PostgreSQL offers an extensibility architecture and implements its internal datatypes, operators, functions, indexes, and more on top of it. This architecture is open for everybody to implement and add his own functionality to the PostgreSQL system. You can define new datatypes with or without special operators and functions as needed by your use case. After you have added them, you have the best of two worlds: the special functionalities you have created plus the standard functionality of a database system like ACID, SQL, security, standard data types, WAL, client APIs, ... . An introduction to extensibility is given in the PostgreSQL documentation.
Over time the community has developed a set of extensions which are useful for their own needs and for a great number of applications - sometimes even for the requirements and definitions given by standardization organisations. Some popular examples are
- Data types, operators, and function for the handling of spatial data like points, polylines, overlaps(), ... as defined by OSGeo and SQL Multimedia and Application Packages Part 3: Spatial.
- Functionality for full text search as defined by SQL Multimedia and Application Packages Part 2: Full-Text.
- Access to data outside the current database (other PostgreSQL instance, other SQL, NoSQL or BigData database system, LDAP, flat files like csv, json, xml) as defined by SQL Part 9: Management of External Data.
The lifecycle of such an extension starts with the implementaion of its features by a group of persons or a company. After publishing, the extension may be used and further expanded by other persons or companies of the community. Sometimes such extensions keep independent from the PostgreSQL system, e.g.: PostGIS, in other cases they are delivered with the standard download and explicitly listed as an Additional Supplied Module within the documentation with hints how to install them. And in rare cases extensions are incorporated into the core system so that they become a native part of PostgreSQL.
To activate and use an extension, you must download and install the necessary files (if not delivered with the standard download) and issue the command
CREATE EXTENSION <extension_name>; within an SQL client like
psql. To control which extensions are already installed use:
PostGIS is a project which extends PostgreSQL with a rich set of 2D and 3D spacial data types plus associated functions, operators and index types as defined by OSGeo and SQL Multimedia and Application Packages Part 3: Spatial. Typically data types are polygon or multipoint, typical functions are st_length() or st_contains(). The appropriated index type for spatial objects is the GiST index.
The PostGIS project has its own representation on the WEB where all its aspects are described, especially the download process and the activation of the extension itself.
Foreign Data Wrappers
Foreign Data Wrappers (FDW) are PostgreSQL extensions which offers access to data outside of the actual database and instance. There are different types of data wrappers:
- One wrapper to other PostgreSQL instances: postgres_fdw
- A lot of wrappers to other relational database systems like Oracle, MySQL, MS SQL Server, ...
- A lot of wrappers to NoSQL database systems: CouchDB, MongoDB, Cassandra, ...
- Generic wrappers to ODBC and JDBC
- A lot of wrapper to files of different formats: csv, xml, json, tar, zip, ... (file_fdw)
- LDAP wrapper
- ... and more.
A comprehensive list gives an overview.
The technique of FDW is defined in the SQL standard Part 9: Management of External Data.
Here is an example how to access another PostgreSQL instance via FDW.
-- Install the extension to other PostgreSQL instances CREATE EXTENSION postgres_fdw; -- Define the connection to a database/instance at a different server CREATE SERVER remote_geo_server FOREIGN DATA WRAPPER postgres_fdw OPTIONS (host '10.10.10.10', port '5432', dbname 'geo_data'); -- Define a user for the connection (The remote user must have access rights at the remote database) CREATE USER MAPPING FOR CURRENT_USER SERVER remote_geo_server OPTIONS (user 'geo_data_user', password 'xxx'); -- Define two foreign tables via an IMPORT command ... IMPORT FOREIGN SCHEMA geo_schema LIMIT TO (city, point_of_interest) FROM SERVER remote_geo_server INTO my_schema; -- .. and another foreign table via an explicit definition CREATE FOREIGN TABLE remote_person ( id SERIAL, person_name TEXT NOT NULL, city_id INT4 NOT NULL ) SERVER remote_geo_server OPTIONS(schema_name 'geo_schema', table_name 'person');
After the execution of the above statements you have access to the three tables city, point_of_interest and remote_person with the usual DML commands SELECT, UPDATE, COMMIT, ... . Nevertheless the data keeps at the 'remote' server (10.10.10.10), queries are executed there, and only the results of queries are transfered via network to the actual instance and your client application.
SELECT count(*) FROM city; -- table 'city' resides on a different server
Bidirectional Replication (BDR)
BDR is an extension which allows replication in both directions between involved (master-) nodes in parallel to their regular read and write activities of their client applications. So it realizes a multi-master replication. Actually the project is a standalone project. But multiple technologies emerging from BDR development have already become an integral part of core PostgreSQL, such as Event Triggers, Logical Decoding, Replication Slots, Background Workers, and more.