Introduction to ODBMS

Short History

By Rick Grehan, Doug Barry and Roberto V. Zicari

Early 1980s – Orion Research Project at MCC

Won Kim at MCC (Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation) in Austin, Texas, begins a research project on ORION.
Two products will later trace their history to ORION: ITASCA (no longer around) and Versant.

Late 1980s – First wave of commercial products

A Lisp-based system, Graphael, appears from the French nuclear regulatory efforts. Eventually, Graphael goes through a re-write and becomes Matisse.

Servo-Logic begins work on GemStone. Servo-Logic is now GemStone Systems.

Start of O2 development at INRIA (France). The founder of O2 is Francois Bencilhon, also from MCC.

Tom Atwood at Ontologic produced Vbase, which supports the proprietary language COP (for C Object Processor). COP is eventually eclipsed by C++, Ontologic becomes ONTOS, and the database is rewritten to support C++. Tom left Ontologic in the late 1980s and founded Object Design (now part of Progress Software) with ObjectStore (based on C++).

Another product from that time is Objectivity/DB. Drew Wade has been one of the founders of its vendor, Objectivity.

1991 – ODMG

Rick Cattell (SunSoft) initiates the ODMG with 5 major OODBMS vendors. The first standard, ODMG 1.0, was released in 1993. Throughout the 1990s, the ODMG works with the X3H2 (SQL) committee on a common query language. Though no specific goal is achieved, the efforts heavily influence the ODMG OQL (object query language) and, to a lesser extent, SQL:1999.

1995 – The OODBMS Manifesto

Malcolm Atkinson et. al. release “The Object-Oriented Database System Manifesto

1990s – First Growth Period

Market for commercial ODBMS products grows to some $100M, peaks in 2000 and shrinks since

2001 – Final ODMG 3.0 standards released.

A final ODMG 3.0 standards is released. Shortly thereafter, the ODMG submits the ODMG Java Binding to the Java Community Process as a basis for the Java Data Objects (JDO) Specification.
Afterwards, the ODMG disbands.

2004 – Advent of Open Source

db4o released as free, open source ODBMS. In November 2005, db4o is first to implement Native Queries as an object oriented data access API that relies entirely on the programming language (Java/C#) itself.

2005-now. New Data Stores

The world of data management is changing:  Big Data, Analytical data platforms, Scalable Cloud platforms, NoSQL data stores, NewSQL databases, Object databases, Object-relational bindings, Service platforms, and new approaches to concurrency control are all hot topics both in industry and academia.

These systems are referred to as Operational Database Management Systems” (ODBMS).

For up to date information and interviews, please check the “ODBMS Industry Watch Blog.

If you are interested to read more about the history and how the industry learned to think about object databases we highly recommend to read Marianne Winslett’ 2002 interview with Prof. David Maier on past and future of ODBMSs.