New PostgreSQL guns for NoSQL market

The PostgreSQL database now natively supports the JSON format, making it an alternative to MongoDB

Embracing the widely used JSON data-exchange format, the new version of the PostgreSQL open-source database takes aim at the growing NoSQL market of nonrelational data stores, notably the popular MongoDB.

The first beta version of PostgreSQL 9.4, released Thursday, includes a number of new features that address the rapidly growing market for Web applications, many of which require fast storage and retrieval of large amounts of user data.

Typically, users have gone to NoSQL databases, which were designed for such workloads, though the community of developers behind PostgreSQL is updating their database to meet these requirements as well.

In particular, PostgreSQL 9.4 natively supports JSON (JavaScript Simple Object Notation) which is quickly becoming the format of choice for sharing data across different systems, often using the REST (Representational State Transfer) protocol. The success of the MongoDB document database has been built in large part on the growing use of JSON.

PostgreSQL's structured format for saving JSON, called JSONB, eliminates the need for restructuring a document before it is committed to the database.

This gives PostgreSQL the speed to ingest documents as quickly as MongoDB, while still maintaining compliance with ACID (atomicity, consistency, isolation, durability), a set of properties required for reliably storing data in databases. PostgreSQL also provides a full set of indexing services, functions and operators for manipulating JSON data.

Prior versions of PostGreSQL supported JSON, but stored JSON documents in a text format, which takes longer to store and retrieve.

In addition to native JSON support, PostgreSQL also comes with a number of other new features.

It has a new API (application programming interface) for decoding data from a replication stream, paving the way for third-party software providers to build more responsive replication systems.

A new Materialized Views function, called "refresh concurrently," allows summary reports to be updated on the fly.

Using the new Alter System Set function, administrators can now modify the PostgreSQL configuration file directly from the SQL command line.

Other new features include the introduction of dynamic background workers, array manipulation and table functions, and general performance improvements.

PostgreSQL is the second most-widely-used open-source database on the market, trailing MySQL. At least some users have migrated from MySQL to PostgreSQL since MySQL was acquired by Oracle in its 2010 purchase of Sun Microsystems.

Like PostgreSQL, MySQL has been retrofitted to handle NoSQL workloads.

EnterpriseDB offers a commercially backed distribution of the open-source database.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

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