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What Is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL is an open source object-relational database management system (ORDBMS) with a strong reputation for reliability and performance. Its primary functions are to store and retrieve data securely while supporting current computing best practices. 

With over 30 years of active development and the support of a dedicated open source community, PostgreSQL competes with top-ranked commercial databases such as SQL Server and Oracle. PostgreSQL has become the preferred open source relational database of many organizations.

How Does PostgreSQL Work?

PostgreSQL uses a client-server architecture that allows the client and server to reside on different hosts on the network. The server program manages database files and accepts and executes multiple concurrent connections to the database from client applications. Remote clients can connect to the server over the network or the internet. 

What Is the Search Path in Postgres?

The PostgreSQL search_path variable allows you to determine the order in which schemas are searched and which schemas don’t need to use schema qualification. 

The first schema returned in the search path is called the current schema. When creating new objects like tables, if no schema name is specified, the table will be created in the current schema.

Search_path can be set at several levels which tell PostgreSQL which search path setting to use. These include the:

  • Function level: Lasts for the life of execution of a function within a function
  • Session level: Lasts for the life of the session
  • Database user level: Takes effect for a new session
  • Server user level: Takes effect for new sessions
  • Database level: Takes effect for new sessions

Are Postgres and PostgreSQL the Same Thing?

PostgreSQL derives from the POSTGRES project started at the University of California at Berkeley in 1986. After the POSTGRES project ended in 1993, Postgres95 was built on top of POSTGRES code in 1995 and a SQL language interpreter was added as a replacement for the query language PostQUEL.

In 1996, when the name Postgres95 became obsolete, PostgreSQL was chosen as the new name to reflect the original POSTGRES project and the added support for SQL. While PostgreSQL is the official name, Postgres is an accepted nickname, and PostgreSQL is now commonly referred to as Postgres.

What Is PostgreSQL Full Text Search?

PostgreSQL Full Text Search allows you to search for a single document or a collection of documents in a full-text database. It can also identify natural-language documents that meet the requirements of a query and sort them by relevance to the query. 

While the LIKE and ILIKE clauses can perform string search queries, the words in the text are not indexed, resulting in performance penalties. Full Text Search indexes documents for faster search results and supports dictionaries for finer control over token normalization.

Two functions are used to implement PostgreSQL Full Text Search:

  • to_tsvector: ts stands for “Text Search,” and this function is used to create a list of tokens of tsvector data type.
  • to_tsquery: This function is used to query the vector for particular words or phrases.

Why Is PostgreSQL Performance So Important?

PostgreSQL is being widely adopted across several industries and is commonly used for data warehousing and highly transactional, complex applications that require large volumes of data. For these types of applications, performance is a major factor. 

PostgreSQL comes with several features for boosting and optimizing performance. The current version of PostgreSQL, v14, adds additional support for complex data types and JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) unstructured data. PostgreSQL v14 features advances in connection concurrency, query parallelism, high-write workloads, and logical replication reflecting PostgreSQL's continued focus on improving performance.

How Many PostgreSQL Versions Are There?

The current version of PostgreSQL is version 14, released on September 30, 2021. It comes with added support for complex data types and features that make it easier to work with JSON and noncontiguous ranges of data. Version 14 also brings features that offer improvements for heavy workloads, distributed workloads, administration and observability, and security. 

Other PostgreSQL versions still being supported are 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 / 9.6. Versions 9 and 10 are available for Linux x86-64, Linux x86-32, Mac OS X, Windows x86-64, and Windows x86-32. Versions 11 through 14 are only available for Mac OS X and Windows. 

Three Advantages of PostgreSQL over SQL

The following are three advantages of PostgreSQL over SQL Server:

Open Source and Free

PostgreSQL is a free and open source object-relational database management system, maintained by PostgreSQL Global Development Group and backed by an active community that gives continuous input into new and existing features. SQL Server is a proprietary commercial database management system created and maintained by Microsoft. It’s available in several editions, ranging from entry-level editions to full-featured enterprise editions. 

Greater OS Support

PostgreSQL is widely available on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Linux, OS X, Unix, FreeBSD, HP-UX, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and Solaris. SQL Server is only available on Windows and Linux platforms. 

Concurrency Management

PostgreSQL has a robust concurrency management system with Multi-Version Concurrency Control, allowing multiple processes to access and modify shared data at the same time. SQL Server allows you to identify concurrency issues and long-running queries, but processes are often subject to locks, blocks, and deadlocks.

When Should You Use PostgreSQL?

The following are several instances where PostgreSQL may be appropriate:

Scalable NoSQL Workloads

Modern website applications handle up to hundreds of thousands of requests per second as they serve customers. For this reason, scalability is a major factor for most organizations.

As an object-relational database, PostgreSQL offers both relational and document-oriented features in the same product to support a wide range of applications. PostgreSQL works well with popular modern web frameworks such as Django and Node.js and languages such as Java, Python, Ruby on Rails, and PHP. PostgreSQL also offers replication functionality that allows you to scale out to as many database servers as needed.

OLTP, Analytics, and Business Intelligence

Financial organizations of all sizes use PostgreSQL as their primary database for applications and products. PostgreSQL is fully ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability) compliant and ideal for OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) workloads. It also integrates with mathematical software such as Matlab and R to perform analytics and business intelligence processing. 

Spatial Data

When used with PostGIS, a spatial database extender, PostgreSQL offers additional support for running location queries on geographic objects in SQL and spatial data analysis. PostGIS is highly standard compliant, provides hundreds of functions for processing geometric data in various formats, and can be used with both QGIS and GeoServer for easier handling of geodata.

Four PostgreSQL Questions Answered

Here are answers to common PostgreSQL questions we hear:

What Is the Main Difference between MySQL and PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL is an object-relational database management system. MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS). Postgres focuses on extensibility and standards compliance.

On the RDBMS side, Postgres is transactional and ACID-compliant, with functionality for updatable and materialized views, triggers, and foreign keys. PSQL also supports JSON data types for storing JSON data and JSON-specific functions and operators for performing non-relational queries.

Why Should I Use PostgreSQL over MySQL?

MySQL is an RDBMS that stores data in tables with rows and columns. MySQL is an ideal choice if you want a high-security RDBMS with a focus on integration and extensibility for web applications and custom solutions.

PostgreSQL is an object-relational database that includes both relational database features and NoSQL features for querying unstructured data. Choose PostgreSQL if you need complex procedures, integration, intricate designs, and data integrity.

How Do PostgreSQL and MySQL Differ?

Here are a few different ways the two can be compared:

  • Licensing: PostgreSQL is free and open source software available under the PostgreSQL License. MySQL source code is also open source under the GNU license, but it’s owned by Oracle and has multiple proprietary agreements and various paid versions for commercial use.
  • Performance: PostgreSQL works best for data warehousing and data analysis applications that require fast read/write speeds. MySQL is better suited for Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) and Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) systems where only high read speeds are important. 
  • ACID Compliance: While PostgreSQL is completely ACID-compliant, MySQL is ACID-compliant only when used with the NDB and InnoDB Cluster storage engines.

Why Is PostgreSQL So Popular?

PostgreSQL provides support for both relational and document-oriented data and enables support for storing and querying different data types in the same data tables. The speed, security, and robustness of PostgreSQL make it suitable for most applications. Because of continued improvements in performance and efficiency, users are migrating away from established commercial databases like Oracle to PostgreSQL.

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