Friday, April 28, 2006

World Wind and the changing nature of databases

Tim O'Reilly (the computer book guy) has been doing a series of posts over on Radar about the changing nature of databases. In this one, he looks at NASA World Wind. (Which he calls "and open source program that does many of the same things as Google Earth"...) It points to some of the problems with flat file storage- "using file stores, especially when a large number of files are present (millions) has proven to be fairly inconsistent across multiple OS and hardware platforms."

One of the themes of the series is looking at places where flat file storage is more efficient than databases. This goes against the default decision of "throw everything into the RDBMS." I ran into this a while ago when I was having discussions with another architect (Steve) and mentioned that my application could get to all kinds of employee data by using the LDAP server, whereas the enterprise architects were telling him he had to pull the data from their excuse for a data warehouse. [Yes, pulling the data from the directly from the warehouse for OLAP systems...] Steve got all excited about this, and I didn't know why. It turns out that accessing the data via LDAP took only 15% of the time that it took to pull from the highly normalized "data warehouse".

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