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Is Oracle Database a Legacy Technology?

Is Oracle Database a legacy technology? Michael Stonebraker thinks so. In a recent paper The End of an Architectural Era (It’s Time for a Complete Rewrite), he says:

“Because [the major] RDBMSs can be beaten by more than an order of magnitude on the standard OLTP benchmark, then there is no market where there they are competitive. As such, they should be considered as legacy technology more than a quarter of a century in age, for which a complete redesign and re-architecting is the appropriate next step.”

Them’s fighting words from the man behind Ingres, Postgres (post-Ingres), and other database technologies. Ingres, in particular, is said to be one of the most influential modern computer research projects because it gave rise to Informix, Tandem NonStop SQL, Sybase, and Microsoft SQL Server. We have to assume that Stonebraker now believes that all of these RDBMSs—not just Oracle—should be sent to the home for tired software.

Categories: Oracle
  1. June 6, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    What is a legacy is this Stonebraker character. Been a lot more than a quarter of a century since he started spruiking up his products, using his university positions to lend credibility to his deranged perorations. About time he retired…

  2. Iggy Fernandez
    June 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Them’s fighting words, Nuno 🙂

  3. June 6, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    ‘scuse me, but when a supposedly “rational and scientific” person spends 25 years telling everyone how Oracle is so wrong and is about to disappear and it OBVIOUSLY hasn’t come about, I have to question the sanity of that person and why is he still listened to?
    If it walks like a duck, quacks like one and looks like one, then maybe, perhaps, it’s a good guess to call it, a duck?
    Others might want to keep banging their heads against walls. Me, I like sanity.

  4. June 7, 2010 at 3:20 am

    I think the web page you reference on Ingres as “one of the most influential modern computer research projects” is complete rubbish and probably mainly fabrication by someone.

    Informix was *not* based on Ingres at all. Informix was developed by Relational Systems Incorporated (RSI) or something like that, and was a simple relational database using C-ISAM based indexed files behind the scenes and its own query language – but not QUEL. It was rewritten to be SQL compliant and called Informix-SQL. I believe other changes were made as a result of input from other databases and companies as it supported raw disk and went fully multi-threaded. But it was never based on Ingres.

    Ingres itself was sold commercially by a company called Ingres. That itself was bought by ASK, before it went bust and was picked up by Computer Associates (CA). I believe Ingres is still available from CA. I don’t understand why this is not mentioned in that web page at all.

  5. Iggy Fernandez
    June 7, 2010 at 11:11 am


    That web page appears to be an identical copy of an old version dated March 5, 2005 of the Wikipedia article on Ingres (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ingres_(database)&oldid=10807256). The phrase “one of the most influential modern computer research projects” and the claims about Informix were introduced in an older version dated May 10, 2003 by Maury Markowitz.

    “By any measure, Ingres is one of the most influential modern computer research projects. … Unlike System R, the Ingres source code was freely available (on tape) for a modest fee. By 1980 some 1,000 copies had been distrubuted [sic], and a number of companies were using the code for their own product lines. Informix was one of the earliest users, and one of the few that was completely external to the Ingres project.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ingres_(database)&oldid=906585)

    One of the sources quoted by Maury Markowitz is Funding a Revolution: Government Support for Computing Research (National Academies Press, 1999).

    “Ingres technology diffused into the commercial sector through three major channels: code, people, and publications. Unlike the technical details of the IBM project, Ingres source code was publicly available, and about 1,000 copies were distributed around the world so that computer scientists and programmers could experiment with the system and adjust it to their own needs. Michael Stonebraker founded Ingres Corporation (purchased by Computer Associates in 1994) to commercialize the Berkeley code directly. Robert Epstein, the chief programmer at Ingres in the 1970s, went on to co-found Britton-Lee Incorporated and then Sybase. Both Britton-Lee and Sybase used ideas and experience from the original Ingres, and government agencies were early customers of both companies. Computer Associates released a commercial version of the Ingres code in the 1980s. Continued movement of Ingres researchers throughout the database community spread the technology even farther. Jerry Held and Carol Youseffi moved from UC-Berkeley to Tandem Computers Incorporated, where they built a relational system, the predecessor to NonStop SQL. Until joining Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers in 1998, Held was senior vice-president of engineering at Oracle, where he headed that company’s database efforts. Paula Hawthorn moved from Ingres to Britton-Lee (as did Michael Ubell) and eventually became a co-founder of Illustra Information Technologies Incorporated, now part of Informix. Stonebraker himself worked with Ingres Corporation, Illustra, and Informix. Other Ingres alumni went to AT&T, Hewlett-Packard Company (HP), IBM, and Oracle, bringing with them the lessons learned from Ingres.” (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=6323&page=165)

    In a Wikipedia entry on Informix dated April 24, 2003, Maury Markowitz says:

    “Roger Sippl and Laura King formed Informix under the name Relational Database Systems Inc, to make and sell an ISAM-based database product known as Marathon, which went on the market in 1981. They then turned their attention to the relational database world, starting with the publically-available Ingres source code. At the time Ingres had a number of serious limitations, using page-level locking, relying on the underlying operating system to provide all security, and limiting names to only 18 characters. In addition Ingres used its own query language QUEL, at a time when the market was clearly moving to SQL. Nevertheless Ingres was well tested and free. Informix included only the most basic changes to the Ingres system, most notably an adaptation of QUEL to their own Informer language.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=IBM_Informix&oldid=890504)

    In a posting dated April 20, 2004, Dave Kosenko who spent almost ten years at Informix says:

    “As far as ingres code goes, I was surprised when I read that too, but then I got to thinking. The INFORMER query language that was part of Informix 3.3 (and Informix was the product name back then – the company was RDS – Relational Database Systems.) and it was definitely QUEL-based, QUEL being the language used by Ingres back then. Informix SQL, or ISQL, made the switch to SQL along with moving to a client/server model (in Informix 3.3, the application accessed the data files directly.) So it could very well be that the INFORMER piece was built using open source ingres code. It would have been the easy way to go.” (http://www.dbmonster.com/Uwe/Forum.aspx/informix/2138/Informix#5kfa805r3h0oiceea2nmkimk92hfh0rd984axcom)



  6. June 8, 2010 at 1:10 am


    Some of the confusion may be a result of the way the major RDBMS vendors went about buying up other companies with “newer technology” during the 1990’s. Your notes indicate that Illustra had an ex-Ingres person there, before they were bought by Informix. That may be the justification for the claim that Informix had Ingres technology in it somewhere.

    I still agree with Dave Kosenko that the original Informix product did not have anything to do with Ingres – but I cannot prove it one way or the other. I used both in their early versions – Informix 3 and Ingres 5 – and remember them as being architected differently and having radically different features. Informix was a simple relational database sitting on top of its own C-ISAM layer storing the data as an indexed file per table in the UNIX file system. I remember Ingres as having a richer set of data types and storage structures – heap, b-tree, and others. So its architecture was different to Informix. Whether Informix “borrowed” some components of the open source of Ingres to fill gaps in their own product, such as the query language, I don’t know. I seem to remember that the query languages were different, but then they could have reverse engineered QUEL and just replaced some of the keywords to make it look different.

    Part of the purpose of my comment was about being aware of the Wikipedia syndrome, where anyone can post something on the web and then others make reference to it. I was surprised by the claim of the Ingres / Informix link as I have been using them and other relational databases for over 20 years, yet never heard about this. Hence I wondered if this was just “fabrication” on the part of the person writing it? You have found other references to back up the “link” claim, but I still feel the original web site should have been more explicit about what the “link” was and when it happened.


  7. Iggy Fernandez
    June 9, 2010 at 12:13 pm


    I’ve found concrete evidence that the development of Informix was not influenced by University Ingres. The Informer language was based on relational algebra unlike QUEL and SQL which were based on relational calculus. I’ve listed all the evidence at https://iggyfernandez.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/bad-information-lives-forever-on-the-internet/.



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