Connecting the dots

PostgreSQL advances on NoSQL: What CIOs need to know

Marc Linster and Vibhor Kumar
Postgres is becoming an increasingly popular solution for connecting the dots in Big Data. Fibre optical cable illustration via Shutterstock

Some had written it off as dated. Others never even considered it. From way out in leftfield comes an old database technology that is quickly overtaking NoSQL.

Specialised NoSQL-only solutions seem to promise a great deal and data professionals are facing increasing pressure to adopt these new databases to address emerging Big Data problems and challenges.

What many businesses don’t realise however is that relational database technology has continued to evolve with data challenges meaning that organisations have an open source relational database option for utilising NoSQL capabilities – PostgreSQL.

Postgres has advanced significantly in recent years. With new capabilities added alongside longstanding features, Postgres can support virtually all of today’s data types – including unstructured and semi-structured data. This is meaningful to CIOs for two reasons.

Firstly, it means Postgres can power many applications written for NoSQL-only technologies. Secondly, it means developers can build applications in Postgres that achieve the same results as NoSQL-only solutions.

The design hurdle that became the defining feature

Postgres was originally architected to be an object-relational database designed specifically to enable extensibility. In the early years of the Postgres project, some CIOs viewed the fact that Postgres handles objects and classes as well as customer data types and methods as problematic due to development cycles slowing down when new code was added.

As Postgres has become more feature rich over the past 15 years, that original design hurdle has actually turned into a unique advantage. Today, Postgres is an object-relational database that CIOs can take advantage of as new capabilities evolve.

So, in an era of emerging specialised NoSQL-only database solutions, what are the top technical details that CIOs need to know about Postgres?

  • Postgres supports JSON/JSON B and HStore, meaning that document database and key-value store functionality can be addressed. Postgres can therefore support applications that require a great deal of flexibility in the data model – something some CIOs think is only possible with NoSQL-only solutions.
  • The ability to support key-value stores within the database, as well as document databases, empowers CIOs to address new demands using existing skills and tools, extending the life and value of current investments.
  • Exploring new capabilities within Postgres, instead of turning to new solutions, ultimately means lower costs, less risk and less complexity while still delivering enterprise-class workloads with ACID compliance.
  • SQL databases will continue to evolve. New features have been added to fill the gap that motivated the rise and development of NoSQL, meaning that SQL databases now provide the majority of the capabilities of NoSQL as well as many that it cannot.

Today, a successful relational database is one that is able to integrate and combine data from a variety of external systems and in multiple formats – including NoSQL varieties of databases. As CIOs take the time to recognise the long-standing capabilities and the new advances of Postgres, we will continue to see it play a significant role in the datacentre, even as new data challenges and technologies emerge.


Marc Linster and Vibhor Kumar

All Posts by Marc Linster and Vibhor Kumar

Marc Linster is Senior Vice President of Products and Services at EnterpriseDB. Vibhor Kumar is a principal system architect at EnterpriseDB.

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