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PostgresConf 2019 Summary

PostgresConf 2019 in New York City is a wrap! Now that I’ve had a few days to recover a little brain capacity, I think I’m ready to attempt a summary. I love conferences for the learning opportunities… inside of sessions and also outside of them. Being the largest PostgreSQL-centered conference in the United States, PostgresConf offers unique opportunities to:

  1. Watch seasoned technical presenters go deep on PostgreSQL internals.
  2. Hear serious users present the latest about how they are using PostgreSQL and what they’ve learned.
  3. Connect businesses who are doing redundant work so they can collaborate instead of each repeating the other’s work.

Last week I published a summary of the first two days of the conference which included the summits, tutorials and training sessions.

I tried to keep a few notes during the final three days of the conference as well so I could share a bit about my experience this year. But before I dive into the day-by-day summary… first, a few short high-level points.

Highlights

Who attends PostgresConf? During my session about Wait Events I asked two questions to scratch the surface a little bit. First, it seemed clear that the vast majority of session attendees had been working with relational databases for more than a decade and a number for more than 25 years. Second, it seemed clear that the vast majority of session attendees had worked seriously with a relational database other than PostreSQL as part of their job. Of course I expected these things would be true for some attendees, but it surprised me just how many – it seemed to me like almost everyone in the room.

What was great about PostgresConf? First and foremost, I give PostgresConf an “A-plus” … highest possible marks … on the two things I personally value the most from a user conference: technical content and user representation. I went to as many sessions as I could and I can personally vouch that there was quality material. And I met a bunch of top notch engineers from a wide variety of industries using PostgreSQL in serious ways.

Besides that, I can point out two other general things I thought PostgresConf did especially well:

  • Running a special track for regulated industries using PostgreSQL. They support this class of users not only in the topic selection, but even in the room setup – for example rules that prohibit recording.
  • Encouraging as many different people as possible to attend and participate. The conference code of conduct was taken seriously with a third party to independently receive, review and investigate any reports. There was an excellent general session and a panel discussion that started conversations – which may not have otherwise happened – around workplace dynamics and common assumptions we make. (If I could hazard summarizing one takeaway: I still do things at work which unintentionally assume that my co-workers are similar to me in subtle ways where they might actually differ!) Finally, on Friday afternoon, a time and space was provided for people to have conversations about career trajectories and the job market. With the rapidly growing demand I see for PostgreSQL skills, we’re going to need everyone who can help! So lets listen to (and become better advocates for) those in our industry who aren’t sure whether they can fully be part of it.

Wednesday March 20

Interesting conversations:

  • Two large, established software vendors whose software ships with embedded PostgreSQL as a default data store (one of these software packages supports a number of customer-managed DB backends but many customers use the default embedded PostgreSQL database).
  • Major University (over 150 years old) actively working to migrate critical backend business systems off commercial databases and onto open source. They have learned that you need to look at the stack as a whole; it proved infeasible to change the backend of applications that are tightly integrated with one specific database when both are sold by a single vendor. Changing the application itself is sometimes necessary.
  • Two FinTech companies: a credit/lending support company and a brokerage both already relying on PostgreSQL in their business.
  • Medium-sized non-profit (100ish people in IT), historically a commercial database shop, exploring open source databases and cloud-based architectures.
  • Two individual DBAs that I didn’t catch their industry. One was following up from Monday’s Hands-On Lab and the other was asking about how to identify applications which might be good starting points for migrating to cloud-based PostgreSQL. We talked about migration success factors like application complexity and database procedural code.

I was able to attend three sessions:

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