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Call That a Database? This is a Database.

By Phil Factor,

If only the English language had a range of words to describe all the different types of database, there would be so much less confusion in the industry. The Eskimo, we were once told, had sixty words for the different kinds of snow. Actually, it is not the Eskimo but the similarly-arctic Sami People.  I can see how useful it is to the Sami people, especially if they want to describe the weather in the pub. I suspect that the Sami weather forecasts are, in consequence, rich in their descriptive vocabulary, whereas the English-language version is monotonous: "Snow, then Snow, becoming Snowy, followed by more snow". In the same way, IT people have no rich and descriptive way to distinguish between a database for an undergraduate project, a home database for the CD collection or a hard-working commercial OLTP system supporting an entire enterprise.

The NoSQL debate, like the ORM issue, might be much less fractious if we had imaginative words to convey the magnitude, complexity, transaction-rate, and resilience required of the underlying database. Any confusion among application developers who need a database to support over a million concurrent transactions per minute, and want to create it interactively alongside their application, would evaporate, with the hushed phrase…

"…so we’re talking about a MegaTrapmic".

I also want a word for a tiddly little database with something like the complexity of the local office-hero’s spreadsheet (tiddlybase?). I’d like another word for the cody-bopper's object hierarchy (Ormegawd?). How convenient it would be to have something to describe the trivial but enormous pile of poorly structured verbiage now euphemistically referred to as 'Big Data'.

When discussing any database solutions, these things matter, and we don’t have words like Datamoth, Ormegawd, tiddlybase or NOSqueek to aid understanding. Like the Sami People, we database professionals should get together, select those amongst us with a linguistic gift to come up with terms for every category of crime against Codd that we see in our everyday working lives.

At one time in the late eighties, a database generator called DataEase for DOS became popular. It allowed the user to build desktop-based applications with a "tiddlybase" backend. We "Datamoth" people shook our heads and dubbed the resulting atrocity "DataDisEase". The term stuck; just like that we had spawned a new descriptive database category, and one that immediately identified to everyone exactly the sort of database being discussed.

So let’s enrich our professional vocabulary by creating as many rich, descriptive words for the different types of databases as the Sami have for different kinds of snow! 

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