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What is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL, commonly pronounced “Post-GRES,” is an open source database that has a strong reputation for its reliability, flexibility and support of open technical standards.

Unlike other RDMBS (Relational Database Management Systems), PostgreSQL (link resides outside ibm.com) supports both non-relational and relational data types. This makes it one of the most compliant, stable, and mature relational databases available today.

Originally developed in 1986 as a follow-up to INGRES (an open-source SQL relational database project begun in the early 1970s), POSTGRES, now known as PostgreSQL, was the brainchild of Michael Stonebraker, a computer science professor at Berkeley. In 1994, the project added support for SQL and, shortly thereafter, PostgreSQL came about.

Today, PostgreSQL continues to evolve, maintained by a worldwide team that is passionate about regularly improving this free and open source database project.

For a closer look at PostgreSQL, check out "Database Deep Dives: PostgreSQL."

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Why use PostgreSQL?

Maintaining dynamic database systems is critical in today’s digital landscape, especially considering the rate in which newer technologies emerge. PostgreSQL is expandable and versatile so it can quickly support a variety of specialized use cases with powerful extension ecosystem, which covers things from time-series data types to geospatial analytics.

Its versatile and approachable design makes PostgreSQL a “one-size-fits-all” solution for many enterprises looking for cost-effective and efficient ways to improve their database management systems.Built as an open source database solution (link resides outside ibm.com), PostgreSQL is completely free from licensing restrictions, vendor lock-in potential, or the risk of over-deployment. Expert developers and commercial enterprises who understand the limitations of traditional database systems heavily support PostgreSQL. They work diligently to provide a battle-tested, best-of-breed relational database management system.

For a broader look at the state of databases today, see "A Brief Overview of the Database Landscape."


After more than two decades, PostgreSQL continues to be one of the most well-known and supported relational databases available. As such, PostgreSQL offers a number of benefits to developers looking to create highly scalable computing environments across their on-premise and cloud-based infrastructures.

Performance and scalability

In larger database systems where data authentication and read/write speeds are essential, PostgreSQL is hard to beat. PostgreSQL supports a variety of performance optimizations typically found only in proprietary database technology, such as geospatial support and unrestricted concurrency. This makes PostgreSQL extremely efficient when running deep, extensive data analysis across multiple data types.

Concurrency support

When multiple users access data at the same time, traditional database systems typically lock out access to records to avoid read/write conflicts. PostgreSQL manages concurrency efficiently through its use of MVCC (Multiversion Concurrency Control). In practice, this means that reads don’t block writes and writes don’t block reads.

Deep language support

PostgreSQL is one of the most flexible databases for developers due to its compatibility and support of multiple programming languages. Popular coding languages such as Python, JavaScript, C/C++, Ruby, and others offer mature support for PostgreSQL, letting developers perform database tasks in whichever language they are proficient in without generating system conflicts.

Business continuity

Enterprises must maintain continuous operations in the event of disasters. They require a sustainable solution to ensure that production databases remain available to both clients and developers at all times. PostgreSQL can be configured to ensure high availability of services through either Asyncronous or Synchronous replication methods across multiple servers.

100% open source

Deploying open source database management technology offers unique benefits to enterprises, including better costs, higher flexibility, and innovation not always available with proprietary database solutions. Developed by a diverse group of contributors, PostgreSQL builds on a strong foundation of knowledge, expertise, and open source values, making it the world’s most advanced database.


Developers experience a number of benefits when using PostgreSQL in enterprise database deployments. PostgreSQL comes packed with an abundance of rich features and extensions to create highly scalable and easy-to-administer databases while providing seamless replication and concurrency across multiple computing environments.

Point-in-time recovery

PostgreSQL enables developers to use PITR (Point-In-Time Recovery) to restore databases to a specific moment in time when running data recovery initiatives. Because PostgreSQL maintains a write ahead log (WAL) at all times, it logs every database change. This makes it easy to restore file systems back to a stable starting point. 

Third-party tools like pgBackRest (link resides outside ibm.com) make this easier to do and more reliable; most cloud-managed PostgreSQL services will handle this for you automatically.

Stored procedures

PostgreSQL features built-in support for multiple procedural languages, giving developers the ability to create custom subroutines called stored procedures. These procedures can be created and called on a given database. With the use of extensions, procedural languages can also be used for development in many other programming languages, including Perl, Python, JavaScript, and Ruby.

Common use cases

PostgreSQL is an ideal database solution for enterprises in a variety of different industries. This open source technology shines in a number of common use cases.

OLTP and analytics

PostgreSQL is great for managing OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) protocols. As a general purpose OLTP database, PostgreSQL works well for a variety of use cases like e-commerce, CRMs, and financial ledgers. PostgreSQL’s SQL compliance and query optimizer also make it useful for general purpose analytics on your data.

Geographic information systems

PostGIS (link resides outside ibm.com) is an Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) software offered as an extender to PostgreSQL. It allows PostgreSQL to support geospatial data types and functions to further enhance data analysis. By supporting geographic objects, PostgreSQL can refine sales and marketing efforts by augmenting situational awareness and intelligence behind stored data as well as help improve fraud detection and prevention.

Database consolidation

Move legacy databases to PostgreSQL while consolidating license costs, retiring servers, and cleaning up database sprawl. This can remove vendor-lock in, decrease the total cost of ownership for the databases, and improve application portability.

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Take the next step

IBM Cloud Databases for PostgreSQL is a fully managed database offering that takes the heavy lifting out of database management, letting developers get back to creating new, innovative products. With Databases for PostgreSQL, you don’t need to be an expert when configuring PostgreSQL for your enterprise. IBM’s years of expertise in PostgreSQL administration, database management and cloud-based integrations can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your business’s security, compliance, scalability and reliability are in the right hands.

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