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.

CA (www.cai.com/products/jasmine.htm< /A>) offers a free copy of Jasmine to developers and also free training classes, but to deploy Jasmine applications you will need to license the product ($800 and up). Jasmine apps can be run either from a browser with a Java-based Jasmine plug-in or in traditional client/server mode using a run-time client.

CA isn't the only ODBMS vendor, but its competitors see it as legitimizing their market. ODI, which is probably the overall ODBMS market leader, has licensed its ObjectStore/PSE persistent data store to most of the browser vendors, for example, and anyone can download a free copy from the ODI Web site (www.odi.com).

Jasmine, like other object packages for developers, ships with its own object model and class hierarchy, and you have to create your own classes--either based on the ones you "inherit" by buying the product or by writing your own from scratch--to create a database. In other words, there's a lot more "up- front" work than in RDBMSs where you allocate some storage and then just execute a series of CREATE TABLE statements. All the major ODBMS vendors offer free evaluation copies of their software--either via download or by requesting a CD-ROM. And most of them are far beyond Release 1.0. I suspect Jasmine has a good future, but other vendors with more mature products also deserve your attention:

Ardent Software, Inc., (O2, previously from O2 Technology) www.o2tech.com

GemStone Systems, Inc., www.gemstone.com

Ibex Object Systems, (ITASCA) w3.iprolink.ch/ibexcom

MATISSE Software, (ADB) www.matisse.com

neoLogic systems, (neoAccess) www.neologic.com

Object Design, Inc., (ObjectStore) www.odi.com

Objectivity, Inc., www.objectivity.com

Ontos, Inc., www.ontos.com

Persistence Software Inc.,www.persistence.com

Poet Software, www.poet.com

Unisys (Osmos), www.osmos.com

Versant Object Technology, www.versant.com


Other Resources

ODMG--www.odmg.org

Barry & Associates, www.odbmsfacts.com

Bloor Research (Database: An Evaluation and Comparison, January 1998)--www.bloor.co.uk

IDC (Bulletin 14065 on object databases and Bulletin 14821E on Object Tools including Jasmine)--www.idcresearch.com

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