Postgres has been a great database for decades now, and has really come into its own in the last ten years. Databases more broadly have also gotten their own set of attention as well. First we had NoSQL which started more on document databases and key/value stores, then there was NewSQL which expanding things to distributed, graph databases, and all of these models from documents to distributed to relational were not mutually exclusive. Postgres itself went from simply a relational database (which already had geospatial capabilities) to a multi modal database by adding support for JSONB.
But to me the most exciting part about Postgres isn’t how it continues to advance itself, rather it is how Postgres has shifted itself from simply a relational database to more of a data platform. The largest driver for this shift to being a data platform is Postgres extensions. Postgres extensions in simplified terms are lower level APIs that exist within Postgres that allow to change or extend it’s functionality. These extension hooks allow Postgres to be adapted for new use cases without requiring upstream changes to the core database. This is a win in two ways:
- The Postgres core can continue to move at a very safe and stable pace, ensuring a solid foundation and not risking your data.
- Extensions themselves can move quickly to explore new areas without the same review process or release cycle allowing them to be agile in how they evolve.
Okay, plug-ins and frameworks aren’t new when it comes to software, what is so great about extensions for Postgres? Well they may not be new to software, but they’re not new to Postgres either. Postgres has had extensions as long as I can remember. In Postgres 9.1 we saw a new sytax to make it easy to Keep reading
CREATE EXTENSION and since that time the ecosystem around them has grown. We have a full directory of extensions at PGXN. Older forks such as which were based on older versions are actively working on catching up to a modern release to presumably become a pure extension. By being a pure extension you’re able to stay current with Postgres versions without heavy rebasing for each new release. Now the things you can do with extensions is as powerful as ever, so much so that Citus’ distributed database support is built on top of this extension framework.