Last December 10, 1997, Computer Associates' CEO Charles Wang and Fujitsu's Director of the Board and Group President of the Multimedia Tatsuzumi Furukawa threw a coming-out party for Jasmine, Computer Associates' long-awaited object database development system. Back in 1995 when "pure" object databases were clearly out of favor as ill-performing niche products, Charles Wang went out on a limb and said he wasn't going to ship a hybrid product, a so-called "universal server" that would theoretically combine the features of both RDBMS and ODBMS (object database management system) systems. There was a fundamental mismatch between relational databases and object databases, observed Wang, and he had no intention of extending newly acquired Ingres (now OpenIngres) into some sort of kludgy hybrid. Where does Fujitsu come in? When CA and Fujitsu joined forces in 1995, Fujitsu brought almost a decade's worth of R&D to the table. The two companies spent the last two years "productizing" Jasmine and will continue co- development. If it's any indication of how strategic Jasmine is in CA's future--and how robust it is in CA's eyes--CA plans to use it as the preferred object store in its Unicenter TNG enterprise management package which currently uses Microsoft SQL Server. Jasmine is currently available for Solaris and NT; Microsoft SQL Server only runs on NT.

The differences between RDBMSs like SQL Server and ODBMSs like market leader Object Design Inc. (ODI, which sells ObjectStore) are extensive. Basically, in an object database, information is organized as objects, classified by a class type and organized in a class family hierarchy. Although both support transactions (all or nothing commits) and constructs such as relationships, cursors and indexes, object databases--thanks to inheritance--are intrinsically extensible and support a wide array of complex multi-valued structures such as lists, arrays and bags. Of course, the main appeal of ODBMSs has always been their support for multimedia and other "large" variable length data objects. But ODBMSs have another appeal--that of hierarchical, or navigational, data access. Anyone who has tried to model a bill of materials (BOM) within the RDBMS model will appreciate object databases' navigational data access.

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