Saturday, April 16, 2011

Database or Bust!

A couple of years ago I was quoted as saying “Let’s have a going away party for DDS…

That article caused a lot of commotion in the community. I like that. Stirring things up. That is part of what I do. I’m not nearly as provocative as some of the other players in the space, but I do my best to get my licks in. Chris Maxcer did a great job of capturing some of the passion and emotion of members of the community but enough is enough. SQL is here to stay and if you don’t believe me just look around.

I was speaking at the RPG & DB2 Summit conference last month and I happened upon a breakfast table where Skip Marchesani was chatting with a few folks. I had gotten to know Jon, Susan and Paul a bit over the years. But for some reason Skip and I never really crossed paths. Not sure why, though I am sure I attended a few of his sessions on database. Regardless, this was a great opportunity to see Skip in action so I politely asked if I could sit down and was graciously accepted to the circle.

Skip was embroiled in the age old discussion of “should I throw away my DDS and move to SQL?” Truly a religious war if I ever heard one. My initial reaction was “Hell Yeah!” but I wanted to hear more. Having been cornered in a religious war or two has made me a little more reserved in the timing of my responses. In this case I watched the master at work. Skip acknowledged each of the attendee’s concerns. Performance, scalability, RPG/SQL performance vs. record level access. I was happy to say that a lot of my own impressions were in line with what Skip was saying. Woohoo!

When the conversation died down I jumped in with a few comments of my own that Skip probably would have offered but timing may have given me an advantage. Things like cross platform ubiquity and the fact that school kids KNOW SQL and not record level access. Solutions like MySQL and Miscrosoft Access do a great job of weaning people onto SQL. Languages like Java, PHP and others use SQL as a primary data access mechanism and thus the programmers KNOW SQL.

It was a healthy discussion that ended somewhat awkwardly as some do. The attendee was the sole supporter of his software. He had no intention of rewriting the application any time soon. He had no need for a DDS to SQL migration. From that Skip and I were hard pressed to encourage him to move everything. “By golly” we said “leave it alone!”

But, from the perspective of keeping the skills up and learning something new the attendee did surprise us by saying he would take a piece of his application and give it a try. He would explore the opportunities of SQL vs. DDS and report back his experience. At that point I felt that we had achieved the goal.

One of the things I harp on in my sessions and I would bet Skip would agree, is that you should use the right hammer on the right nail. Frequently folks try to bait me into a religious war on Java vs. PHP. I’m sorry, that dog just doesn’t hunt. We could be here for days talking about the advantages of one over the other and it would only become a religious discussion. If you like Java and have a lot of Java and want to explore PHP? That’s OK. If you decide to stick with your Java, that’s OK too! Make an informed decision and move confidently in the direction you like. Same goes for this guy and DDS. If he were looking to turn his application into the next generation of the software and add in new features, etc. Skip and I would have beat him mercilessly about the head and shoulders with SQL. But it was clear he was leveraging the investment. That’s OK too. As long as you are willing to absorb the risks and the rewards, have at it!

So, in a nutshell, “DDS is dead!...Long live DDS!”