Robert Goldman discusses databases
With Oracle's new Oracle8 object-relational database just released, more users will undoubtedly become exposed to managing objects in databases. But object-based databases, such as Object Design's ObjectStore, have existed for several years as an alternative to relational databases. Robert Goldman, chairman, CEO, and president of Object Design since November 1995, talked with IDG's Paul Krill about the direction of object and object-relational databasesIDG: You are doubtful about merging relational and object databases. Why?
Goldman: Fundamentally, the two different techniques are very different. The object database assumes that the relationship between the information is part of the database. The other operation, in a network database or in a relational database, assumes that the relationship is not defined in the data.
There are individual tables that dynamically get linked together. So you have two very different types of architectures and, when you try to kind of glue them together, so to speak, what you find is that it doesn't do either very well.
IDG: Object databases have not had the same kind of impact that relational databases have had. What would it take for purely object databases to pick up in the marketplace?
Goldman: If you go back two or three years ago, the only place that object databases could sell their product were the places that relational databases failed. And those fell into some categories like telecommunications and finance, and object databases had tremendous success in the markets where very high-performance requirements existed, like telephone-switching systems. The big driving force that changed all that is the Internet. When the Internet exploded on the scene, the Internet set of requirements matched very nicely with the set of requirements that were in object databases.
The data type issue became much more important because now these applications had video clips and audio clips and VRML [Virtual Reality Modelling Language] and all of these new types of data, and these applications were getting built not in a procedural mode by PowerBuilder or Visual Basic as if the application had to be built in a client/server model; rather these applications were getting built in an object environment.
They were using Java. They were using this whole object architecture. So the Internet was the key that really tossed object databases into the mainstream.
IDG: Aren't there migration and educational issues that could hinder the adoption of object databases?
Goldman: Absolutely. Now, from the migration standpoint, our view is that we're not trying to migrate the existing applications to object databases. If you have an order-entry system written in Oracle running on a relational database, leave it alone. I mean, you're not going to rewrite that anyway.
What we see is that, as you go to build the next new application, that new application is going to include video and audio and VRML and all these new types of data. That application didn't start out in the relational database. That appli-cation started out nowhere. And as you go to build that new application and you use Java as a programming language and you use all these other tools, it's going to make a lot more sense to store it in an object database than it would to try to convert it into relational.
[Informix chairman] Phil White said that 5 per cent of the world's data is stored in databases, which means 95 per cent of the world's data is not stored in databases. So our view is, let's go after [new applications], let's not try to solve the migration issue. We do have a tool that reads relational databases and moves it into ObjectStore, so that when people want to do that [there's] a mechanism to do it.