VSJ – December 2003 – Sounding Board

John Lillywhite’s been in the business for longer than he cares to tell us – the first machine he programmed (in machine code) had 24K memory and paper tape I/O! He’s done business analysis, system integration and project management but came back to programming, which, he feels, is the pinnacle of the informatician’s art. He’s now working on Oracle systems – SQL and PL/SQL. He has some thoughts on Mike James’ October editorial where, he says:

You decry relational structure as a ‘theoretical idea made to fit the real world’. But isn’t that what all scientific and engineering theory is? The relational concept may have been abused by woolly-minded marketeers who are concerned with building a good image rather than the real thing, but relational structure is fundamental to the data itself. An understanding of how the concept can be applied to any data collection, whether it follows the ‘normal form’ rules or not, is essential for any IT developer working in a multi-record environment. In maintaining systems, you meet many occasions where, if the original design had been a little more relational, it would have been easier to implement a business change. This is especially true in the area of structured codes. These are very popular with business users but many have very little understanding of how to name things and assign them to classes, not just for the here and now, but to incorporate future flexibility. I would go so far as to say that if you don’t understand relational concepts, you should not be in the business.
As for grid computing, the marketing people may be over-hyping it at present, as they are prone to do with everything they touch, but I think it has a lot of potential to provide a different approach from the traditional cluster or server farm. But time will tell.
[Something you’d like to get off your chest? Email me (Robin Jones) at eo@iap.org.uk.]

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