Michael Stonebraker

Discussion of the views of database management pioneer Mike Stonebraker. Related subjects include:

December 10, 2015

Readings in Database Systems

Mike Stonebraker and Larry Ellison have numerous things in common. If nothing else:

I mention the latter because there’s a new edition of Readings in Database Systems, aka the Red Book, available online, courtesy of Mike, Joe Hellerstein and Peter Bailis. Besides the recommended-reading academic papers themselves, there are 12 survey articles by the editors, and an occasional response where, for example, editors disagree. Whether or not one chooses to tackle the papers themselves — and I in fact have not dived into them — the commentary is of great interest.

But I would not take every word as the gospel truth, especially when academics describe what they see as commercial market realities. In particular, as per my quip in the first paragraph, the data warehouse market has not yet gone to the extremes that Mike suggests,* if indeed it ever will. And while Joe is close to correct when he says that the company Essbase was acquired by Oracle, what actually happened is that Arbor Software, which made Essbase, merged with Hyperion Software, and the latter was eventually indeed bought by the giant of Redwood Shores.**

*When it comes to data warehouse market assessment, Mike seems to often be ahead of the trend.

**Let me interrupt my tweaking of very smart people to confess that my own commentary on the Oracle/Hyperion deal was not, in retrospect, especially prescient.

Mike pretty much opened the discussion with a blistering attack against hierarchical data models such as JSON or XML. To a first approximation, his views might be summarized as:  Read more

February 21, 2013

One database to rule them all?

Perhaps the single toughest question in all database technology is: Which different purposes can a single data store serve well? — or to phrase it more technically — Which different usage patterns can a single data store support efficiently? Ted Codd was on multiple sides of that issue, first suggesting that relational DBMS could do everything and then averring they could not. Mike Stonebraker too has been on multiple sides, first introducing universal DBMS attempts with Postgres and Illustra/Informix, then more recently suggesting the world needs 9 or so kinds of database technology. As for me — well, I agreed with Mike both times. :)

Since this is MUCH too big a subject for a single blog post, what I’ll do in this one is simply race through some background material. To a first approximation, this whole discussion is mainly about data layouts — but only if we interpret that concept broadly enough to comprise:

To date, nobody has ever discovered a data layout that is efficient for all usage patterns. As a general rule, simpler data layouts are often faster to write, while fancier ones can boost query performance. Specific tradeoffs include, but hardly are limited to: Read more

July 15, 2011

Soundbites: the Facebook/MySQL/NoSQL/VoltDB/Stonebraker flap, continued

As a follow-up to the latest Stonebraker kerfuffle, Derrick Harris asked me a bunch of smart followup questions. My responses and afterthoughts include:

Continuing with that discussion of DBMS alternatives:

And while we’re at it — going schema-free often makes a whole lot of sense. I need to write much more about the point, but for now let’s just say that I look favorably on the Big Four schema-free/NoSQL options of MongoDB, Couchbase, HBase, and Cassandra.

July 14, 2011

An odd claim attributed to Mike Stonebraker

This post has a sequel.

Last week, Mike Stonebraker insulted MySQL and Facebook’s use of it, by implication advocating VoltDB instead. Kerfuffle ensued. To the extent Mike was saying that non-transparently sharded MySQL isn’t an ideal way to do things, he’s surely right. That still leaves a lot of options for massive short-request databases, however, including transparently sharded RDBMS, scale-out in-memory DBMS (whether or not VoltDB*), and various NoSQL options. If nothing else, Couchbase would seem superior to memcached/non-transparent MySQL if you were starting a project today.

*The big problem with VoltDB, last I checked, was its reliance on Java stored procedures to get work done.

Pleasantries continued in The Register, which got an amazing-sounding quote from Mike. If The Reg is to be believed — something I wouldn’t necessarily take for granted — Mike claimed that he (i.e. VoltDB) knows how to solve the distributed join performance problem.  Read more

February 14, 2011

Now we know why Vertica has been so weirdly evasive

Communicating with Vertica has been tricky recently. But HP is now announced to be buying Vertica, which pretty much forces me to comment about Vertica. :) So I’ll indulge in a little bit of explanation as to what I know about Vertica, whether for publication or under NDA. My analysis of the HP/Vertica combination, and expectations for same, will go into another post.  Read more

January 18, 2011

Architectural options for analytic database management systems

Mike Stonebraker recently kicked off some discussion about desirable architectural features of a columnar analytic DBMS. Let’s expand the conversation to cover desirable architectural characteristics of analytic DBMS in general.  Read more

January 12, 2011

Mike Stonebraker on “real column stores”

Mike Stonebraker has a post up on Vertica’s blog trying to differentiate “real” from “pretend” column stores. (Edit: That post seems to have come back down, but as of 1/19 it can be found in Google Cache.) In essence, Mike argues that the One Right Way to design a column store is Vertica’s, a position that Daniel Abadi used to share but since has retreated from.

There are some good things about that post, and some not-so-good. The worst paragraph is probably

Several row-store vendors (including Oracle, Greenplum and Aster Data) now claim to be selling a column store.   Obviously, this would require a complete rewrite of a DBMS to move from Figure 1 to Figure 2.  Hence, none of the “pretenders” have actually done this.  Instead all have implemented some aspects of column stores, and then claim to be the real thing.  This blog defines what the “real enchilada” looks like, and how to tell it from the pretenders.

which I question on two levels. Read more

October 10, 2010

A few notes from XLDB 4

As much as I believe in the XLDB conferences, I only found time to go to (a big) part of one day of XLDB 4 myself. In general:  Read more

June 30, 2010

Details and analysis of the VoltDB argument

Todd Hoff (High Scalability blog) posted a lengthy examination of the case and use cases for VoltDB. That excellent post, in turn, is based on a Mike Stonebraker* webinar for VoltDB, for which the slide deck is happily available. It’s all nicely consistent with what I wrote about VoltDB last month, in connection with its launch.  Read more

May 25, 2010

VoltDB finally launches

VoltDB is finally launching today. As is common for companies in sectors I write about, VoltDB — or just “Volt” — has discovered the virtues of embargoes that end 12:01 am. Let’s go straight to the technical highlights:

Read more

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