RDBMS: Looking Back, Moving Ahead

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Way back in 1969, the relational model that spawned relational database management systems (RDBMS) was born. Dr. E.F. Codd wrote a paper that year titled “Derivability, Redundancy and Consistency of Relations Stored in Large Data Banks” for IBM. A revised version was published in 1970 in Communications of the ACM, the journal of the Association of Computer Machinery. Out of these papers, research projects evolved at IBM and the University of California at Berkeley that began to put the theory into practice.

After fighting battles against alternative technologies and doubt from the industry, the first relational database products hit the market nearly a decade later. Relational Software Inc. (now Oracle Corp.) was the first to bring a SQL implementation to market. SQL, or structured query language, is what most RDBMSs use to access the database, though it’s not a requirement. IBM followed Relational Software in 1981 with a product based on its research, SQL/DS for VSE. In 1983, it introduced its first DB2 system.

Despite the continuing challenges from competing technologies, most large databases are still created and administered via an RDBMS. As you might have expected, the first big guys to come to market with the technology are still leading it: Oracle and IBM. Microsoft’s SQL Server manages to maintain its hold on a big slice of the pie year after year, as well. According to IDC, the market is expected to reach nearly $20 billion by 2008, and Oracle has the biggest share (39.8 percent in 2003), followed by IBM (31.3 percent) and Microsoft (12.1 percent). Of course, it depends who you ask. Gartner claims the biggest market share for IBM (35 percent in 2003), with Oracle in second (32.6 percent) and Microsoft third (19 percent). Whichever analyst firm you believe, the top three players remain the same.

Oracle’s most recent update to its technology is Oracle Database 10g. Released in 2003 as the first database designed for grid computing, the technology features numerous editions aimed at various market segments, from huge enterprises to small businesses, even including a Lite Edition for companies that want to work with mobile database applications. The Enterprise Edition includes business intelligence services like data warehousing, OLAP and data mining, as well as open access to Web services through SQL, Java, XML and standard Web interfaces. Oracle can boast 17 independent security evaluations of the product, as well as several recent industry awards, including InfoWorld’s “Best Database of the Year” for its annual Technology of the Year Awards 2005, and eWEEK Labs’ “Top Products of 2004.”

IBM’s DB2 Universal Database 8.2 (code-named “Stinger” before its release last fall) is designed to work with AIX, Linux, HP-UX, Sun and Windows, and features improved integration with tools designed to help programmers increase their efficiency. DBAs are not left out—DB2 UDB 8.2 also features plenty of autonomic capabilities to free their time so they can focus on more business-critical tasks. IBM is an IT giant, and its DB2 technology spans numerous editions for production as well as application development deployments, and can be enhanced with lots of other software. Some of the major improvements in the latest version help lower costs through tools like automated statistics collection and object maintenance, and self-tuning backup and restore. Other enhancements increase worker productivity for programmers through Microsoft .NET integration and Java enhancements, and heighten security via high availability disaster recovery and other features.

Coming soon to an enterprise (or small business) near you is Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (code-named Yukon), which will be available in four editions, featuring high availability and scalability, as well as advanced business intelligence tools and tighter security. The Enterprise Edition will be a complete platform for mission-critical applications at large organizations, offering data partitioning, database mirroring, complex integration, ad hoc reporting and more. The Standard Edition is ideal for medium-sized businesses, while the Workgroup Edition makes the technology more affordable and simple to manage for the SMB space. The Express Edition will cost nothing for those who want to build simpler data-driven applications.

Just because these three vendors own the vast majority of the market, that doesn’t mean there’s no one else trying to compete. Sybase IQ, designed specifically for reporting, data warehousing and analytics, and Teradata’s Database V2R5.0 are both contenders. There are also several open-source options out there, including the popular MySQL database, Firebird (which wins the award for coolest logo) and Ingres r3 from Computer Associates.

Emily Hollis is managing editor for Certification Magazine. She can be reached at ehollis@certmag.com.


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