Pioneer calls relational database technology obsolete

A pioneer of relational database management systems (RDBMS) has argued it is now legacy technology, while touting the offering from his own start-up.

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A pioneer of relational database management systems (RDBMS) has argued it is now legacy technology, while touting the offering from his own start-up.

As a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, in the early 1970s, Michael Stonebraker 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, and others.

But Stonebraker now argues that RDBMS are “long in the tooth” and “should be considered legacy technology.”

In an entry at a new blog, The Database Column, Stonebraker also argued that today’s relational databases lag badly in performance behind a new wave of databases that flip database tables 90 degrees.

It is perhaps no surprise then that column-oriented databases - such as the one built by Stonebraker’s latest start-up, Vertica Systems - stores data vertically in table columns rather than in successive rows.

By putting similar data together, column-oriented databases apparently minimise the time to read the disk, which can add up when executing large-scale calculations such as those typically done in a data warehouse.

Column databases “will take over the warehouse market over time, completely displacing row stores,” Stonebraker wrote.

“Since many warehouse users are in considerable pain (can’t load in the available load window, can’t support ad-hoc queries, can’t get better performance without a “fork-lift” upgrade), I expect this transition to column stores will occur fairly quickly,” he adds.

Column-oriented database systems are not new. Sybase has successfully sold its column-based IQ database for years as a high-performance business intelligence solution.

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