Eye on Oracle

Sep 13 2007   11:08AM GMT

The Oracle DBMS is a “legacy technology”

Ken Cline Profile: Clinek

Relational database management systems like Oracle “should be considered legacy technology; [they are] more than a quarter of century in age and ‘long in the tooth.'”

This is not from some random disgruntled crackpot. It’s from Mike Stonebraker, a relational/SQL DBMS pioneer in the 1970s and the co-creator of the influential Ingres and Postgres DBMSs, written in his new blog.

Essentially, Stonebraker is saying that column-oriented databases are much faster than “traditional” RDBMSs, especially in OLAP and data warehousing applications.  He claims that the new design (which is not really that new, since Sybase IQ and others already use it), combined with new compression techniques, result in performance that is 50 times better than row-oriented systems like Oracle.

But are column-oriented databases inherently faster, or is bad Oracle database design the root cause of the apparent difference?

Regardless, it turns out that Stonebraker has a new start-up whose product is (surprise!) a column-oriented DBMS. (I do like their clever slogan, however: “The tables have turned.”) Obviously, he has a vested interest in the downfall of Oracle, DB2 and the like. But is his critique just marketing bluster, or does he have a valid point? The blogosphere reaction is mixed: some are certainly crying foul that he is just pushing his product, while others agree that the RDBMS is dead. Still others take the middle road, agreeing that a row-wise design is better for OLTP, while column-wise is better for OLAP.

One wonders what Chris Date thinks about this “progress”?

Cheers, Tim

6  Comments on this Post

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  • Brian Fedorko
    I'm afraid that column-oriented DBMS will not take the lead from traditional, relational DBMS. You see, Object Oriented DBMS have promised to outsell traditional Relational DBMS for quite some time - So someday soon, I expect CO-DBMS will have to take the reigns from the OO-DBMS. Personally, I think I'll stick with relational, unless I decide that I don't want to add or delete rows with any sort of efficiency.
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  • David
    Stonebraker is talking purely about the technology used for current DBMS *implementations*, not about a replacement for the relational model or the SQL model itself. The columnar technology that Stonebraker has championed for years isn't intended as an alternative data model at all; it's a particular mode of storage that in principle could be used by any DBMS, whether relational or not. As far as I know it has been used pretty much exclusively in SQL DBMSs (Sybase IQ for example).
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  • Pedro Oliveira
    Actually, back in 2004, I have benchmarked Sybase IQ against Oracle 9i on a datawarehouse environment, and I've found that, using all of Oracle's features - namely, data compression and bitmap indexes - we have achieved equal or better response times with Oracle in all operations but one. The benchmarks were a mix of quite standard operations in our datawarehouse environment - queries and load processes - and were all run on the same machine, a HP9000 with 24 PA/RISC 1GHz CPUs and 32 GBytes memory. Maybe Sybase IQ has better response times by now. As I remember, Sybase was best with some aggregation operations. Oracle was faster on all the remaining chores, and it took less disk space - which is probably the reason it was faster. Still I agree with David. The data access will remain purely on a RDBMS model. For most people it doesn't matter how data is organized inside the database, only how it is accessed.
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  • Jim Polizo
    Efficiency, longness of tooth, or whatever are not the issue. The issue is that if you are a BIG business, you are not going to buy the latest, coolest, fastest, thing that runs on the cheapest hardware with the best algorithms because, if it fails, you will be fired and never work in this town again. Things like Oracle are there because they have hundreds of thousands of man-hours of development and testing time plus gazillions of hours of real world use. If I put a "2" into Oracle, it is pretty well understood how to make sure that "2" goes in, stays in, looks like a "2" to everyone querying it, and is recoverable if the earth is hit by a comet. New technologies are welcome but the problems that things like Oracle best lend themselves too will be slow to convert.
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  • Martyn Richard Jones
    Turning the tables ... ??? ... Mike spins a good old yarn. What will he come up with next, inverted lists?
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  • Dave H
    This is not from some random disgruntled crackpot. It’s from Mike Stonebraker You have a "not" in there where you shouldn't have. :)
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