Stonebraker on Oracle and SQL

Going from Quel to SQL is like going from APL to COBOL
Written by Paul Murphy, Contributor

In the long run I'd be surprised if the research done or inspired by Berkeley's Michael Stonebraker doesn't ultimately have more of an effect on the world than Linux. Ingres and Informix were his, so is PostGres.

In exploring current versions of that product I stumbled over an interview he did with Robert Westervelt in November, 2004.

The thing is worth reading in its entirety, but what comes across most clearly is the baffled bitterness technical people feel when inferior products win in the marketplace. Here are two somewhat unrepresentative, but thought provoking, bits:


RW: Is SQL really such a crummy query language?

Stonebraker: The whole nesting construct is a lousy idea. If you write a nested query the semantics of SQL evaluates that from inside to outside. It's terribly inefficient. But no one ever said that the best technical solution wins. IBM marketing knew SQL was a bad language and decided to release DB2 anyway and push SQL. So SQL will be the COBOL in the year 2020. We're stuck with it, everybody hates it because it's a lousy language and we have IBM to thank for foisting that one on us. Quel was universally better. It was a much cleaner language.

I've used both, going from Quel to SQL is like going from APL to COBOL.


RW: What were some other factors that caused Oracle to dominate Ingres?

Stonebraker: I think the thing I find most depressing is that Oracle succeeded with an inferior product and what's happening is that similar tactics are generally being applied by Microsoft. The thing that bugs me the most is that customers put up with this. They were writing the checks to Oracle and to Microsoft on future promises and lousy products. So the IT community has sort of fostered this on themselves.

Tell me about it.

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