“Thirty years ago, my older brother was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day.
We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”
— Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne LaMott
When we started working on Citus, our vision was to combine the power of relational databases with the elastic scale of NoSQL. To do this, we took a different approach. Instead of building a new database from scratch, we leveraged PostgreSQL’s new extension APIs. This way, Citus would make Postgres a distributed database and integrate with the rich ecosystem of tools you already use.
When PostgreSQL is involved, executing on this vision isn’t a simple task. The PostgreSQL manual offers 3,558 pages of features built over two decades. The tools built around Postgres use and combine these features in unimaginable ways.
After our Citus open source announcement, we talked to many of you about scaling out your relational database. In every conversation, we’d hear about different Postgres features that needed to scale out of the box. We’d take notes from our meeting and add these features into an internal document. The list would keep getting longer, and longer, and longer.
Like the child writing a report on birds, the task ahead felt insurmountable. So how do you take a solid relational database and make sure that all those complex features scale?
You take it bird by bird. We broke down the problem of scaling into five hundred smaller ones and started implementing these features one by one.