July 1, 2004

Fujitsu foots the bill for new PostgreSQL database features

Author: Jay Lyman

Fujitsu this week announced an expanded collaboration with Microsoft on
servers for mainframe computing, but the Japanese hardware giant is also
investing in open source, paving the way for a handful of new PostgreSQL
functions that will benefit all of the open source database's users.

The Japanese company, folding Windows as well as Linux and other open
source into its mix of strategy, will support the BSD-based PostgreSQL
database with code contributions and underwriting development that will be a
part of version 7.5 of the database, PostgreSQL core team member Josh Berkus said. It is expected to be available before the end of the year.

Berkus said Fujitsu, which brought in $45 billion last year, is the largest
company to contribute directly to PostreSQL to date, adding that the
PostgreSQL community expects its relationship with Fujitsu to continue for
"at least the next few years."

"We're delighted to have Fujitsu involved with PostgreSQL development in
such a meaningful way," said Bruce Momjian, PostgreSQL core steering
committee member and employee of Software Research Associates,
which is partnering with Fujitsu for the underwriting effort. "By sponsoring
the work of key individuals in our community, they are accelerating the pace
of development of key features required for the enterprise."

Fujitsu beats feature freeze

While Berkus referred to a July 1 freeze on features for the next
version of the database, he reported three new features in PosgreSQL --
Tablespaces, Nested Transactions, and Java support -- that are being
underwritten by Fujitsu in partnership with Tokyo-based SRA will be included
in version 7.5.

"Much of this new functionality will be present in the forthcoming
release of PostgreSQL, which is shaping up as the most significant new
release of the software since version 7.0 almost four years ago," Berkus
said, referring to full point-in-time recovery and two-phase commit, data
integrity and scalability improvements, native Windows edition, and
solutions for high availability, clustering, and replication currently being
developed for different user requirements.

Berkus described the new Fujitsu-formed features as follows:

  • Tablespaces
    is a means of partitioning large amounts of data easily and efficiently on
    separate storage devices, a key requirement for maintaining PostgreSQL's
    performance on large databases in the hundreds of gigabytes, and terabyte
  • Nested Transactions allows application developers a very granular
    level of control over database commits and rollbacks, which is particularly
    significant for maintaining data integrity and porting applications from
    other database platforms;
  • Robust support for stored procedures in Java that
    exceeds the goals of the SQLJ specification in the ANSI SQL99 standard.

"Coupled with enhancements to the JDBC driver [for Java database
connectivity], PostgreSQL will now have enterprise-class support for Java at
several layers of the technology stack," Berkus said.

Part of enterprise entree

The new features will be available in the main open source PostgreSQL
database, available for free download from the group's site. Fujitsu will
also continue to work with SRA on an enhanced PostgreSQL package under the
PowerGres and PowerGres Pro brands in Japan and worldwide.

Tom Szolnoky, a senior program manager at Fujitsu's Australian
subsidiary concurred that the Japanese company is looking for a long-term
relationship with and expanded enterprise horizons for PostreSQL.

"We would like to continue to grow our involvement with the PostreSQL
community in the areas of relationships, collaboration, and commensurate
funding sponsorship," Szolnoky said. "Our objective is to make PostgreSQL
enterprise ready."

Berkus said although no release date has been set, adding that "it's an
OSS project, we don't believe in fixed schedules, you know" -- and that
PostgreSQL 7.5 will not be ready until all of the bugs are eliminated and
regression testing is done, the community has hopes of "catching up with the
big proprietary databases."

"If all of the currently testing features make it, we'll have eliminated
half the features that separate us from Oracle, Sybase Enterprise, or
DB2, making PostgreSQL an even better contender for high-end database
products," Berkus said.

Berkus also highlighted the forthcoming Windows port of PostgreSQL, which
is expected to bring the group thousands of new users.

"I've been told that the current beta version, which requires source
compilation using special Windows tools, is being downloaded at an average
of 1,000 copies a week," Berkus said.

Cashing in on community

Fujitsu may be the largest, but it is far from the only company that has
contributed code, cash through sponsorship, or other support to PostgreSQL.
Among the more notable contributions are a number of tools, including Visual
Explain and one of the PostgreSQL GUIs, from Red Hat. There is also the open
sourcing of developments, including the PL/PHP module Java-based GUI and Web
framework from Command Prompt Inc., which has also contributed to
development of the ecpg library -- a backend component of PostgreSQL -- and
the overhaul of the PL/perl module.

Corporate support has also come from PostgreSQL Inc., which contributed
an earlier generation replication system, eRServer, that was part of an
announced strategy to keep the server proprietary for a year and then open
source it, which the company did.

More recently, .org and .info domain registry company Afilias has sponsored
developer Jan Wieck to work full time on developing a new, enterprise-class
replication system for PostgreSQL called Slony-I, to be presented next month
at OSCON in Portland, Ore.

Afilias spokeswoman Heather Carle said her company, a major supporter of
open source that makes its own code publicly available, is heavily engaged
in the PostgreSQL community and stands to gain from that community's

"There's an advantage with an open source community, because once you've
released something, you have a lot of different people to look at it,
provide bug fixes and add on top of what you're doing," Carle said.

Carle also said that the accessibility and availability of publicly
available source code helps create a bridge for Internet newcomers and
developing markets, where country codes have proven fruitful for

Berkus said companies give in to PostgreSQL for what they get out in
terms of improved products and expanded markets.

"Many companies contribute substantial code to the PostgreSQL Project
because it is complimentary to their product line or business," he said.
"This means that improvements to PostreSQL, and the increased adoption which
follows, benefits sales of the company's core products. Additionally, many
corporate marketing departments realize that the open source community forms
a 'grassroots marketing brigade,' which is very difficult to match through
traditional marketing methods. This means that being perceived as a 'good
open source citizen' can be a considerable benefit to a company's sales as
well as technical recruitment."

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