Mid-Course Correction, Again

February 12

Wayne Warren, one of the founders of Raima Inc., goes through the changes over the years. Beginning with db_VISTA and ending with improvements to RDM Embedded, including multi-core and in-memory database improvements.

In 1991, Raima sold a linkable C library called db_VISTA, which worked fine for small work-groups that needed to share a database, but the database industry in general was more interested in the client/server architecture.

Beginning with DB_VISTA

So, we started with db_VISTA and created a database server which was named Velocis. We had two products, aimed at two types of applications. This was the first major mid-course correction. Technically, it involved a fundamental architectural change. db VISTA performs disk I/O directly from each application program, keeping a local cache of database pages. Velocis performs disk I/O only from the server, and keeps only one centralized cache.

DB_VISTA in 2010

Fast-forward to 2010. db_VISTA is now called RDM Embedded, Velocis is now called RDM Server, and they are both actively used and supported. The company has gone through multiple ownership changes, but the products have remained viable for over 20 years. Raima is now a division of Birdstep Technology. The original developers (Randy Merilatt and me, Wayne Warren) are back after trying other things for a while, and other long-term developers have survived all the changes. The products have had several new features added, run on new platforms, and are much more reliable.

Changes in the Embedded Database Industry

But the industry has changed, and another mid-course correction was necessary. To state some of the obvious changes:

  • Memory is massive and cheap
  • Disk space is massive and cheap
  • Networking is fast and pervasive, and…
  • Multi-core and multiprocessor systems are common.

It turns out that a database system that was architected to optimize memory and disk and a single CPU does not scale up as one would expect it to. This is not good, but it is something that is being realized throughout the industry. Multi-core scaling requires an architecture that turns each core loose, rather than each core interfering with the others. I’ll talk more about a multi-core-aware architecture in another post.

This second major mid-course correction started again from the smaller product, RDM Embedded, and will be released as the next version of RDM Embedded. It will work for the applications currently using RDM Embedded, but the underlying architecture has changed to take advantage of all of the above – use an in-memory database to obtain speed, use networking to achieve parallelism, and program the database access to allow multiple cores/processors to run in parallel.

It turns out that by doing all of the above, the product also became simpler to use and deploy, and more flexible in using multiple computers together. You just start using it, and it just starts working (any of you old-school RDM Embedded programmers will love this).

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