It?s not safe to run Informix? new Universal Server database too fast, according to the company's own chief technology officer Michael Stonebraker, the man who designed it in the first place.
His warning came at the Informix Euroforum meeting in Paris last week, when he announced that there several ways to run the new object relational database, with "fast and unsafe" or "slow and safe" as the two main options for customers.
"You can be fast or you can be safe," said Stonebraker. "We offer you the option. In our experience of users though, they will always choose fast." Universal Server, which is scheduled to ship early next year, combines Informix? parallel relational database architecture with object oriented technology from Illustra Software, a start-up founded by Stonebraker and acquired by Informix last year.
According to Informix, the new product will enable users to add content to databases that is not possible with the traditional relational approach. Phil White, chief executive of Informix, commented: "This is what?s key to us in 1997, 1998 and 1999 - taking the relational model supporting numbers and characters only and adding multimedia content."
Key to this strategy is Ilustra?s Datablade technology. Datablades are software modules that share the same prcoessing space as the database engine, enabling it to incorporate different types of data, such as image and video.
But Datablades are also the reason the database might crash. The Blades, many of which will be designed by third parties, run in the same address space as the database engine. This approach offers users huge performance increases, but also introduces the risk that poorly written software will crash, taking the database down with it.
According to Stonebraker, there are three ways for Universal Server to initiate Datablade processing: within the same address space activated by local procedure calls (fast and unsafe); in a separate address space activated by remote procedure calls (slow and safe); or enabled by the server engine, using the Object Management Group?s Common Object Request Broker Architecture (Corba).
This latter option is similar to the approach adopted by Oracle for its Oracle Cartridges strategy, but, insisted Stonebraker, there is an enormous price to pay in terms of performance. It takes far more instructions to trigger a Blade using RPC than LPC and even more to do so using Corba.
He said that of the 1,000 customers that Illustra had won prior to the Informix takeover, the vast majority were ready to risk the fast and unsafe option in order to maximise the performance they were getting from the database. He added that in such cases, it was important to test and certify the code quality of the Blades on a regular basis. Informix will announce details of an authorised certification scheme next year.
In the US, 100 companies have asked to be part of the Datablade development programme - the first 30 Blades should ship by the end of this year - while around 70 firms were expected to attend a European developer seminar at Euroforum last week.
Stonebraker predicted a boom in the third party Datablade business. "Around 80 per cent of Illustra?s 1,000 customers have developed their own Datablades," he noted. "I?d be surprised if in two years time, more than 20 per cent of them do."
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