Craig S. Mullins

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December 2000


Updates, Trends, & Thoughts
By Craig S. Mullins

I would like to use this December edition of my regular Database Trends column to update those of you who are regular readers. As you know I try to focus on the news and events that shape the world of IT professionals who focus on database management.  And this year has indeed been an active one. 

Open Source DBMS

 In July I wrote about Open Source Database Management Systems. The term “open source” refers to software that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve.  The Linux operating system is the most significant example of open source software today. But there are also several new and upcoming open source database management systems. In July 2000 I discussed in this column two open source DBMS products: PostgreSQL and InterBase. But there is a new, potentially formidable open source database management system, namely SAP DB.

At Linux World this past October, SAP announced it will make its SAP DB database management system available as open-source software under the GNU General Public License. The SAP DB DBMS is SAP’s option for organizations that do not already have a DBMS, but want to implement R/3. As part of opening up SAP DB as open source software, SAP also agreed to host a community forum at to fuel open source development of SAP DB.

This is basically good news for open source DBMS proponents. SAP is a huge software vendor who can provide substantial backing to the open source DBMS movement. Furthermore, SAP has a lot to gain if SAP DB can be used to reduce the TCO for its R/3 customers. On the negative side, SAP DB is used by only a small percentage of SAP’s customers. Furthermore, most of SAP’s larger customers already have an investment in an enterprise level DBMS such as DB2, Oracle, Informix, or SQL Server. Finally, there are few, if any, management tools available for open source DBMS products, SAP DB included. This tends to make database administration and management more costly.

But the bottom line is that the open source movement has indeed hit the DBMS marketplace. And it is likely that one or more of the open source DBMS contenders eventually will become viable for enterprise database management.

The Living Mainframe

Way back in April 1999 I wrote about the resurgence of the mainframe and its continuing viability as a highly available enterprise platform. And IBM has continued to make the mainframe a robust, scalable platform for enterprise computing. But the choices are narrowing for mainframe customers -- IBM is now the only game in town. In October, Amdahl, the last of the plug compatible mainframe vendors announced its intentions to bow out of the mainframe market. This move follows the earlier exit of Hitachi. Therefore, IBM is the only remaining provider of mainframe hardware – but IBM won’t even call them mainframes any more. No, they are now zSeries eServers.

The renaming of the mainframe occurred this past September when IBM made announcements renaming all of its hardware offerings. The S/390 mainframe is morphing into the IBM eServer zSeries. The z/Architecture of the zSeries machines offer numerous upgrades and advantages for mainframe computing users, including:

  • A new operating system, z/OS

  • 16 models (one-way to 16-way)

  • Stand-alone coupling facility (one-way to nine-way)

  • 64-bit real storage support

  • availability of 64-gigabyte memory

  • New pricing based on workload

  • Enhanced resource management

  • Enhanced connectivity

The bottom line is that the mainframe continues to be enhanced and offers a highly scalable, available system for large, modern workloads. There is indeed life left for mainframe caliber computing. But the future of the mainframe resides solely is the arms of IBM.

A Basic IT Library

Finally, in April 2000 I wrote about IT books and discussed a basic IT library. In this column I discussed the future of eBooks. Since then I have purchased a Rocket eBook, which is a device for reading electronic books. It is similar in size to a paperback novel. My general impression is favorable, but cautious. The Rocket eBook works like a champ. It is simple to use, provides a very readable screen, is not too heavy, and is easy to download books into. But it is still more difficult to use than an ink and paper book. And there are very few titles available (even though Stephen King is doing his best to help out with two stories available only online). Furthermore, it is probably not the best form factor for IT books that often are used for reference and lookup.

I’d also like to introduce a new feature of my column: the book of the month. Periodically, I will provide a brief review of a technically- oriented book I’ve read. This month, I’d like to highly recommend Bart Kosko’s The Fuzzy Future (Harmony Books, ISBN 0-609-60446-5). This book is a follow-on book to Kosko’s previous book on fuzzy logic titled Fuzzy Thinking.  In The Fuzzy Future Kosko outlines many possible applications of fuzzy logic including politics, taxes, war, and art. The book is well-written and provides many fascinating possible futures that include fuzzy logic and thinking.


From Database Trends, December 2000.
2000 Craig S. Mullins,  All rights reserved.