Monday, January 2, 2023

 NEW "DATA MODELS" 5.2 (t&n)

Note: "Then & Now" (T&N) is a new version of what used to be the "Oldies but Goodies" (OBG) series. To demonstrate the superiority of a sound theoretical foundation relative to the industry's fad-driven "cookbook" practices, as well as the evolution/progress of RDM, I am re-visiting my 2000-06 debunkings, bringing them up to my with my knowledge and understanding of today. This will enable you to judge how well my arguments have held up and appreciate the increasing gap between scientific progress and the industry’s stagnation, if not outright regress.

This is a re-published series of several DBDebunk 2002 posts on Simon Wlliams' Lazy Software so-called "Associative Model of Data" (AMD), academic claims of its superiority over RDM ("The Associative Data Model Versus the Relational model") and predictions of the demise of the latter ("The decline and eventual demise of the Relational Model of Data").

  • Part 1 was an email exchange among myself (FP), Chris Date (CJD) and Lee Fesperman (LF) in reaction to Williams' claims that triggered the series.
  • Part 2 was my response to a reader's email questioning our dismissal of Williams's claims.
  • Part 3 was my email exchange with Williams where he provided his definition of a data model on which I conditioned any discussion with him and I debunked it.
  • Part 4 is my response to a reader's comments on my previous posts in the series.
  • Part 5.1 provided the background for my critique of Edward Hurley's report on Simon Williams's Lazy Software and his so-called "Associative Model of Data" (AMD).


DBDebunk was maintained and kept free with the proceeds from my @AllAnalitics column. The site was discontinued in 2018. The content here is not available anywhere else, so if you deem it useful, particularly if you are a regular reader, please help upkeep it by purchasing publications, or donating. On-site seminars and consulting are available.Thank you.


12/13 NEW "DATA MODELS" 5.1 (t&n)


11/10 NEW "DATA MODELS" 4 (t&n)


12/22 Added Finitary Relation to LINKS page

08/20 Added Logic and databases course to LINKS page.

- 08/19 Logical Symmetric Access, Data Sub-language, Kinds of Relations, Database Redundancy and Consistency, paper #2 in the new UNDERSTANDING THE REAL RDM series.
- 02/18 The Key to Relational Keys: A New Understanding, a new edition of paper #4 in the PRACTICAL DATABASE FOUNDATIONS series.
- 04/17 Interpretation and Representation of Database Relations, paper #1 in the new UNDERSTANDING THE REAL RDM series.
- 10/16 THE DBDEBUNK GUIDE TO MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT DATA FUNDAMENTALS, my latest book (reviewed by Craig Mullins, Todd Everett, Toon Koppelaars, Davide Mauri).

- To work around Blogger limitations, the labels are mostly abbreviations or acronyms of the terms listed on the
FUNDAMENTALS page. For detailed instructions on how to understand and use the labels in conjunction with that page, see the ABOUT page. The 2017 and 2016 posts, including earlier posts rewritten in 2017 were relabeled accordingly. As other older posts are rewritten, they will also be relabeled. For all other older posts use Blogger search.
- The links to my AllAnalytics columns no longer work. I re-published only the 2017 columns @dbdebunk, and within them links to sources external to AllAnalytics may or may not work.

I deleted my Facebook account. You can follow me @DBDdebunk on Twitter: will link to new posts to this site, as well as To Laugh or Cry? and What's Wrong with This Picture? posts, and my exchanges on LinkedIn.


(originally published August 2002)

Now, for the critique of Hurley's report. Has Hurley educated himself on the subject -- as I suggested? Was he able to assess the vendor's claims? In "Is It Time to Get Lazy?" Hurley writes:

“UK-based Lazy Software has an industrious task in mind: Challenge the relational database. With less than 50 employees and about 45 customers, Lazy Software is trying to challenge the relational database supremacy of companies such as Oracle. Lazy' s Sentences database is based on the "associative model of data," the brainchild of Simon Williams, Lazy Software's CEO and co-founder. Williams believes the associative model makes developing programs much easier than relational databases.”
When Hurley says 'database' he means, of course 'DBMS', which -- industry misuse of terms notwithstanding -- is not the same thing. And to the extent that Oracle has any supremacy, it is certainly not a relational supremacy: there are no truly relational DBMSs, only SQL ones, which is hardly the same thing either. Third, Williams does not challenge just DBMS products, but the relational data model (RDM) itself that -- given it is nothing but math and logic applied to database management -- is quite a tall order, to put it mildly.

Before staking any claims of superiority, it is incumbent on the author of any new data model to specify the formal theoretical foundation on which it rests. RDM is simple set theory expressible in first-order predicate logic (SST/FOPL) adapted for and applied to database management and that foundation is responsible for correctness, namely system-guaranteed logical validity and by-design semantic consistency, as well as analyzability of intent, and thus optimizability of database queries. The only way to improve on that is to come up with a superior theoretical foundation. This is precisely the challenge I put to Williams in Part 1: specify formally and precisely what he has substituted for SST/FOPL that is superior. Such a substitute would be a revolutionary development warranting much beyond a short trade article. Williams has not responded to my challenge to date and I don't hold my breath.
“The company's name isn't a joke but plays off the company's mission. 'I had a mathematics teacher once tell me that all the great mathematicians were lazy. They looked for the simplest, easiest solution to a problem,' Williams said. 'Programmers should try to do the same thing.'
So the problem is worse than I thought. Here we have Williams, who has some background in mathematics -- and, thus, should certainly understand that RDM is soundly grounded in formal theory -- yet claims that he invented a superior approach, for which he has not provided an alternative foundation. For somebody who challenges RDM, he ought to know that simplification of unnecessarily complex and rigid directed graph (hierarchic and network) based database management systems was a core objective of the RDM -- that's why it was invented in the first place.
“Lazy Software proclaims Sentences allows applications to be written much faster. "I found the issue of software reuse wasn't about better programming, but about the structure of the database," Williams said. Relational databases require applications to be rewritten when the database changes and vice versa. Sentences breaks that dependence chain, William said. Applications are independent of the Sentences database.”
Upside down and backwards. I do not know who crafted this paragraph, Williams, or Hurley, but whoever did, it is either confused, or uses poor terminology, or both; it betrays poor understanding of data fundamentals, characteristic of the industry's critics of the RDM.

The very concept of a database is predicated on data independence -- the insulation of applications from logical and physical database changes. The RDM supports data independence, does ADM (assuming it is a data model!)? If not, how can it possibly be superior? I venture a guess that Williams relates ADM to current SQL DBMSs, which have poor support of data independence. But that is not because they are relational, but because they really are not!  
“Atlanta-based application service provider M2 Technologies is using Lazy's Sentences to store the data for the Web sites and solutions it develops and hosts for chambers of commerce and other membership organizations. "For us, it's a matter of granularity. Sentences scales very well for large amounts of small bits of data," said Thomas P. Lennon Jr. M2's executive vice president of business development and strategic planning. "You also don't have to be a programming genius to get a huge database up and working." While the company is aiming its product towards relational database users, it realizes its place. A database like Sentences is to a relational database like a microwave oven is to a conventional oven, Williams said. "Each has its role, side-by-side. You wouldn't cook a TV dinner in an oven much as you wouldn't cook a 25-pound turkey in a microwave," he said. The newest version of Sentences, version 2, runs on Windows, Solaris, Linux and AIX platforms. It's also been certified IBM Server Proven with WebSphere on IBM's eServer iSeries, pSeries and xSeries.”
"Granularity" and "scaling" are implementation aspects and, thus, due to physical data independence of RDM, orthogonal to the data model at the logical level (how large are "large amounts" and how small are "small data", anyway?) As to the rest of the comments, I would suggest that those who understand ovens should work in that field and stay away from databases.

The main point here, though, is that this kind of media coverage is what can be expected from a trade press completely ignorant of the subject matter that it covers and refusing to educate itself to boot. I dare anybody to find anything substantive in this "analysis" on the basis of which the pros and cons of products based on AMD can be assessed. Indeed, it is a sheer regurgitation of vendor promotion, to which everything inevitably is reduced in the absence of foundation knowledge. It is, in fact, impossible to tell from it that AMD does not even satisfy the definition of a formal data model in the sense in which the RDM does.

All such trade madia articles do is induce and reinforce industry ignorance.

And Now

Nothing to add aside of slight revisions to improve clarity.

No comments:

Post a Comment

View My Stats