Object databases store big ideas

Technology becomes crucial for data mining

Scientists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) at Stanford University in Menlo Park, Calif., are studying the smallest things to try to make sense of the biggest. Their careful, meticulous analysis of subatomic particles could one day explain why there is a universe at all and not just a sprawling expanse of nothing.

In a sense, grappling with such enormous ideas is just part of what high- energy physicists do every day. At the Stanford center, which is funded by the Energy Department, the experiments produce enormous amounts of data, which the scientists store in an object database made by Objectivity Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif.

Object databases vie with relational databases in the market and each have strengths and weaknesses.

Relational databases store information in tables, the virtual equivalent of a spreadsheet. They are good for storing simple data such as the prices of products or billing data. Object databases, a companion to object-oriented programming languages such as C++, store data as discrete objects with numerous interconnections between one piece of data and others.

Object databases are ideal for large volumes of data, especially when scientists or investigators need to discover relationships that are not obvious, said Jay Jarrell, Objectivity's president and chief executive officer. When data is stored in relational databases, it must be broken into pieces — such as the name of a terrorism suspect and the terrorist events he is suspected of — with each data point stored in its own field and linkages coded between them.

Object databases can create a discrete "object" that contains information about the suspect and the incidents. "We do not have to decompose those objects that are coming in in massive quantities. We can store them directly," Jarrell said. "It allows the researcher the capability of finding elusive needles in a sea of haystacks that are distributed logically and physically around the world."

"We can take any object that can be described in [an object-oriented programming language] and put them into our database, no matter how complex," said Leon Guzenda, Objectivity's chief technology officer. "This data is complex because it has many relationships with other objects."

"We've been seeking ways to handle our information for decades, and we've always been putting our toes into database technology," said Richard Mount, director of SLAC Computing Services and assistant director of SLAC's Research Division. "In the early 1980s, I was sticking my toes into relational database technology, and it was obvious it was a lousy match. Our data didn't fit the relational model very well."

Mount began considering object databases, and Objectivity specifically, in the mid-1990s, he said. "Many years ago, it was clear that Objectivity had a product that was able to scale to what we needed. In the mid-1990s, as we looked much more deeply, it became apparent there were things that would need to be fixed, but there were no showstoppers."

The laboratory began using the database in 1999 and now stores more than a petabyte of data in it, he said.

SLAC is one of Objectivity's more public government customers, but it is not the company's only one. The company counts the Air Force, the Navy, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency and several other agencies among its customers.

The object model is not universally accepted, so Objectivity is trying to convince more agencies to try it.

"When you start to develop these complex applications that are object oriented, when they start trying to stick the objects into three-dimensional rows and tables [of a relational database], there's an abstract [mapping] layer they have to write," Jarrell said. "It costs the government, it costs the integrator, it costs everybody about 40 percent more. The integrator can charge more body shop money, but a lot of times they cannot solve the problems, and it will fail."

The concept is still relatively new and perceived as unproven, though that may be an unfair assessment, according to Dave Capka, chief scientist and a technical fellow at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems.

"Just about everyone has somebody who's experimenting with object databases," he said. "People still do see them as something of a boutique technology. I have come to conclude that this is a real technology, but that view still isn't shared by everyone in the community."

SLAC's BaBar sitehttp://www-public.slac.stanford.edu/babar/

"Lightning to strike Los Alamos" [Federal Computer Week, August 25, 2003]/fcw/articles/2003/0825/tec-lightning-08-25-03.asp

NEXT STORY: Oracle still on PeopleSoft trail

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.