Ibrar Ahmed

Tags:   postgresql    database    database internals    islamabad    percona   
Category:   Interviews   
Interview conducted by: Andreas Scherbaum

PostgreSQL is the World’s most advanced Open Source Relational Database. The interview series “PostgreSQL Person of the Week” presents the people who make the project what it is today. Read all interviews here.

Please tell us about yourself, and where you are from.

My name is Ibrar Ahmed. I am from Islamabad, Pakistan. I love my city, one of the beautiful cities in the world, peaceful and calm. Here in Islamabad, we have a very good presence of PostgreSQL companies, like EnterpriseDB, 2ndQuadrant (now EBD), Percona, HighGO, and Bitnine.

Ibrar Ahmed

Ibrar Ahmed

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?

I usually spend my free time watching movies and hanging out with friends in cafes and restaurants and with family mostly in hilly areas.

Any Social Media channels of yours we should be aware of?

Last book you read? Or a book you want to recommend to readers?

I don’t have special topic of interest while choosing the books. I am kind of person to read books on every topics. My friend recommended a book “Wooden on Leadership”, which I really liked.

Any favorite movie, or show?

I am very fond of movies and shows, but if asked about my choice of movie I like Inception and Don’t Lookup 2021. The reason behind “Don’t look up” is, I can feel the pain of scientists, and their thoughts are not very important for the political and bureaucratic system.

What does your ideal weekend look like?

I spend most of the time with friends and family. When you have kids, how can a weekend be different from other fathers? Kids have their demands from their father to spend most of the time with them. We usually go for outdoor activities or play PS4 when the weather does not permit us to go outside. I got into the habit of playing PS4 games in Covid when everything was in lockdown.

What’s still on your bucket list?

I have a lot of things on my bucket list, especially completing my Ph.D. research work, and need to write papers for Journals. I have a list of books to read for many years, but I’m not getting much time to finish them.

What is the best advice you ever got?

I have been teaching in multiple universities and now I just read a quote that if you cannot explain clearly you don’t know that. Therefore now whenever I feel I cannot explain things to my student that definitely means I need to prepare better and learn more. I usually spend more time reading than my students so I can explain it better.

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

I started using PostgreSQL in Feb 2006 when I joined EnterpriseDB as Associate Architect. That was the day when I downloaded PostgreSQL code and submitted my first patch internally in 5 days. Those were fun days, not many people knew about PostgreSQL in the company.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

As far as I remember it was PostgreSQL 8.2.

I did my Master in Computer Science in 1999 and then did my Master in Computer Engineering in 2005 and now I am completing my Ph.D. in Computer Science. I have completed all the research work for my Ph.D. Other than that, I have learned a lot from my mentor in my first job in 1999.

What other databases are you using? Which one is your favorite?

I used Microsoft SQL Server from 1999-2006. It was a job requirement. I have been focused on PostgreSQL since 2006. I have used MongoDB, Hadoop, and MySQL while writing FDW for them when I was with EnterpriseDB.

Currently, I am working on Percona’s pg_stat_monitor extension. It has a query performance observability extension that gives end-to-end insights into query performance.

How do you contribute to PostgreSQL?

I have submitted bug fixes to the community and worked on some cool features like index-only scans in the core system. I have written multiple FDW for PostgreSQL and some other helping extensions. Other than that I have worked on plenty of features for EnterpriseDB which are not open-source.

Any contributions to PostgreSQL which do not involve writing code?

I was a commitfest manager for a commitfest last year. That was quite an experience having to go through gazillion emails, and coordinating amongst code contributors.

What is your favorite PostgreSQL extension?

My favorite extension is postgres_fdw, or you can say the whole fdw concept.

What is the most annoying PostgreSQL thing you can think of? And any chance to fix it?

I don’t think there is anything annoying as such. The community has improved so much over the years that most annoying things have pretty much been eliminated.

What is the feature you like most in the latest PostgreSQL version?

The database monitoring and logging enhancements are pretty cool. I’ve written a blog about those as well.

Adding to that, what feature/mechanism would you like to see in PostgreSQL? And why?

I’d like to see table-level security (Transparent Data Encryption - TDE). There have been many discussions, but no final decision. I really want to work on that, because it is in high demand.

Could you describe your PostgreSQL development toolbox?

I am a very basic kind of person and don’t like fancy IDE’s and tools. I am always using Ubuntu, VIM, GCC, and gdb. In my opinion, a well-configured VIM is the best IDE for development. I have configured VIM with a bundle of modules to make a full-fledged IDE.

Which skills are a must-have for a PostgreSQL developer/user?

For developers, you need to learn C, that is the minimum. For users, you must read the PostgreSQL documentation once.

Do you use any git best practices, which makes working with PostgreSQL easier?

Nothing in particular, but I maintain my own branch and code.

Which PostgreSQL conferences do you visit? Do you submit talks?

I have been to many conferences and given talks at many conferences. Here is a glimpse of that. I have a complete list on my personal site pgelephant.com

  • PostgreSQL Conference Asia - 2018
  • Percona Live Frankfort 2 talks
  • PostgreSQL Conference NY 2019: 1 Talk.
  • PostgreSQL Conference Europe Milan 2019: 1 Talk
  • Percona Live Amsterdam 2 talks
  • Percona Live USA Austin 2 Talks
  • PostgreSQL Conference China 3 talks
  • PostgreSQL Conference Asia Bali 1 Talk.
  • PostgreSQL Conference NY 2021 1 talks.

Do you think PostgreSQL has a high entry barrier?

Not anymore. The community is working very hard to improve adaptability. If any such barrier existed in the past, it has now diminished significantly.

What is your advice for people who want to start PostgreSQL developing - as in, contributing to the project. Where and how should they start?

I have been asked that question many times. I always recommend that they start following the mailing lists and, most importantly, the commitfest. Reviewing others people patch always a good starting point

Do you think PostgreSQL will be here for many years in the future?

PostgreSQL is a database that is evolving quite fast. I can see a really bright future for PostgreSQL.

Would you recommend PostgreSQL for business or for side projects?

I’m a strong advocate of PostgreSQL for personal and Enterprise-level applications.

Are you reading the -hackers mailinglist? Any other list?

Of Course, Yes I am following the -hackers regularly, and I recommend all PostgreSQL developers to follow this list.

What other places do you hang out?

Skype, Slack, and mailing lists are really where I’m ever-present.

Which other Open Source projects are you involved or interested in?

I have been involved in Google Chromium Project at its initial phase, which involved extending the testing framework, writing FTP protocol for Google Chrome, and in bug fixes

Anything else you like to add?

I am really happy to see the series of Person of the Week, just keep it up.