PRQL: A Simple, Powerful, Pipelined SQL Replacement

Most databases use SQL as the interface to access relational data. Because of that, we associate SQL to be the language of relational algebra. But its affinity with the English language and unclear and inconsistent semantics leave a lot of space for improvements. A deep dive into the language highlights many examples of convoluted or confusing language design, which we just got used to.

The solution we propose is PRQL, which does away with all but the relation data model. It uses a minimal set of syntactic features to construct pipelines of functions. These functions transform relations from the tables where they are stored into the desired result. This simplifies the mental model needed to wrangle with data, while improving the ergonomics of writing code with features of modern programming languages.

This new language can be compiled to most SQL dialects, which makes it portable and reusable, important factors of OLAP. Decoupling the language from the database also increases the speed of the development cycle by failing early and providing clear error messages.

What's the focus of your work these days?

Multi-backend full text search support for EdgeDB.

What's the motivation for your talk at QCon San Francisco 2023?

I want people to see that the relational model is more than SQL and that our data tooling is in many ways quite obsolete.

How would you describe your main persona and target audience for this session?

Data engineers and people interested in programming language design.

Is there anything specific that you'd like people to walk away with after watching your session?

I want them to understand PRQL and be able to translate simple SQL queries to PRQL.


Aljaž Mur Eržen

Compiler Developer @EdgeDB & PRQL Maintainer

Aljaž is a compiler developer at EdgeDB and a core contributor of the PRQL project, with a background of mathematics and data science. He is working on making data languages more predictable, easier to reason about and improve the developer experience.

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Monday Oct 2 / 11:45AM PDT ( 50 minutes )


Seacliff ABC


Data Compilers Languages


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