Kaarel Moppel

Tags:   postgresql    opensource    postgres-meetup    speaker    cybertec    tooling   
Category:   Interviews   
Interviewed 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.

Hi, I’m Kaarel, an Estonian by nationality, living currently near our capital city of Tallinn, but in the midst of forests and bogs already. I’ve been working on database and data-centric tech positions for almost 15 years and currently active at Cybertec PostgreSQL consulting as a senior consultant.

Kaarel Moppel

Kaarel Moppel

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

Outside of the “tech stuff” I’m trying to consistently escape all those bits and bytes, being a countryside boy at heart. Most of the time I guess is taken by walking our two lovely dogs or walking about in some neighbouring forests / bogs to pursue my recent hobby of nature photography. On the more dynamic side I’m still also an active football (soccer) player in the lower divisions and occasionally also take out my dirt bike for a little adrenaline kick. “Used to” travel a lot also …

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

As I’m not too fond of the common “you-are-the-product” social networking sites, I’m trying to keep my presence there to a bare minimum and I’m basically only visible via the company blog where we share stuff on various PostgreSQL-related topics.

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

Books have sadly taken quite a hit recently with me, but the last one was “Why Most Things Fail” by Paul Ormerod, which gets too scientific at times but draws some interesting parallels between seemingly unconnected phenomena like evolutionary events and modern businesses. My all time favourite though is “The Little Prince”.

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

With Postgres I’ve been battling daily since 2011, when joining Zalando in Berlin, who’s by the way a huge proponent and supporter of Open Source and also the PostgreSQL ecosystem. Before that funnily I was not aware that Postgres was really that good or much of a thing at all to be honest, coming over from commercial database systems. But pretty fast I saw the appeal and how it enabled business to really move fast and easily and I started liking it more and more.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

It was 9.0 with streaming replication being the killer feature, yay. Had to touch some older 8.3 or 8.4 instances also occasionally but no severe traumas from that also - great stuff, just worked.

Yes, I’ve got a MSc in Systems Engineering from the local TalTech - basically meaning it was quite heavy on the hardware design and industrial automatization side, but eventually I specialized more onto the embedded software side, with which I’ve lost contact also nowadays.

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

I occasionally play around with many to keep myself fresh - Cassandra, Clickhouse, InfluxDB to name a few … but for 95% of applications I’d go with Postgres or some variations of it.

Yes, “related” is the keyword here - I’ve never really found enough determination to go into core development (much respect to the core devs here!), so my contributions are limited to various tools around the database engine, usually when I spot something in my daily work that doesn’t make sense. Most of my Open Source work goes into our PostgreSQL-centric monitoring tool called pgwatch2, but some other more known projects where I’ve committed some code over the years might be pgAdmin3, pg_activity, PGObserver, Barman, Patroni + just issue reports on a bunch of others.

How do you contribute to PostgreSQL?

So far sadly indirectly only - via committing to related Open Source projects and probably more importantly by occasionally blogging about some interesting PostgreSQL features or use cases encountered during my daily work. And that might be ok also - every word out there helps the project forward I guess.

Any contributions to PostgreSQL which do not involve writing code?

I think co-organizing the local Postgres User Group gatherings for the past couple of years probably passes the bill here. This year has been super lousy though with zero events, needless to say …

What is your favorite PostgreSQL extension?

That must surely be “pg_stat_statements”. Cuts performance troubleshooting times in half at least …

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

Not maybe annoying (I’ve probably gotten used to the of quirks over time) but to me just a bit scary seems that by default the server is susceptible to brute force password attacks - based on my consulting experience only a small percentage of installations have configured the auth_delay extension or set up some active log parsing and alerting.

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

My favourite feature is actually the fact that one can now use logical replication to seamlessly migrate to partitioned tables without workarounds with triggers and the lot.

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

The feature side is pretty well covered actually I think … most people only use a small percentage of those anyways - but I would personally like to see more instrumentation added, to gain better visibility on what the server is doing and where might be some bottlenecks forming. Then again maybe we would be out of work then if it was too easy, so scrap that :D

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

Curiosity and perseverance I guess, as with any other technology as computers tend to say “no” quite often initially.

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

Yes, on both. For the European events mostly.

Do you think Postgres has a high entry barrier?

Not really. Some built in Web-based remote management console coming installed out-of-the box would probably do Postgres good though, à la mini Oracle Enterprise Manager.

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

I really hope so. Sound probably cheesy but I believe it can really make the world a bit of a better place, enabling rock solid applications with zero or very little costs for educational institutions, local municipalities, etc

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

Nope. Tried once but failed miserably:)

What other places do you hang out?

None. Just too much information out there, need to cut back somewhere ruthlessly.

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

Interested in quite many other projects of course also, so much interesting stuff happening nowadays in this sphere … Grafana, InfluxDB, Drupal, Redash to name a few.

Anything else you like to add?

Thanks for the interview and keep building cool Open Source stuff everyone!