Opinion: Database as Killer App ?

Featuring: Database opportunity

In the post dot.com era of 2003 when systems cutbacks and now exporting of IT development expertise continues to stagger the domestic IT community(but it is boom times in Eastern Europe, India and elsewhere), it is hard to see any growth positives and certainly not any killer applications. In fact pundits covering the Microsoft announcement at PDC 2003 of their future development strategies were publicly wondering what the killer app for the new Longhorn would be. The new Avalon GUI interface with completely rewritten Windows SDK attracted a few appreciative murmurs. Talk of an enhanced Windows Media Player and "Sparkle" the new Flash-killer to drive it elecited "I'm from Missouri" so whats. Even speech and the handwriting on the wall demo failed to produce much excitement. But then Yukon and a databased filesystem for Longhorn got mentioned- right away my eyes and ears perked up.

"Database as the next killer app ? You have got to be kidding" Well just ask HP and IBM about their two zombie, forever undead operating environs . This is what a killer database application did for each of them. Despite repeated efforts by HP to kill the HP3000 system with its very popular Image database - the system manages to thrive and survive. Ditto for IBM's AS/400 and its built-in database as part of the OS/400 operating system. The number of cancellation and death pronouncement for OS/400 and databse make cats lives look paltry. Having a good database and even better, a database tied to the OS appears to be the Fountain of Youth. And guess who in Redmond Washington needs a little rejuvenation for their security/reliability/bloat plagued dektop operating system ?

The Opportunities

A colleague used to work for the local medical center. She said that she always had to watch her step in the hospital corridors and offices because she kept tripping over potential database applications. "They are everywhere and often to be found in two and threes. The problem is that nobody treats or touches a fraction of them because the costs of the software are too high and their development and operational use too complex to be effective except in the most urgent cases." I was a bit sceptical. But on a factory tour, I kept bumping my head on low hanging database applications just waiting to be harvested. In this case lack of standards for data interchange and conflicting DBMS query and stored procedure languages were the primary inhibiting factors. Then I went to give a presentation at a local college on Java, and my gosh the pubescent database apps were all over me, all over me like raving groupies.

Face it - databases are everywhere. Excel and spreadsheets tap into the need and provide asemblance of the database infrastructure. Likewise PHP is one of the fastest growing web-based scripting languages because it looks like Perl and Java, its comparatively easy to code, its free, it runs well on a free OS(plus several OS for hires), and it has developed a huge library of largely free methods and functions. Ohhh ... and PHP supports a very easy to use and free database, MySQL. So now PHP is a board member of LAMP - Linux. Apache, MySQL, PHP. LAMP is quietly going out and sopping up a lot of those low-hanging database apps that need a Web based solution. Sybase on the Server still hasn't seemed to recover from being stolen by Microsoft and now out-engineeered. But in embedded apps, Sybase SQL Anywhere's ability to deliver SQL 92++ functionality in a cery customizable and compact format - well that is doing very indeed.

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