The (n-th) return of the Database Machine


Once there were Database Machines. Talk to your favorite database person and they will tell you that this is an outdated idea. It is so old, that it can be served again as new and innovative. @mperedim remembers that I predicted that right after Oracle bought Sun. I am neither a market analyst nor I have predictive powers. It is just that Oracle has tried this before: Unbreakable Linux just a few years ago and with Sun hardware and Solaris in the 90s (It also happens that they had tried a lot of things with Sun before, like trying to move all their development desktops to Solaris x86. Or working with Sun on the NC which is no different than today’s netbook paradigm, or the X terminal of the early 90s or even the dumb terminal). So with a 20-year amnesia cycle in CS why not reintroduce the idea? Enter the Sun Oracle Database machines.

Oracle wants to sell such machines. It eliminates support (contract) complexity. Oracle needs a base Operating System that it can control its development and a hardware platform that can be optimized for what Oracle does best. Now clients can buy turn key solutions from Oracle just like they do when they buy IBM. Picture this: Two Linux machines, with Oracle 10g installed exchanging every kind of traffic except sqlplus. Whose fault is this? Oracle’s? The Linux vendor’s? It turned out to be a weird combination of the hardware. And this was discovered because the DBA and the System Administrator under the same employer decided to solve the problem (I was the System Administrator involved). Imagine two different vendors and the client trying to solve the problem: I would expect a lot of finger pointing instead of actually finding the solution and/or workaround.

Oracle now has the opportunity to market the product as a cost saver (“You only need an army of DBAs, not an army of DBAs and an army of systems administrators for different operating systems. Oh, and by the way our patching process just got simpler, you need to call only us”). While in fact a solution’s complexity is unaffected, support contract and communication complexity for the client is simplified. This looks better than buying IBM (or Microsoft) to the person that signs the checks.

Now if someone can make WebKit work with Emacs and we will have Lisp Machines resurrect…

PS: You do not believe in CS amnesia? In “Getting started as a PhD student” Matt Welsh writes: “you should never read anything from the 1960’s or 70’s or you will realize that it all has been done before”.


2 Responses to “The (n-th) return of the Database Machine”

  1. George Simos Says:

    This statement is pretty naive “you just need an army of DBAs and not an army of DBAs and SysAdmins”, I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar :)

    • adamo Says:

      If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a sales-droid claim this (elimination of system administration) or even better system administration without the need of experienced admins, I would have been a rich man. You and I are not target audience for such statements, but the right audience exists :(

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