The origins of the single database concept hark back to the roots of the computer industry itself. In the beginning were punched cards. Next came paper tapes. Next came magnetic tapes and then disk storage where data could be accessed directly. Along with disk storage came a piece of software known as a database management system (DBMS). The DBMS provided easy user access and storage of data. Along with direct access of data came the capability of online transaction processing (OLTP) systems. From a conceptual standpoint, the idea of a single database was born. The idea was to bring data from the master files and consolidate them in a single database. Once the single database was built, there would be one source to turn to in order to access data. There would be no more inconsistency of data and there would never be a problem accessing data. Entire careers, books and products were built on the single database concept. Nearly the entire industry embraced the single database concept without questioning whether it was really the right thing to do; such was the power and the appeal of the single database concept.

Fast forward a quarter century. Take a look at the industry. ACR of Phoenix, Arizona, conducted a survey of organizations engaging in computer processing. A quick look at the survey shows that not one out of 10,000 surveyed has a single database management system. Every company surveyed has multiple DBMSs and most have many DBMSs. The theory of the single database concept was a good idea at one time, but time and reality have shown that it was just a theory and nothing more. In fact, it was an incorrect theory despite the vigorous support that it received.

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