Monday, July 14, 2008

The process of database research

Jennifer Widom just received the ACM SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award, and spoke about the process of database research:
"[I]t's imperative to think about all three of the critical components -- data model, query language, and system -- and in that order! We in research have a rare luxury, compared to those in industry, that we can mull over a data model for a long time before we move on to think about how we'll query it, and we can nail down a solid syntax and semantics for a query language before we implement it."
I've designed languages before, and I know how hard it is to do it right, so when I was designing SQLstream's extensions to SQL I looked at the research, and Jennifer's team's work was easily the best in the field.

Some of my colleagues balked at the paper's formal approach, but it was just what we needed to build a language for combining streaming and stored relational data, and the optimizer rules and execution objects to implement it.

She is correct that it is a rare luxury for industry to have a sound foundation to build next-generation technology on. Congratulations on the award, Jennifer, and thanks for helping to build that foundation.

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