Blackboard is in the house for the third consecutive year…”Aw Yeah!” I am pretty sure that’s what was in my head Monday morning when I stepped into the keynote by Chris Date. He gave a 3 hour keynote and session on Database Foundations.
Mr. Date is the author of one of the most famous database texts available on the free market, Introduction to Database Systems. He also has a few other texts that are going to possibly make my “Geek List” for reading.
- The Relational Database Dictionary, Extended Edition
- Database in Depth: Relational Theory for Practitioners
I won’t even attempt at saying this guy doesn’t know his stuff. He’s like the father of relational databases. Just look at his bio and his publications. I will say I think the guy might be a little off-balance. I’ll explain a little more below…
The presentation started off somewhat interesting. He talked about how amazed he was that so many database vendors and even database professionals are “misguided” about relational theory. His main argument is that bad teaching has caused bad learning amongst database practitioners. Most importantly that database practitioners and software developers lack a fundamental understanding of relational database foundations. Read slides 2 through 6 for his examples of lack of foundation.
Date and a co-author, Hugh Darwen have put what they call The Third Manifesto which Date calls a detailed study of the impact of type theory on the relational model of data, including a comprehensive model of type inheritance. This came out of three reasons:
- Equating relations and object classes (“The First Great Blunder”)
- Mixing pointers and relations (“The Second Great Blunder”)
- More generally, failing to understand relational theory
As Date says, “The Third Manifesto is evolutionary, not revolutionary: Builds on (and tidies up) the relational model – not an attempt to replace that model…” It apparently came as a response to The Object-Oriented Database System Manifesto and Third-generation database system manifesto by Michael Stonebreaker.
- Speaker was very anti-SQL. He equated SQL to Cobal in that there will be a migration to a “better” language for more appropriate and correct “relational” communication. Yet he failed to explain what that language would be. He just reiterated that SQL was not the answer.
- In the relational world, VALUES are immutable and cannot change.
- eg: Table has 3 rows, then insert a 4th
- Therefore table is mutable therefore is a variable not a value.
- Circle is really an Elipse (Who didn’t know that?)
He lost credibility with me about two things. The first was his denial of SQL as an appropriate language to interact with relational database systems. He could have made a good point if he provided an alternative language that could and should replace SQL. The second thing was referencing this company called Required Technologies, Inc. in which he said this company built what’s called a Trans Relational Model. As Date said, this company built a relational system that claimed to have no DML or DDL, not to mention a CBO or joins. For some reason I felt like the only person in the room saying this guy is either senile or foolish. Well it turns out there are others who think the same as me.