relational for what? [was: Design Principles Behind Smalltalk, Revisited]

Peter Crowther Peter at
Tue Jan 2 19:26:11 UTC 2007

> From: J J
> >From: Howard Stearns <hstearns at>
> >That's something I've never really understood: what is the domain in
> >which Relational Databases excel?
> Handling large amounts of enterprise data.

Handling and dynamically querying large amounts of data where the data
format is not necessarily completely stable and ad-hoc query performance
is important.  "Large" here is "much larger than main memory of the
machine(s) concerned".  I routinely handle data sets of tens of gigs on
current commodity hardware - storing the data in RAM would be somewhat
faster, but too expensive for the available capital.

The strength of relational over other forms is in being able to form
arbitrary joins *relatively* efficiently, and hence in being able to
query across data many times larger than main memory without excessive
disk traffic.

Google isn't a good counter-example, as the ad-hoc querying is missing.
The types of queries done on the Google database are very limited and
are well known in advance.

		- Peter

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