Choosing the right technologies for university training has always been a tricky exercise. Academics must bet their students' careers on what they believe will be relevant to the IT industry three or four years from now. Technology fads will come and go, enhancing or diminishing a student's perceived value to employers. In 1998 Web design looked like a sure bet. Now many Web designers are doing other things.
That is why the University of Technology Sydney's (UTS) Faculty of Engineering has caught author Eric Wilson's eye, having just decided to train students on InterSystems' Cache. This is an object database -- where information is stored in a way mirroring how it occurs in real life, not broken up into columns and rows then joined (relationally) back together as tables. What is interesting here is that, from an industry hype point of view, object databases are definitely passe - a "next big thing" that fizzled out into a few niche markets. Yet for his new Software Systems Analysis and Software Systems Design courses, senior lecturer Zenon Chaczko sees a big future in teaching object databases.
"The new distributed applications, including applications that use Web Services technology, are often built around object-oriented software systems' architectures," he says. "Such an approach is very appropriate for managing complexity."
It turns out row/column/table relational databases do not translate all that well into and out of the hierarchical structure of XML, the textural protocol underpinning all the Web Services hype. Object databases (which for marketing purposes have been re-badged as "post-relational databases"), have no such XML compatibility issues. Previously, object-oriented databases (OODB) were linked to the failed "multimedia" buzzword, but Chaczko bases his belief in the technology on real-world problem solving, not IT marketing.
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