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DB2 Is 30 Years Old Next Month

All this was done before the Internet was invented and memory and disks were expensive commodities

Daryl Taft’s article in eWeek reminded me that next month, on June 6th. IBM’s DB2 RDBMS product will celebrate its 30th. anniversary. This has a personal significance for me. I was part of the DB2 planning team then and on June 6th. 1983, I was in Lyon, France at the European user group meeting, ready to announce IBM’s new RDBMS on MVS called DB2. Interestingly, I had prepared two presentation decks: one for DB2, and the other for IBM’s Database directions. The second one was in hand, in case the announcement could not clear all the IBM approval process on time. Luckily I was clear to go with the announcement of the new production-ready RDBMS product called DB2 to run on the mainframe MVS platform. I still recall the excitement of doing that in front of 2000 people in the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon. Later that evening, the attendees were taken by buses to the Beaujolais winery for the evening dinner.

Why was this significant? IBM Research had worked on a prototype called System R and that was commercialized on the VM platform with the name of SQL/DS.  Even though it supported the relational model and SQL, it lacked the DBMS-robustness such as scalability, performance, and reliability. In the mean time, Oracle got started in 1977 and its first product based on System R principles and SQL was introduced in 1979 on DEC/VAX. There was a gap of four years when IBM did not have a commercial RDBMS on its flagship platform MVS. The only DBMS on MVS was IMS based on hierarchical data model and DL/1 proprietary language. One of the internal debates was on the positioning of the new RDBMS when IMS was so significant a revenue generator. I recall the “dual database strategy” presentation we used to give (which one to use when). One good thing about DB2 was that the bottom layer of the engine (buffering, locking, latching, backup-recovery, write-ahead log, etc.) drew a lot of lessons from the user experience of IMS. Hence DB2 had superior  industrial-strength features than its research cousin SQL/DS as well as Oracle.

The next year in 1984, I went to IBM’s Austin Lab for two years, to lay the foundation work for DB2 for the IBM PC (OS/2). Subsequently the development was shifted to IBM Toronto lab. I personally headed a team doing the early work of porting DB2 to Unix in the year 1990-91.

All this was done before the Internet was invented and memory and disks were expensive commodities. Now the scene has changed a great deal and we see so many new types of database engines coming to market to address the needs of extreme scale and huge volumes of data. IBM continues to be a lead player in the data management and analytics business.

It feels good to be part of that history. Happy birthday DB2.

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More Stories By Jnan Dash

Jnan Dash is Senior Advisor at EZShield Inc., Advisor at ScaleDB and Board Member at Compassites Software Solutions. He has lived in Silicon Valley since 1979. Formerly he was the Chief Strategy Officer (Consulting) at Curl Inc., before which he spent ten years at Oracle Corporation and was the Group Vice President, Systems Architecture and Technology till 2002. He was responsible for setting Oracle's core database and application server product directions and interacted with customers worldwide in translating future needs to product plans. Before that he spent 16 years at IBM. He blogs at http://jnandash.ulitzer.com.

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