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Lean Databases

Published
  • September 01 1998, 1:00am EDT

I was one of the 2000+ attendees at the Third Annual (way up from the 300 and 700 folks who attended the previous two) Windows CE Developers Conference in San Jose, and I have to admit coming away pretty excited. (If you've got conference envy, you will probably still be able to view NetShow videos of the 38 conference sessions at www.microsoft.com/msdn/news/ windowsce.htm, as well as read a variety of technical articles about Windows CE 2.x programming in the May issue of Microsoft Systems Journal--www. microsoft.com/msj). You may also be able to access some of the PowerPoint presentation slides directly (e.g., www.microsoft.com/isapi/events/ event/menu.asp?s=19155&a=1 for an interesting presentation on Windows CE's own internal heap-based object store--one that OEMs can use to store configuration data, for example). Other database- related presentations covered ADO for CE (ADO is Microsoft's COM- based Active Data Objects API), including how to use it to copy and sync Access MDB or SQL Server data with Windows CE devices and how to program ActiveSync. Windows CE runs on a variety of devices including hand-held PCs and the more recent palm PCs. The latter have just begun hitting the market, and we'll undoubtedly have to wait another few years for Detroit to take full advantage of Windows CE in Auto PCs (e.g., for car navigation systems). Many vendors are actively investigating using CE in "real-time" applications ranging from telecom switches and set-top cable boxes to simple kiosk devices.

Microsoft sells several toolkits for the Microsoft Windows CE 2.0 operating system: the Windows CE Toolkit for Visual C++ 5.0 or Visual Basic 5.0 ($199), the Windows CE Embedded Toolkit for Visual C++ 5.0 ($499) and the Windows CE Toolkit for Visual J++ 5.0 will undoubtedly have emerged from beta by the time you read this. Be sure to check out the www. microsoft.com/windowsce site for beta software, updates and to subscribe to the WinCE Wire mailing list. Microsoft isn't the only vendor readying lean database solutions. Others include Sybase (www.sybase.com, Adaptive SQL Anywhere, which is also bundled with Symantec's Visual Café for Java Database Development Edition, SilverStream's namesake product, and a growing list of other products), Oracle (www.oracle.com, Oracle Lite), Object Design, Inc. (ObjectStore PSE Pro, a single-user ODBMS persistent storage engine), Pervasive Software (www. pervasive.com, Pervasive.SQL, Btrieve's descendant), Centura (www.centurasoft. com, formerly Gupta, SQLBase 7.0), InterBase (www.interbase.com, InterBase 5.0 with InterClient/InterServer) and Raima (www.raima.com, Raima Database Manager/CE). Most of these products are multithreaded, single-user database systems that offer Java bindings. Most cost a few hundred dollars for developer versions, with varying arrangements for deployment on CE devices.

I think "lite" databases represent Sybase's great hope, especially given the momentum of its Adaptive Server Anywhere in the mobile database market. Adaptive Server, formerly Watcom SQL, is a fully relational database system that runs on Windows--even DOS--systems and is code compatible with Sybase's enterprise Adaptive Server. Sybase should now be shipping an even leaner version that will run in Windows CE devices. The other players I expect to dominate the market are Oracle and ODI. Oracle Lite 3.0, despite its name, really isn't a third generation product. Rather, it's a brand new single-user product that's not based on Oracle7 or Oracle8 server code, although it will work well with Oracle's enterprise servers via synchronization and replication. Oracle calls Oracle Lite (sometimes referred to as OLite, as you can see from its URL, www.oracle.com/clientdb/olite) an object/relational database management system and claims that it can easily run in under 1MB of memory and 2.5MB disk space. Oracle has already licensed Oracle Lite to Netscape for use in Visual JavaScript Pro 1.0. Don't confuse it with the single user Windows version of Oracle called Personal Oracle. Oracle Lite is Java and browser friendly and supports a range of data access standards including ODBC, JDBC, ODMG, OCI and SQL.

Object Design, Inc., (ODI) is the other player that seems to have a good chance of becoming a leader in the Windows CE market. ObjectStore PSE (persistent storage engine) already ships with both Microsoft's and Netscape's browsers--and has been licensed by a host of other ISVs--and developers downloaded over 20,000 evaluation copies of ODI's ObjectStore PSE Pro in 1997 alone. (At the 1998 Java One, Sun announced that it was embedding the 100 percent Pure Java ObjectStore PSE Pro 2.0 in JavaSpaces.) Weighing in as slim as 300K, PSE Pro seems to be the one to beat. At press time, it's not clear whether Microsoft will offer a Windows CE version of SQL Server or Access in the 1998 time frame, but it doesn't appear likely. If you're interested in running lean databases either under Windows CE, Java OS or other real-time operating systems, consider the vendors I've mentioned here. Of course, the $64 question is: "Will Microsoft ship a lean version of SQL Server?"

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