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Video: Why not make hardware different? New database systems and their applications are an excellent example of this sort of innovation

If you’re into considering how to scale digital operations for business, (maybe a CIO, or a COO, or some sort of specialist), you’re going to want to check out this video, which goes into a new methodology proposed by quite a few data scientists. It’s the idea that in keeping a database as a construct within an operating system environment, we essentially have it backward.

Database people know that the database itself has greatly evolved over just the past couple of decades. It’s gone from a traditional simple table system into new noSQL designs and other flavors of database that are highly competent in specific ways.

Now, when you listen to Michael Stonebraker talk about another frontier in systems design, he’s suggesting that you can use a database operating system on bare-metal and put the operating system with its messaging and everything else inside of that, or in other words, on top of it.

Starting out, Stonebraker informs the audience that he was working with smaller systems running on UNIX in the 1970s, where tiny bits of memory and very reduced primitive systems didn’t require a lot of this new kind of design.

Today’s systems, he said, are relatively enormous, and that’s one reason to go after these new kinds of architectures.

He talks, for example, about an engineering team that runs millions of Spark tasks routinely in the cloud.

So moving into why DBOS systems are desirable, he talks about the different stack and how it’s set up – he also mentions how operating systems people may get threatened when you suggest that the database should be the fundamental layer, and how they argue that you can’t make these types of systems fast enough…

“Yes, we can,” he says, introducing a joint project with MIT, Stanford and CMU where researchers found that they could build the systems with no real loss in performance.

As for the benefits of the DBOS model, Stonebraker suggests that “life is a lot simpler,” as he says, with a database operating system. You can do away, he says, with Kubernetes, and a bunch of other prior necessities, too.

But where the value really comes in, in some ways, is in cybersecurity: at least, according to Stonebraker’s evaluation of how DB-first systems work.

Let’s go over two of the big points that Stonebraker makes in support of what he calls a “fabulous” security system

First, there is a smaller and less porous attack surface. Now if you Google DBOS and attack surface, you’re going to come up with a lot of results for distributed denial of service attacks.

But if you read further and do a deep dive you’re going to get more about why DBOS shields the system better from outside attackers – and other promotion of a DBOS approach, like this treatise by Peter Kraft and Qian Li.

Getting back to cybersecurity value, the second idea here is in the role of what Stonebraker calls provenance.

Describing situations where they hooked up DBOS to a companion data warehouse system, he said it’s only costly if you’re going long-term.

On the other hand, in cybersecurity work, he says, you can detect attacks relatively quickly.

The other cybersecurity value is based on the idea that the database system is always logging as a normal procedure, as what Stonebraker calls “matter of course.”

That makes it easy to restore a system to a pre-attack state if you have some kind of bad thing happen.

In general, Stonebraker talks about the value of logging and the idea that DBOS systems do this as a matter of routine.

There is more detail in here for systems administrators and others with skin in the game, so watch the video and see what you think about this novel architecture – especially for cloud-native systems.

For his contributions to database research, Stonebraker received the 2014 Turing Award, often described as “the Nobel Prize for computing.”

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