Feeds

Learning from the past

David Norfolk has Proustian moment over IMS

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Of course, even though some of what I write today comes out of what I learned way back then, I take care not to mention COBOL, IMS DB/DC, MVS, data analysis and entity/relationship diagramming, because I want editors to take me seriously and pay me.

So, I talk UML, OO, XML, C#, RDBMS and Team System. However, I think that this is a symptom of what is wrong with IT. Today's technology is better than that of 25 years ago – but we shouldn't throw away the underlying principles of metadata abstraction, functional cohesion and so on just because they were also once useful for building COBOL Message Processing Programs – or rather, we shouldn't relearn these principles from scratch; we should build on what we already know.

IT is the only discipline that's important to business where we routinely throw away knowledge every time a new technology implementation appears. I remember watching OO encounter “for the first time” people and management issues that the OO gurus could have anticipated if they'd been prepared to abstract Structured Techniques experiences away from COBOL and databases and learn from them.

I watched RDBMS outdate my beloved IMS – and I really am a relational data model enthusiast (relational theory is not totally worthless in the design of hierarchical databases, by the way) - and I'm now seeing “post relational” databases replace the relational databases I'm used to. Yes, I know that the product names haven't changed but any database in which a column can contain rich XML documents isn't really a relational database, in my book.

As we move forward, however, are we at risk throwing away knowledge: the importance of abstraction; of analysing metadata structures; of distinguishing the semantics of data from its format; of trading off flexible access against raw performance in a managed way? Is the importance of providing database mentors to help application developers design good, maintainable database accesses that take advantage of the DBMS optimisers etc being recognised? This was a function of DBA in my day but these days I get the impression that DBA doesn't talk to developers much.

Many people use databases today, but how many of them know why they might choose Ingres or PostgreSQL instead of MySQL? We have better automated DBA tools today than I ever had (from the likes of BMC and Embarcadero), but are database maintenance and performance issues still biting developers on the heel?

I leave these questions to my readers – although I believe that many developers, those who still have a career path, have it because they can learn from the past as well as exploit the new - but please feel free to start a debate if you think that there are issues here. Or even if you think I'm finding issues where none exist....®

David Norfolk is the author of IT Governance, published by Thorogood. More details here.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.