Although PostgreSQL 9.0 isn't out yet, we began the first CommitFest for PostgreSQL 9.1 development on July 15, 2010. Our goal is to review every patch submitted by then before August 15. While we're only a week into the CommitFest, I already have some favorite patches: none of which are committed yet, so they might die, get withdrawn, changed, etc. But here they my top picks.
1. Simon Riggs wrote a very nice patch to reduce the lock level required for various DDL statements. We haven't yet come up with clearly workable ideas for allowing multiple DDL statements to execute on the same table at the same time, but what this patch will do is allow certain DDL commands to run in parallel with DML. Some versions of ALTER TABLE will lock out everything (as they all do, presently), some will lock out INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE/VACUUM statements but allow SELECT to run in parallel, and some will only lock out concurrent DDL and VACUUM operations (like ALTER TABLE ... SET WITHOUT CLUSTER). This should be really nice for anyone administering a busy database.
2. My employer, EnterpriseDB, asked me to write a patch that reduces the size of most numeric values on disk. This was based on a design proposal from Tom Lane a few years ago, and turned out to be pretty simple to code up. Currently, our numeric data type always has a 4-byte header specifying the weight of the first digit and display scale. For the values people typically do store, that's overkill. This patch allows a 2-byte header to be used opportunistically, when we can cram everything in; but the old format can still be understood, so it doesn't break pg_upgrade. It'll be interesting to see whether people can see a noticeable change in the size of their disk footprint when this patch is used. And maybe we could even get by with a 1-byte header sometimes... but that's a thought for another patch.
3. Kevin Grittner posted a patch to implement true serializability. I haven't studied the code in detail, and I'm not sure how soon we can hope to see this committed, but it's pretty cool. Our current serialization techniques are pretty good, but this should be a whole lot better whose application logic relies heavily on the absence of serialization anomalies.