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The ODBMS lives! A rebuttal to Fabian Pascal

Leon Guzenda, Chief Technology Officer of Objectivity, Inc., responds to Fabian Pascal's critique of ODBMS.

Much as I respect Fabian Pascal's views on databases, I differ with him on the merits of ODBMSs. Everything he says is a regurgitation of the RDBMS vendors' early "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt" messages to their loyal disciples.

Much of it is no longer true (Objectivity/DB doesn't use pointers and never has, for instance) and ignores a few simple facts. ODBMSs targetted tasks that relational databases were and still are bad at handling. We've also overcome the "They won't scale" argument. The biggest database that uses Objectivity/DB currently stands at 578 Terabytes, growing by roughly a Terabyte per day. We believe that it is bigger than Oracle's top 200 sites combined! We also have telecom customers that concurrently service hundreds of thousands of customers per set of fault tolerant equipment. Have you ever tried online schema migration with an RDBMS? It's easy with our Active Schema package. In short, a well constructed ODBMS can be faster, more reliable, more scalable, easier to use and cost less to maintain than its relational equivalent.

I should also mention that we also support ODBC and SQL so that Fabian and his peers can use their favorite tools. If they really want to regard a network of objects as a clumsy bunch of tables and JOIN table constructs they can. It will just run slower than if they had done it the elegant ODBMS way.

The RDBMS vendors have moved from an "Objects are irrelevant" to a "We have objects too" pitch. XML is becoming increasingly important in the software industry. The most efficient XML databases are ODBMSs with support for an additional language. The RDBMS vendors have added XML, but their offerings are noticeably inferior to the XML-on-ODBMS offerings from companies like X-hive, an Objectivity partner.

Sure, you can keep adding layers to your old relational engine, but if I offered you a 50 miles per gallon F-16 for the same price as a Chevy truck with strapped on wings and a bigger engine which would you rather fly? It seems that Fabian would prefer to stick with the Chevy. So do a lot of IT managers. It takes time to change attitudes and to sell a new technology into a company that has already written off the cost of its RDBMS site license, but the ODBMSs and XML databases are steadily gaining ground.

About the author

Leon Guzenda is the Chief Technology Officer of Objectivity, Inc.

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This was last published in June 2002

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