Historical notes on database management system vendor Informix (once called Relational Database Systems). Related subjects include:
- Database management systems
- IBM, which acquired Informix in a pair of transactions
- (in DBMS2) Present-day IBM in the database, middleware, and analytic technology markets
In my recent Stonebraker-oriented post about database theory and practice over the decades, I wrote
I used to overrate the importance of abstract datatypes, in large part due to Mike’s influence. I got over it. He should too. They’re useful, to the point of being a checklist item, but not a game-changer. A big part of the problem is [that] different parts of a versatile DBMS would prefer to do different things with memory.
and then left an IOU for a survey of abstract datatypes/RDBMS extensibility. Let’s get to it.
Perhaps the most popular term was actually object/relational DBMS, but I’ve never understood the etymolygy on that one.
Although I call RDBMS extensibility a “checklist item”, the list of products that can check it off is actually pretty short.
- PostgreSQL has the granddaddy implementation.
- Its ideas were commercialized as Illustra, which was bought by Informix, which later was bought by IBM.
- Oracle has one of the major implementations.
- IBM has one of the major implementations.
- Sybase has struggled with implementing the technology.
- So did Microsoft SQL Server, which of course started with the Sybase code line.
Surely there are more, but at the moment I can’t really think of which they are.
This is part of a three-post series on enterprise application software over the decades, meant to serve as background to a DBMS2 post on issues in enterprise apps.
- The first lays out very general issues in understanding and subdividing this multi-faceted sector.
- The second calls out characteristics of specific application areas.
- The third (this one) discusses application software products’ underlying technology.
0. I’d like to discuss the technology underneath packaged application software. To create some hope of the discussion being coherent, let’s split apps into a few categories:
- Major/core suite, large enterprises – e.g. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).
- Major/core suite, smaller enterprises — e.g., the province of Progress and Intersystems VARs (Value-Added Resellers).
- Remarkably distributed applications. This is where a lot of the more unusual technology choices cluster.
- Other point solutions. Sometimes, a guy just needs a catch-all category.
1. The idea of bundling ERP (or its predecessor MRP) with an underlying DBMS has been around for a long time.
- Cullinet and Cincom tried it, but with pre-relational DBMS. Oops.
- Oracle has always had that strategy.
- A sizable minority of SAP’s customers ran
And for smaller enterprises, it has been the norm, not the exception.
|Categories: Application software, Cullinet, Database management systems, IBM, Informix, Microsoft, Oracle, Pre-relational era, SAP, Sybase||3 Comments|
As part of my series on the keys to and likelihood of success, I’d like to consider some historical examples in various categories of data management.
A number of independent mainframe-based pre-relational DBMS vendors “crossed the chasm”, but none achieved anything resembling market dominance; that was reserved for IBM. Success when they competed against each other seemed to depend mainly on product merits and the skills of individual sales people or regional sales managers.
IBM killed that business by introducing DB2, a good product with very good strategic marketing from a still-dominant vendor. By “very good strategic marketing” I mean that IBM both truly invented and successfully market-defined the relational DBMS concept, including such conceptual compromises as:
- Ted Codd’s 12 rules, not that anybody — even IBM — actually followed them all.
- SQL as the standard, rather than the probably superior QUEL.
In the minicomputer world, however, hardware vendors lacked such power, and independent DBMS vendors thrived. Indeed, Oracle and Ingres rode to success on the back of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and other minicomputer vendors, including the payments they got to port their products to various platforms.* The big competitive battle was Oracle vs. Ingres, about which I can say for starters: Read more
Recently I expressed doubts about Actian’s DBMS-conglomerate growth strategy. For context, perhaps I should review other DBMS vendors’ acquisition strategies in the past. Some — quite a few — worked out well; others — including many too minor to list — did not.
In the pre-relational days, it was common practice to buy products that hadn’t succeeded yet, and grow with them. Often these were programs written at enterprises, rather than third-party packages. Most of Cullinet’s product line, including its flagship DBMS IDMS, was came into the company that way. ADR, if memory serves, acquired the tiny vendor who created DATACOM/DB.
Then things slowed down. A Canadian insurance company oddly bought Computer Corporation of America, to utter non-success. (At least I got an investment banking finder’s fee on the deal.) Computer Associates, which did brilliantly in acquiring computer operations software, had a much rockier time with DBMS. It acquired Cullinet, Applied Data Research, and ASK/Ingres — among others — and didn’t have much growth or other joy with any of them.
Indeed, Ingres has been acquired three times, and hasn’t accomplished much for any of the acquirers (ASK, Computer Associates, Actian).
I used to think that Oracle’s acquisition of RDB provided key pieces of what became Oracle’s own extensibility technology. Andy Mendelsohn, however, disputed this vehemently — at least by his standards of vehemence — and his sources are better than mine. Rather, I now believe as I wrote in 2011:
… while Oracle’s track record with standalone DBMS acquisitions is admirable (DEC RDB, MySQL, etc.), Oracle’s track record of integrating DBMS acquisitions into the Oracle product itself is not so good. (Express? Essbase? The text product line? None of that has gone particularly well.)
Experiences were similar for some other relational DBMS pioneers. Read more
|Categories: Applied Data Research, ASK Computer Systems, Computer Associates, Cullinet, Database management systems, IBM, Informix, Ingres, Microsoft, Oracle, Sybase, Teradata||2 Comments|
My deal when I blogged at Computerworld was that I could reuse my stuff if I linked to them. Below is the meat of a post about Michael Stonebraker I made in May, 2005.
Edit: There’s now a whole Michael Stonebraker section on DBMS2.
I’m probably going to mention Mike Stonebraker’s name in one or more other blog entries soon, and not necessarily in the context of always agreeing with him. So I’d like to take a moment to point out that he’s the greatest living contributor to database technology, and this may even have been true when Dr. E. F. “Ted” Codd was still alive.
Along with Eugene Wong and grad student Jerry Held, Mike founded and ran the INGRES research project at UC Berkely, which directly spun off the company later known as Ingres, Oracle’s chief direct competitor in its early years. One of his key lieutenants (and successors) was Bob Epstein, who designed Sybase‘s database technology, which is also the core of Microsoft‘s DBMS. Jerry Held went on to run much of development at Tandem, starting with Non-Stop SQL, the first industrial-strength relational DBMS, and later ran the database products for Oracle.
Mike himself went on with the POSTGRES project, which introduced an approach to user defined functions and abstract data types that swept the DBMS industry. POSTGRES begat Illustra, which was acquired by and became integral to the products of Informix, where Mike also served as CTO. Informix’s database technology was of course later taken over by IBM.
That’s quite a track record, although there are also a couple of more or less failed startups along the way. …
The IEEE awarded Mike its most recent John von Neumann medal, which seems to be a big deal. Here’s the citation.
- Official-looking Ingres Project history