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Microsoft has recruited database guru David DeWitt to head up a new database research lab. Based at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where DeWitt was until recently professor of computing sciences, the new lab will focus on advanced data-management techniques.

Working with Microsoft researchers based in Redmond, Washington, graduate students from the university will have access to Microsoft's SQL Server source code and cloud computing facilities. Dewitt said this will "enable the graduate students at Wisconsin to explore unique avenues of research that are not open to graduate students elsewhere."

Well known in database circles, DeWitt comes with many years experience of practical research into database technology including the Niagara query engine and the Paradise parallel database for geographical information systems.

Recently DeWitt and Postgres architect Mike Stonebraker co-authored a controversial attack on Google's MapReduce database. Their view that MapReduce was "a giant step backwards" provoked a robust response from Google's supporters.

Microsoft described DeWitt's appointment as "a coup" and his knowledge of large and complex database technologies will certainly boost its efforts to cope with the next phase of database development.

The new lab has been named the Jim Gray Systems Lab as a tribute to the highly-regarded database innovator and Microsoft fellow Jim Gray who mysteriously disappeared in January 2007.®

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