Databases: The Integrative Force in Cyberspace
Database technology has come a long way. Starting from systems that were just a little more flexible than low-level file systems, they have evolved into powerful programming and execution environments by embracing the ideas of data independence, non-procedural query languages, extensible type systems, automatic query optimization (including parallel execution and load balancing), automatic control of parallelism, automatic recovery and storage management, transparent distributed execution–to just name a few. Even though database systems are (today) the only systems that allow normal application programmers to write programs that will be executed correctly and safely in a massively parallel environment on shared data, database technology is still viewed by many people as something specialized to large commercial online applications, with a rather static design, something substantially different from the “other” IT components. More to the point: Even though database technology is to the management of persistent data what communication systems are to message-based systems, one can still find many application developers who pride themselves in not using databases, but something else. This is astounding, given the fact that, because of the dramatic decrease in storage prices, the amount of data that needs to be stored reliably (and retrieved, eventually) is growing exponentially–it’s Moore’s law, after all. And what is more: Things that were thought to be genuinely volatile until recently, such as processes, turn into persistent objects when it comes to workflow management, for example.
The paper argues that the technological evolution of database technology makes database systems the ideal candidate for integrating all types of objects that need persistence one way or the other, supporting all the different types of execution that are characteristic of the various application classes. If database systems are to fulfill this integrative role, they will have to adapt to new roles vis-a‘-vis the other system components, such as the operating system, the communication system, the language runtime environment, etc. but those developments are under way as well.
KeywordsDatabase System Execution Environment Database Technology Continuous Query Persistent Data
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