Stefan Fercot



Tags:   postgresql    belgium    edb    badminton    pgbackrest   
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, your hobbies and where you are from.

Hi, I’m Stefan. I live in Belgium, where we have a lot of good food (“Belgian” fries, waffles, chocolate, …) and drinks (beers!). I’m working for EDB on database backup topics and contributing to the pgBackRest project. My main hobby (with the exception of cooking) is playing badminton. Not only playing, I’m also a Referee sometimes.

Stefan Fercot

Stefan Fercot

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

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

The last book I read was “The reunion” by Guillaume Musso. I really like that writer. I think I’ve read all of his books and liked it all.

Technical and French-written, I would definitely recommend “PostgreSQL : Architecture et notions avancĂ©es”, from Guillaume Lelarge.

Any favorite movie, or show?

My favorite international TV-show is “The Big Bang Theory”. But my all-time favorite is the French show “Kaamelott”. It’s for me always relaxing to have fun watching TV-shows but also Japanese anime: “Sword Art Online”, “Overlord”, “One Punch Man”, … the list is pretty long …

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

I started using it in my first job, around 2010. The tool that the company developed for Belgian Hospitals was running on PostgreSQL. That’s where I learned to install it, try to configure it for best performances but most of it, I learned how important it is to have a good backup strategy and a good monitoring tool.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

I joined when the company was migrating from 8.2 to 9.0. Big jump but went just fine using pg_dump/pg_restore.

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

I touched a bit of MS SQL and MySQL during my studies but never had to use it anymore after I discovered PostgreSQL!

My favorite area of expertise is backup and monitoring related. I’m mainly focused on pgBackRest which is a very power-full and reliable backup tool. I’m trying to make it easier for new-users to start with blog posts explaining basic or advanced features. I also like to help answer the Github issues and sometimes submit code improvement or help review other’s code. I’ve also created a monitoring plugin to interact with pgBackRest, called check_pgbackrest.

How do you contribute to PostgreSQL? Any contributions to PostgreSQL which do not involve writing code?

I’d like to help more with patch reviews on -hackers but I never really managed to step in. I’m more involved in side projects around PostgreSQL (backup, monitoring tools, …).

There are a lot of ways to contribute in my opinion. Showing up at conferences, meetups, helping in the organization of such events, … I also help as much as I can in the French-translation process for PostgreSQL docs.

What is your favorite PostgreSQL extension?

Again, there’s a lot of good choices there. My underestimated favorite would be github.com/gleu/pgstats. It is incredibly helpful trying to troubleshoot performance issues.

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

VACUUM FULL taking exclusive locks. Users tend to discover disk space issues (and database dead tuples) too late to fix auto-vacuum settings properly. When that problem shows up, VACUUM FULL is often needed. It can be hard for production maintenance to handle such kind of operations.

I don’t really know if this could be solved easily or not. I’m sure the community will come up with a solution (or an alternative) in the future.

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

I’ll stick with monitoring and backups: pg_stat_progress_basebackup and pg_verifybackup.

Could you describe your PostgreSQL development toolbox?

I mostly use SublimeText and Vagrant to write and run test scripts. Nothing really specific.

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

Patience. The PostgreSQL documentation is really wide and complete. It’s really complicated for beginners to know where to start.

From a development point of view, implementing new features will require other people review and a discussion process. From the moment someone starts developing something, to the point where it gets committed and then installed on production servers, it definitely take time! Patience is then really necessary.

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

Mostly in Europe (pgconf.eu, pgDay FR, pgDay Paris, FOSDEM, …). I like to volunteer helping for the conference organization whenever it’s possible and submit talks when I get ideas … I had the chance to give a talk in the last Nordic pgDay (March 2020). Unfortunately canceled given the covid-situation, I hope I’ll get other chances to speak in other conferences.

I would love to go to farther destinations like pgCon or US conferences. Maybe someday I hope.

Do you think PostgreSQL has a high entry barrier?

PostgreSQL is, in my opinion, installed easily. And can work pretty well on default settings for small purposes. When it comes to bigger workloads, fine-tuning is needed. Adding backup tools, monitoring, security, … So many possibilities in the community that it can be hard for beginners to find the best fit.

As I mentioned, I personally would like to help on patch reviews. But I definitely wouldn’t know where to start, and feel uncomfortable making committers lose their time explaining to me how to do that.

The entry barrier would definitely be higher for the -hackers part than for the users. However, I usually see a lot of people wanting to help (on slack, telegram, mailing lists,…) as long as questions are asked clearly and respectfully.

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

Diversity of needs, of contributions, of opinions … all of that makes a great community. As long as the community is there, PostgreSQL might live forever …

Would you recommend PostgreSQL for business, or for side projects?

PostgreSQL has a lot of features and possible configurations. I would definitely recommend PostgreSQL for large business or for small projects. The use-case will define the configuration and tools you need on top of it but the base will always be the same, PostgreSQL itself :-)

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

I admit I didn’t really had time to follow -hackers lately. I’m at least reading pgsql-fr-generale, pgeu-general and pgsql-announce.

What other places do you hang out?

I’m pretty often on Slack and Telegram.

Anything else you like to add?

I really miss all the conferences and meetups. I can’t wait until we may all be reunited. In the mean-time I wish you all to stay safe and healthy!