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Speaker Interview with Martijn Dashorst

Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m a dutch software engineer, and have been working since 1997. I enjoy all things Star Trek, Star Wars and LEGO. When you see me in Milan, you’ll probably notice my addiction to my phone for playing Pokémon GO.
I’m with my current employer since 2004 and started as employee number 13, and our company now has over 1000 employees. We make and run software that sits at the heart of various industries: healthcare, finance, social services and education (my division). For example, we made the software for orchestrating the dutch colon cancer screening program, which has been utilized since for breast cancer screening and other country wide screening programs. My division has created the leading software for running primary schools (ParnasSys) and secondary/high schools (Somtoday).
So for technology we use different kinds of stacks: .Net, Java, JavaScript, Oracle, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, SQLServer, private cloud, public cloud (AWS, GCE, Azure), etc.
In my first job interview in 1997 they asked what work I’d like to do, and I answered: not databases. So here I am at a database conference, talking about databases.
How do you engage with the PostgreSQL Community?
A couple of years ago we decided to move off of Oracle and migrate to PostgreSQL, so we ventured out to learn a lot more about PostgreSQL. We received training and our trainer (Jeroen Evers) told us about PGConf. So a group of us went to Warsaw in 2017 and attended our first PGConf, and learned a lot about the technology and migrations. The next PGConf in Moscow was also visited by coworkers.
Have you enjoyed previous or FOSDEM conferences, either as an attendee or as speaker?
Yes, PGConf EU 2017 was my (and my coworkers) first PGConf (I still have some Pokémon from that week in my Pokedex). I have also spoken at FOSDEM a long time ago (2011) about Apache Wicket.
What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?
A couple of years ago we decided that the future of our database backends no longer was aligned with Oracle’s licensing. In the age of large numbers of processor cores available to our servers, we would probably go bankrupt licencing Oracle 12, or had to (at least) double the price for our customers. Both scenarios didn’t look good so we took a third option: migrating to PostgreSQL. This about 2-3 year process reached its conclusion this summer and we run on PostgreSQL this school year.
The talk will of course introduce our architecture and business as those are core to understanding the decisions we had to make for our migration. Our migration consists of several phases: planning, making sure our application actually runs on PostgreSQL, picking the actual migration strategy of getting our production data to PostgreSQL, without stopping the work of the Dutch primary school teachers.
I’ll discuss the roadblocks we ran into, the tools used and how the actual migration went. SPOILER: we are happily running on PostgreSQL.
What is the audience for your talk?
Anyone who likes war stories, wants to learn about the weaknesses of PostgreSQL compared to Oracle and if you are planning on migrating yourself.
What existing knowledge should the attendee have?
I think anyone attending PGConf is able to attend this talk. It has technical terms in it, but you don’t need deep knowledge of any of them to follow along.
What is the one feature in PostgreSQL 12 which you like most?
Any optimization to the optimizer. In our experience this is where PostgreSQL is rough compared to our years of working with Oracle, so any improvement here is welcomed.
Which other talk at this year's conference would you like to see?
Several of the vacuum related presentations, indexes and optimizations. Given that we have (nearly) completed our migrations off of Oracle, I probably will skip the migrations presentations, other than the one I give myself.
Which measure, action, feature or activity would—in your eyes—help to accelerate the adoption of PostgreSQL?
As an external observer I see a lot of progress being made in areas that are for (very) large installations, geo features, and alternative storage formats. These all seem to have sponsors. What I’d like to see is not just having PostgreSQL be the best open source RDBMS, but also the best RDBMS overall in terms of performance. It would help a lot if I could walk up to my manager and say that moving from Oracle to PostgreSQL wouldn’t just be good for our bottom line, but also that the risks of migrating in terms of performance would be negligible, or that it would flat out be on par or better than the commercial offerings.