Oracle and IBM relational databases have been attacked for their poor handling of clustering, and their reliability has been called into question.
Simon Williams, inventor of the associative database model, and managing director of Lazy Software, launched the attack after the debut of the Real Application Cluster (RAC), a new feature of the Oracle 9i database described by Oracle boss Larry Ellison as "the biggest step forward in database technology for 30 years".
RAC development work took five years for Intel-based systems. IBM's DB2 database makes use of Big Blue's clustering but only on its proprietary mainframes.
"The holy grail as your application grows is to plug in additional processors without the application being aware," said Williams. "But chopping up a relational database and then splitting its tables over different machines is fraught with difficulties."
Chris Ward, Oracle 9i's UK and Ireland marketing manager, said the complexities had been fully tackled. "Within RAC, cache fusion resolves conflicts for read-read, read-write and write-write across nodes," he said. "Applications don't need to be database-aware. But some, like data mining, might use the ability to partition off part of the data."
Ward emphasised RAC's high availability, failover and scalability. But Tony Lock, of Bloor Research, said there were many unanswered questions about distributed data integrity. "There are layers and layers of complexity," he warned.
Williams contrasted this complexity with Lazy Software's associative database. "It is naturally clustered and totally transparent to the application. All items and links are held in chapters [physical files] and you can have as many chapters spread as you like," he said.
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