Bringing big thoughts to market
Some people think big thoughts – Ted Codd’s relational model for database management is an exemplar. Some people make things. But very few people both think big thoughts and make big things – companies, products, and high-value services. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Thomas Edison spring to mind. They created (in some cases, are still creating) value for society, investors and academia.
And then there’s Mike Stonebraker: an academic at heart, an entrepreneur with a focused, pragmatic worldview.
Stonebraker Through the Years
Stonebraker, whose resume includes 29 years at the University of California and 14 years (and counting) at MIT, has launched nine companies in that time. Beginning with Ingres, he moved on to launch Postgres, then on to Streambase (now Tibco) and Vertica (acquired by HP). See the entire timeline of Stonebraker's accomplishments.
(Image curtesy of stonebraker70.com)
From C-Store to H-Store and VoltDB
The research that lead to Vertica (C-Store) was followed by research on H-Store. VoltDB is the commercial version of H-Store; it revolutionized data management with a number of insights: move the application/processing to the data for speed; pair SQL with an ACID relational model to ease application development, improve the results of queries, and provide businesses with operational control; process all data in-memory; and transact on streams of data in memory – during the transaction.
Stonebraker sat down with O’Reilly’s Mike Hendrickson to talk about winning the ACM's A.M. Turing Award; the future of data science; and the importance — and difficulty — of data curation. Listen to the podcast.
ACM A. M. Turing Award
Stonebraker’s continuous stream of ideas, made into commercial products, is un-matched in the data management world. The ACM, on awarding Stonebraker the 2014 A.M. Turing Award, said it best:
“Michael Stonebraker has made fundamental contributions to database systems, which are one of the critical applications of computers today and contain much of the world's important data. He is the inventor of many concepts that were crucial to making databases a reality and that are used in almost all modern database systems.
“His work on Ingres introduced the notion of query modification, used for integrity constraints and views. His later work on Postgres introduced the object-relational model, effectively merging databases with abstract data types while keeping the database separate from the programming language. Stonebraker's implementations of Ingres and Postgres demonstrated how to engineer database systems that support these concepts; he released these systems as open software, which allowed their widespread adoption and their code bases have been incorporated into many modern database systems. Since the pathbreaking work on Ingres and Postgres, Stonebraker has continued to be a thought leader in the database community and has had a number of other influential ideas including implementation techniques for column stores and scientific databases and for supporting on-line transaction processing and stream processing.”
Stonebraker Says: Pay Attention to the Real World
For those of us who work in Stonebraker companies, there’s much to celebrate about Mike’s Turing award. Integrity of vision, clarity of implementation, ability to move an idea to viable product: Stonebraker has spent his life thinking about things, then making them happen. In his words:
“I would encourage academics to pay attention to the real world, at least in those fields where the ultimate arbiter is real-world applications.” Watch the entire ACM interview.
(Image curtesy of the ACM.)