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Time to rewrite DBMS, says Ingres founder

Abandon SQL

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Database management systems (DBMS) are 20 years out of date and should be completely rewritten to reflect modern use of computers.

That's according to a group of academics including DBMS pioneer Mike Stonebraker, Ingres founder and a Postgres architect taking his second controversial outing so far this year. Stonebraker upset many last month for his criticism of Google's MapReduce.

In a paper entitled The end of an architectural era (It's time for a complete rewrite), the group - drawn from DBMS specialists at MIT and in industry - have said that modern use of computers renders many features of mainstream DBMS obsolete.

They have argued that DBMS designs such as Oracle and SQL Server come from an age when online transaction processing (OLTP) dominated and required techniques such as multi threading and transaction locking. They said that modern transactions - entered via web pages - do not need these expensive processing overheads and DBMS should, therefore, be re-designed without them. Persistent storage such as disks are also seen as unnecessary and could be replaced by geographically dispersed RAM storage.

Stonebraker and his group also advocate abandoning SQL because they see no need for a separate data manipulation language. Data manipulation, they said, can be performed with other tasks using languages such as Ruby. They describe a prototype DBMS called H-Store that embodies these ideas.

While there is certainly a point to be made about the way OLTP works in modern computer environments and the group has some persuasive arguments, it seems unlikely that mainstream DBMS builders will move away from tried-and-tested TP technologies in the near future. Banks and financial institutions in particular will want to hang on to the comfort and security provided by DBMS, which fully implement ACID properties.®

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