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Database pioneer continues to bash RDBMS

Warns established players of relegation to niche markets.

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Database guru Michael Stonebraker, one of the pioneers of the relational database model, continues to bash the way relational database management systems (RDBMS) stores data.

Stonebraker is regarded as something of a database visionary after having worked in the industry for over thirty years. As a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, in the early 1970s, he co-created the Ingres and Postgres technology that underlies many leading relational databases today, including Microsoft's SQL Server, Sybase’s Adaptive Server Enterprise, Ingres’s eponymous product, IBM's Informix etc.

But back in September last year, Stonebraker broke ranks with the RDBMS world, calling it legacy technology, while touting the offering from his own start-up, Vertica Systems.

More recently however, Stonebraker expanded upon his claim that there is a better way to build a data warehouse, in response to a blog by analyst Curt Monash.

Stonebraker believes that much faster response times can be achieved through a column layout (as found in Vertica's offering), instead of vertical columns and horizontal rows found in traditional relational databases.

"First, I see two categories of relational analytic/data warehouse databases, row stores and column stores," said Stonebraker in a blog for The Database Column.

"I expect the overwhelming majority of analytic data management workloads to move to column stores over time as these products become more mature because of the overwhelming performance advantage they offer on most analytic workloads," he wrote.

Stonebraker also said that if performance was not a big issue, then current open-source relational DBMSs would work quite well. "As a result, I expect the 'low end' to go to open source systems."

"On the other hand, if high performance is required, then I have shown in a recent paper that current high-end relational engines can be beaten by a factor of 80 or so on TPC-C. This new collection of ideas may be leveragable into ultra-fast future commercial products that will challenge the current vendors at the high end. I think it is likely that the current vendors will be caught in the middle."

Stonebraker also said many customers in his experience were "upset" with the "out-of-box experience" of the current database offerings from established vendors. "The products are hard to install, hard to tune, hard to learn, and just generally hard to use. If the products don't get much easier to use, then data administration costs will go to 100 percent sooner or later - relegating these products to niche markets," he said.

It is perhaps no surprise then that Vertica Systems, where Stonebraker is the CTO, is touting its Vertica column-based database (2.0 is due for general release in March).


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