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‘Father of DB2’ Don Haderle Looks Back—and to the Future

IBM Fellow Don Haderle was instrumental in developing DB2 technology 30 years ago. — Photo by Gary Parker

IBM Fellow Don Haderle is the only person who can claim to have been both the “father” and “mother” of DB2*, which turned 30 years old this year. In the 1980s, more than one person who had worked on the DB2 project had been called the “Father of DB2” in press announcements. So during a database show in San Francisco, when Haderle and several panelists were asked their titles, he responded

“ ‘The Mother of DB2 because the Father of DB2 title was already taken.’ So they called me the Mother of DB2 for quite some time,” he recalls. However, Janet Perna, the management executive lead for DB2 on open systems at the time, later dubbed him the “official” Father of DB2. “And when I retired, that was the title they gave me in a press article. So it was a name IBM gave me; I didn’t make it up.”

To mark the 30th anniversary of DB2, IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe edition spoke the IBM Fellow, who retired from IBM in 2005. Haderle spoke about the development of the database management system (DBMS) and its lasting impact on the mainframe and beyond.

IBM Systems Magazine (ISM): What spurred the development of DB2?
Don Haderle (DH):
IBM derived most of its revenue and profit from mainframe hardware, including peripherals. DBMS customers used more storage and processing capacity than others, so IBM sought to drive greater DBMS adoption. However, IBM depended on ISVs to support the latest IBM hardware. These vendors often delayed doing so until the new hardware enjoyed a strong installation base. This slowed hardware sales. As a result, IBM’s storage division funded the development of an advanced DBMS and transaction systems in 1976.

ISM: What had come before DB2 and what made a new approach necessary?
Early DBMSs, such as IBM’s IMS* and Cullinet’s Integrated Database Management System, supported bill of materials, material resource planning and other applications critical to business processes in manufacturing, finance, retail and other industries. These products featured hierarchical or network data models and provided both database and transaction management services. However, database schema changes required rewriting application programs, and programmers had to understand the complex principles of concurrency and consistency—advanced thoughts at the time. As a result, application upgrades were often complicated and time-consuming; and it was difficult to share a database with distinctly different applications.

ISM: From a mainframe user’s perspective, what need were you seeking to address?
Customers pressed for a solution to their application backlog, which was measured in terms of years in some cases. They wanted a database that could respond to rapid development for diverse applications doing transactions, batch and interactive access. They were willing to suffer some hit in cost performance over IMS and CICS* to respond to their business initiatives quickly. This was the design point for DB2—orders of magnitude improvement in the application development cycle for databases to perform transactions and business intelligence.

ISM: Where did your team begin?
The relational prototype from IBM Research, called SystemR, offered a great base for starting. IBM Fellow Ted Codd published his famous paper in 1969 for the exposition of the relational database model. The IBM Research team, among others, put together a prototypical example of that model. They came up with the concrete specification, which was SQL, and they put together that prototype and wrote a paper in 1976 that exposed the language and the prototype, which was SystemR. That was a “Wow!” back in that era. The folks that developed SystemR worked right next door to us in San Jose, and so we went up to chitchat with them.

Mike Westholder is managing editor of IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe edition.

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