Monday, March 9, 2009

Relational Software's Pitch

An archeological find

I was doing some research on Oracle. Specifically, I was trying to understand how the world transitioned from hierarchical database to relational database. It turned out that circa 1983 Oracle was handing out their stories when their name changed from its 1977 name as Relational Software to Oracle.

This is an archeological find on the earlier days of commercial relational database.

How did Relational/Oracle do it?

According to this 1983 document, the value proposition for relational database is that it can be manipulated by non-technical users. So, instead of waiting days on database administrators and programmers to produce the information, an user can construct a query and get the data in a matter of minutes/hours.

Ultimately, however, the key economic/business driver is that it is easier for corporations to build up huge amount of data than to hire and train database specialists. In this context, relational database and the SQL language make the data much more valuable to the business operators.

Looking for the fundamental economic shift

With perfect hindsight, Oracle was clearly right.

At a deeper level, however, relational database fundamentally changed the economics of database from a high-end specialty tool to something that is a common utility in almost all aspects of our digital life today.

The more relevant question is then, what technology is fundamentally changing the economics of how we do things today?


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