CA pours scorn on hybrid databases

"Hybrid object-relational databases have appeal to the database vendors because they allow them to leverage existing technology. We tried it and found it just doesn't work," says Computer Associates executive vice-president Russ Artzt, casting scorn on the hybrid database offerings of companies such as Oracle, Informix and IBM as he boosts CA's object database, Jasmine. "The hybrid approach is all about compromise," says Artzt.

“Hybrid object-relational databases have appeal to the database vendors because they allow them to leverage existing technology. We tried it and found it just doesn’t work,” says Computer Associates executive vice-president Russ Artzt, casting scorn on the hybrid database offerings of companies such as Oracle, Informix and IBM as he boosted CA’s object database, Jasmine.

“The hybrid approach is all about compromise,” says Artzt, speaking at CA Expo 97 in Melbourne last week. “It’s no good for video, audio, spatial data and Web pages. It can’t do caching or recovery properly. On the object side you’re constrained by the design of the relational engine. Introducing new objects into a hybrid system requires a large amount of programming effort.”

“Jasmine is a purely object-oriented database designed to store complex data, video, audio and images,” says Artzt. “There is a great demand, not for object technology but for multimedia and Web enablement. It just so happens that the best way to do that is using objects.”

Artzt admits that the object-oriented approach takes a little getting used to from the developer’s side and CA has devoted a lot of resources toward training materials and courses.

“We will go to our clients and do the training. Object programming requires a different mindset.” Artzt also says that if a company is mainly interested in storing numerical and tabular data then relational is still the way to go.

Pricing for Jasmine, which ships on December 1, has not yet been announced but CA expects it to follow the “power units” approach taken for Unicenter TNG where customers are charged on how processors the software runs on.

Currently there are 80 Jasmine beta sites around the world, four of them in Australia, including Toyota. Using Jasmine, the car manufacturer has developed a multimedia database and application which lets customers see how a vehicle looks with or without various accessories and colours, and once they’ve found what they want, order it.

So where does the future hold for CA’s relational database product, Ingres?

Like the hybrids, Ingres does have object extensions and users will be able to develop Jasmine applications which are capable of accessing Ingres data, says Artzt. This Jasmine development environment tool is called Jade. Users can develop Jasmine applications for Jasmine databases or object-oriented front ends for Ingres databases.

He says Ingres had been left to languish for a while but has not been forgotten and CA will make announcements around April 98 about a new distributed development environment for Ingres.

Meanwhile, Computer Associates is now finding its sales evenly divided between mainframe and client-server products, after once deriving its revenue mainly from mainframe software.

The company’s flagship product is now the five-year-old enterprise management solution Unicenter TNG but officials expect Jasmine to be just as strategic and just as big a money spinner. Unicenter now contributes $2 billion to the coffers, and CA expects Jasmine to do the same.

In the meantime, CA Unicenter TNG continues to forge ahead, taking more and more systems under its wing.

In particular CA was touting its ability to manage non-IT devices, saying that this ability often made the difference in getting a sale. With this in mind CA has integrated its manufacturing software suite Manufacturing Knowledge with Uni-center TNG to manage non-IT devices on the factory floor.

Artzt says the market for such sites “could be enormous. It generally takes us a week or less to write an agent for any device. If it can sit on a network and be given an IP address we can manage it.”

He gave the example of a project that CA is working on to management one of the world’s biggest amusement parks using Unicenter TNG. Artzt says Unicenter’s main competitor for the Fortune 500 companies is IBM’s Tivoli (TME), while for smaller sites it competes with point solutions — products that deal with one aspect of the system such as backup management, or network management.

Artzt claims that Jasmine will be the first purely OO database to ever ship, “With the exception of some offerings from a few very small companies,” he says. One of those companies is Christchurch-based Cardinal Group which launched its object oriented database and development environment JADE in October. Was Artzt and the other US executives aware of this? No, the other OO companies they knew of were all US companies. However, Stephen Richards, CA Asia Pacific region vice-president, is aware of Cardinal and Jade. He would not comment except to say that having two OO development environments called Jade in the New Zealand and Australian market places could create confusion. Given that CA is the second biggest software company in the world, they didn’t seem too concerned that their Jade may or may not be in danger of breaching any trademarks or patents.

Meanwhile, Cardinal spokesman Greg Williamson says Cardinal has been aware of CA’s Jade for at least a year and has had lawyers looking into it.

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