On Embedded Database Management Systems. Q&A with Christopher J. Mureen

Q1. What are you currently working on? 

We recently released the first hard real-time DBMS for the commercial market named eXtremeDB/rt.  Database vendors have equated “real-time” to mean “real-fast”, which is both confusing and incorrect.  While speed is important, there is more to it than simply that.  There are two primary categories of real-time systems: hard and soft.  Soft real-time is where speed may be the most important criteria, but it isn’t mission critical or wouldn’t endanger lives if a task is unable to complete by a required deadline.  However, hard real-time is much different in that tasks must be completed on time. Prior to eXtremeDB/rt, developers of hard real-time tasks have had to avoid using a database or had to implement a bespoke solution. Since the release of eXtremeDB/rt we’ve been spending time building market awareness and establishing partner relationships, including porting to run one the many real-time operating systems available. https://www.mcobject.com/real-time-database-system/

Q2. The database system field is quite diverse, with Relational/SQL, NoSQL, NewSQL, document, graph, key-value pair and other architectures. Where is eXtremeDB positioned? 

Since the inception and creation of eXtremeDB, McObject has taken the view that a DBMS should be flexible to address all developer requirements.  As such, eXtremeDB doesn’t fit into one single box. eXtremeDB can be used as a relational database with tables and columns, primary keys and foreign keys and an SQL API. Or it can be used as a time series database with vertical layout. With support for user-defined object identifiers and references, it can support an object-oriented approach, which can also be used to implement graphs. With support of all C data types, including structures, nested structures, fixed-size arrays and variable-size vectors, arbitrarily complex data is also supported.  We believe a developer should be able to choose the best approach, or combination, to optimally meet their development requirements.  https://www.mcobject.com/extremedbfamily/

Q3. You offer a so-called Active Replication Fabric™. What is it?  What is it useful for? 

Active Replication Fabric is a unique offing by McObject. While there are still devices that do not need to replicate data, sharing of data is intrinsically part of the Internet of Things (IoT).  With Active Replication Fabric, eXtremeDB can bidirectionally replicate data from any device to any gateway or server (multi-tier) including between dissimilar platforms (e.g ARM on the edge and x86 in the cloud) automatically.  It handles disconnected and intermittently connected (intentional or otherwise) situations as well.  Replication is handled with compression and security and provides 5 9s availability. https://www.mcobject.com/active-replication-fabric/

Both industrial and consumer applications can benefit from this technology.  Examples include industrial systems that monitor data on devices to take immediate action, e.g., to open or close a solenoid in response to a sensor measurement, and monitoring and reporting aggregate data at the server. Medical systems where patients may not always have strong internet connections for transferring data to a doctor to be reviewed remotely.  Even advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), where a local database for quick decisions is a requirement but continuous Cloud connectivity isn’t guaranteed.  

Q4. You define eXtremeDB/rt as a deterministic embedded database management system. What does it mean in practice? 

A developer using a database management system will define transactions which group together various database activities such as creating records in various tables and perhaps find and modify others.  With a “normal” database system that is not time-cognizant, if there is a hard deadline as to when that transaction must be completed, it could be missed which also could be life threatening such as in railway, medical, or ADAS systems.  A deterministic embedded database management system will not let that happen. eXtremeDB/rt add time-cognizance by giving the developers the means to pass a transaction’s deadline and priority to the database scheduler; thereafter, the eXtremeDB/rt kernel enforces the deadline. https://www.mcobject.com/deterministic-acid-compliant-transactions/

Q5. Software licenses have seen quite a bit of evolution. Whereas licenses used to be predominantly a one-time perpetual license, today SaaS (software as a service) and subscription-based licensing are becoming more common. What are your views on this? 

You are quite correct.  We have also found that while the license models have evolved significantly that doesn’t mean that as new ones appear the others go away.  Much like the extreme flexibility eXtremeDB offers for development, we find that we should be equally as flexible with different licensing models.  Every customer has different business models, expected ROI, and required margins.  We try to make sure the licensing model meets their needs and reflects the value eXtremeDB brings to their applications.  So as a result, we offer one-time perpetual licenses, subscription-based licenses, and through AWS, database as a service (DBaas).  We also are very flexible within each of those categories.

Q6. What do you find as the biggest challenge in licensing your technology? 

As you might have gathered from my answer above about the different types of license models, when someone asks what the cost is, the right answer usually requires a discussion. When a customer is willing to have that discussion, we never have a licensing challenge, but if they only want a quick answer and move on if they don’t like it, we don’t get the chance to model our offering to meet their needs.

McObject offers an unrivaled level of support directly from our engineering group.  Our customers find that between that support, and the capabilities of eXtremeDB, the value we offer is exceptional. 

Q7. What are the most successful use cases where companies use eXtremeDB? 

eXtremeDB is typically found where speed, small size, and/or, reliability could all be critically important.  As such our customers vary broadly in the market from consumer devices such as set-top boxes, to industrial control, military, avionics, medical, automotive, Netcom and Telecom.  eXtremeDB doesn’t fail or corrupt.  It runs at near memory speeds.  And it has a code size of just about 250K and uses stack and memory conservatively which are important attributes in resource-constrained embedded and IoT systems.  The largest market for us historically has been network and telecommunications systems where speed, size, and reliability converge as requirements routinely. https://www.mcobject.com/who_uses_mcobject/

Looking forward, and especially with eXtremeDB/rt, we are seeing strong interest in ADAS, medical, and railway systems due to this speed, size, reliability, and determinism uniquely offered through our products.

Qx Anything else you with to add? 

We see the market for a real-time database system as déjà vu all over again. In 2001, we saw that there was a need for an in-memory embedded database system written explicitly for embedded systems. Embedded systems had evolved from 16- to 32-bit systems and were growing sufficiently complex that they needed database system support, but available embedded database systems weren’t up to the task. eXtremeDB filled that need. Today, we see a similar evolution of real-time embedded systems. Whereas these used to be discrete systems, like an anti-lock braking system, today they are complex systems like autonomous vehicles of all types and positive train control systems. Collectively, these systems are characterized by sensor data fusion and hard real-time requirements. eXtremeDB/rt was created to address this nascent market because available database systems for embedded systems are not up to the task of real-time data management.


Christopher J. Mureen, Chief Operating Officer, McObject

Chris Mureen leads McObject’s sales and marketing. He brings to this job a track record of more than 30 years at both startup and established software companies. He served as senior vice president for worldwide sales and support at embedded software tools vendor Metrowerks (owned by Motorola SPS, which is now part of NXP Semiconductors), where he led acquisition integration and sales growth that exceeded 300% in four years. Prior to Metroworks, he led similar growth at data management companies Pervasive Software (which completed its initial public offering during this period) and Simba Technologies. Mr. Mureen was vice president for worldwide sales at Surgient, where he built the worldwide sales organization and established Surgient as the leader in Virtual Lab automation, and at Platespin, a virtualization software company targeting data centers. He also led sales at embedded database vendors MDBS, Inc. and Raima Corporation during periods of fast growth.

Sponsored by McObject.

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