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16 Years After The Launch of 2ndQuadrant Italy: Remembering Simon Riggs

Sixteen years ago, on May 21, 2008, we proudly announced the opening of the Italian branch of 2ndQuadrant, marking a milestone in PostgreSQL consulting and training in Europe. Simon Riggs, the visionary founder of 2ndQuadrant, placed immense trust in our small team from Prato, Tuscany. Tragically, Simon passed away on March 26, 2024, leaving a profound void. This article is my small tribute to Simon, his extraordinary leadership, and his invaluable contributions to the PostgreSQL community. It reflects on our journey, the challenges we faced, and the innovative spirit Simon instilled in us. Despite his passing, Simon’s legacy lives on through the values, principles, and examples he set, continuing to inspire and guide us.

Sixteen years ago today, on May 21, 2008, marked a very special day for me. It’s the day we announced to the world the opening of the Italian branch of 2ndQuadrant, declaring it “the largest PostgreSQL consulting and training business in Europe”. I fondly call it “2ndQuadrant Italy Day.”

Email “2ndQuadrant Italia now open for business”

Simon Riggs, the founder of 2ndQuadrant, placed a great deal of trust in our group of six from Prato, a city in northern Tuscany. Sadly, almost two months ago, on March 26, 2024, Simon passed away prematurely, leaving a profound void.

Writing this article now finally gives me the opportunity to remember him, something I had wished to do earlier but lacked the energy and courage to accomplish.

I had the pleasure of meeting Simon for the first time in July 2007 during the first PostgreSQL Day we organised in Prato. This event, the first significant Postgres conference in Europe, brought together around 250 people from all over the world. One of the main goals of that event was to lay the foundation for a formal non-profit organisation to promote Postgres in Europe, which eventually became PostgreSQL Europe in 2009 (I’m proud to be one of the founders).

We anticipated that Postgres would grow in popularity, but we never imagined it would become as widespread as it is today. We knew we were creating something extraordinary, and our passion drove us. I’m confident that many of the people who shared that time with me, regardless of where they work now, feel the same way.

Simon not only envisioned all of this but also spearheaded the movement globally with his ideas and contributions. His visionary leadership played a pivotal role in shaping PostgreSQL for enterprise use.

Simon’s first official contribution in 2004, titled “ XLOG file archiving and point-in-time recovery”, was included in PostgreSQL 8.0 in January 2005. He refined this feature for version 8.1 and then made significant contributions to the Warm Standby functionality, the first attempt to provide High Availability in PostgreSQL, which was released at the end of 2006 in PostgreSQL 8.2. As a result, PostgreSQL began to challenge the proprietary database management systems dominating the enterprise market.

I held Simon in the highest regard within the Postgres community, so you can imagine my excitement after my first public exchange with Simon in March 2007, followed by private conversations in which he agreed to sponsor our event (he was working for EnterpriseDB at the time). Then came PGDay Italy in July, and by December, we began discussing a potential collaboration. Simon had just left EnterpriseDB and proposed that we become the first partners of 2ndQuadrant. We agreed, and 16 years ago, our joint venture began. Simon took Gianni Ciolli and me under his wing, teaching us a great deal. Most importantly, he believed in us and provided numerous opportunities.

During one of his first trips to Prato, I vividly remember Simon giving us a copy of Covey’s book “ 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, from which the name 2ndQuadrant originates. The second quadrant represents tasks that are not urgent but important. From that moment, it was more than just a name; it shaped who we were. Our commitment to quality excellence became a cornerstone of our work, driven by our customer-oriented approach.

When I started tackling the challenges that 2ndQuadrant’s global customers presented, I realised how little I actually knew about Postgres, despite thinking I was proficient. Simon was not only a visionary leader who led by example but also an exceptional mentor — a quality I later discovered is unique to true servant leaders. It was a privilege to be part of the team that contributed to Hot Standby in that first year.

Over the years, Simon continued to shape the future of PostgreSQL with hundreds of commits, reviews, performance improvements, and groundbreaking features such as streaming replication, synchronous replication, and logical replication, to name a few. There’s no doubt in my mind: without Simon, Postgres would not hold its esteemed status as the most popular database today — and no one can convince me otherwise.

2ndQuadrant grew organically for the following decade, without any external capital — something Simon proudly mentioned often — focusing on people more than hierarchy or processes. By the time EDB acquired us at the end of 2020, we had grown to over 110 people worldwide.

Since that fateful day in March when Simon passed away, my mind has been overwhelmed with countless thoughts, leaving me feeling lost and prompting a reevaluation of life, accompanied by a strong urge to take a break from work (which my company EDB kindly supported). However, reflecting on Simon’s approach to life and the example he set has been incredibly comforting. Attending his funeral on April 30 in Luton, where I had the opportunity to spend some time with the family and meet again many 2ndQuadranters from around the world, infused me with strength, energy, and a sense of hope for the future.

Simon’s passion for life, people, nature, science, tech, and software is a constant reminder of the power of open-source and its communities in driving innovation. He not only showed us how to build a thriving open-source business but also emphasised the importance of taking a holistic approach. While financial success is crucial, Simon always prioritised the long-term prosperity of the entire PostgreSQL ecosystem. This ecosystem, which includes the community, related projects (like Barman for example), competing companies, and, most importantly, people, is a testament to the collaborative spirit of open-source innovation. His last public speech, where he shared his visionary outlook for PostgreSQL’s future over the next two decades in December 2023, perfectly encapsulates this spirit.

In an era dominated by artificial intelligence, I feel compelled to shift the spotlight back onto human relationships. The mutual trust and respect that Simon and I shared from the moment we met laid a sturdy foundation that enabled us to achieve remarkable feats together. Often, a simple glance or handshake sufficed, devoid of unnecessary bureaucracy. Trust served as the bedrock upon which we could freely express diverse opinions, engage in spirited debates, and ultimately reach the constructive dissent necessary for innovation.

On a more personal level, many times he fostered in me the belief that I could achieve things I had scarcely dared to imagine even starting. This was just one of his many gifts. I have countless examples of this, but I will name the just two that mean the most to me:

  • When he asked me to lead 2ndQuadrant’s global 24/7 support and organise it on a follow-the-sun basis in 2016, with a 15-minute response time and hotfix distribution.
  • When he asked me to devise 2ndQuadrant’s cloud-native initiative to provide services for PostgreSQL on Kubernetes in 2019, which later evolved into the CloudNativePG project during my time at EDB. (The last time I spoke to him in February, he was immensely proud of CloudNativePG and its impact on the Kubernetes community regarding PostgreSQL adoption.)

Simon was always there for me, offering advice and support through both good and tough times. While it’s difficult to accept that he won’t be there anymore, I find solace in the fact that he has left an indelible mark on many of us at 2ndQuadrant and in the PostgreSQL community—a legacy of values, principles, and examples to carry forward. Although the 2ndQuadrant company that opened the branch in Italy 16 years ago no longer exists, I believe its spirit keeps living on in the hearts of those who had the privilege to work with Simon. Now, the responsibility falls on us to honour him through our actions.

Ciao, my friend, thank you for everything!