!"
It really was easy.  I did a couple of small programs with PostgreSQL.  Unfortunately, I could never convince anyone I worked for that PostgreSQL was an option.  When they looked around they could find no employees with that skill, there was no major corporation to hold accountable for bugs, or to provide support, and available training was minimal.
At this point I walked away from PostgreSQL for a long time.  Fortunately for all of us, the developers kept working on it.  Version 7 of PostgreSQL supported many advanced features:
* Foreign Keys
* Views
* Transaction Support
* Objects
* Sub-queries
* Scalar Sub-queries
* Oracle style and ANSI join syntax
* A huge selection of Data Types
* Cost Based Optimizer
* Multi-version concurrency control (locking technique)
At this point, PostgreSQL was approaching Enterprise Ready.    It was already the most advanced open source database and it was leading in some areas even when compared to commercial databases like Oracle and DB2. 
One downside at this point was that the only version that ran in MS-Windows was a Cygwin version.  Cygwin was a library that made it possible to run some UNIX and Linux programs under MS-Windows.
Whatever complaints someone might have against MS-Windows, it seems that for some reason, support for that platform spurs acceptance. 

PostgreSQL 8

PostgreSQL 8 was released in 2005.  This was also a significant release. 
Speaking of support for MS-Windows, the feature list for PostgreSQL 8 reads like a laundry list, or more like a geek's wish list, of database features.  PostgreSQL 8 added an amazing number of new features and, according to the PostgreSQL 8 ToDo List; more is planned for future releases:
* Native Support for MS-Windows
* Table Partitioning (the real deal!)
* Point in time recovery
* Tablespaces
* Oracle style Roles
* IN/OUT Parameters
* Shared row locking (even better locking)
* More SQL compatibility with Oracle
* And more
PostgreSQL 8 is the current version.  Each release (8.1, 8.2, 8.x) in version 8 seems to add significant new functionality.
In April of 2005, I happened to pick PostgreSQL back up and take a look at it.  I was writing a series of blog entries geared towards new database users and non-DBAs.  I wrote a comparison on the ease of installing PostgreSQL 8, MySQL 5 and Oracle 10g. 
Oddly enough, I found PostgreSQL to be easier overall than Oracle.  While most of the issues I found that were marks against Oracle have been addressed in Oracle 10g XE, I was still attracted to PostgreSQL.
Since that time, I have had PostgreSQL running on my network at home.  While I am not a heavy user and I have not spent a lot of time working performance issues, I have never had a crash.  I connect with various clients using Java, C, or .Net.  I run a lot of software side by side with it.  On one machine I had Oracle 10g, PostgreSQL 8, MySQL 5 and EnterpriseDB Beta 1 all running at the same time. 

PostgreSQL Today

PostgreSQL today has a vibrant community supporting and enhancing it.  From and to independent admin and access tools, there is a complete library of software to help users do their jobs.
With the Version 8 release, both Sun and Red Hat are officially supporting PostgreSQL.  Corporate support is good news for corporate adoption.  One of the biggest obstacles to open source adoption is real, reliable support from a real, reliable entity with a history of real, reliable support. 
Both Sun and Red Hat are known entities.  Red Hat has made a name for itself in support and Sun has a longevity and corporate clientele that speaks volumes about the Sun support organization.

PostgreSQL History Wrap-up

PostgreSQL is not just another RDBMS. PostgreSQL has a long and respected lineage. Starting in the 1970s and moving forward to today, the database and its ancestors have always been technology leaders.

PostgreSQL has made it into the business world by supporting entities in the Pharmaceutical, Commerce, Government, Higher Education, Gaming, Healthcare, and Software industries.

The PostgreSQL community is made up of dedicated database professionals who have real goals and real targets for the future of PostgreSQL. You can read the Roadmap and ToDo lists at  to see that.

With the reliability and functionality introduced in PostgreSQL 8.x, PostgreSQL has hit the big time. I think it is fair to say that the developer's claims are true when they say PostgreSQL is 'the world's most advanced open source database.?

This is an excerpt from the book "EnterpriseDB: The Definitive Reference" by Rampant TechPress.



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