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Don Burleson Blog 







Overview of Object Database Standards

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

The computer industry has been plagued by a lack of standards for decades.  As early as the 1960s we see that computer hardware and software vendors have had a vested interest in keeping their products "proprietary", that is, non-standard.  When most hardware vendors adopted the ASCII character set, IBM steadfastly refused to comply with the standard, and today, computer professionals are still plagued with translating IBM's EBCDIC character set into the ASCII character set used by other hardware. 

We see the same parallels in other the consumer industry.  For example, several years ago a standards war was being fought over a standard format for video tape media.  Those who bought beta video tapes and equipment found out that everything was moving to the VHS format and that the beta format was being abandoned.  The same is true of electricity.  If you travel to another country you might find that your hair dryer or electric razor will not work, because each country developed standards independently.

This lack of standards is driven by the natural motivation of vendors to keep their products "proprietary".  Computer hardware vendors have no incentive to make their computers "standard", in the sense that they can easily be replaced with other, cheaper computers.  We see this trend in the software industry also, where database vendors strive to "lock-in" their customers so that they will not be able to easily move their processing to other database engines.  Imagine what it would be like if industry's failed to develop standards for their products.  What it would be like if you could only buy electrical devices from one supplier because you could not mix and match between suppliers.

The same standards issue is true for Object Technology.  The Object Technology movement has the central goal of making diverse hardware and software interchangeable, in the sense that it would become simple to change hardware and software.  In distributed systems, there are two factions that are driving the standards for distributed objects; the Object Management Group's Common Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), and Microsoft's Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM).

ORBs and the Internet

In addition to emerging standards for application ORB's, we are seeing a movement in the marketplace to standardize on the implementation of ORB architectures for communications on the World Wide Web.

With the ability to communicate to ORBs on the Internet, Internet clients will be able to instantly communicate with other ORBs on a worldwide basis, making information available from a plethora of data sources.  There is a huge movement toward the implementation of distributed objects on the Internet, most notably by the two major Web browser vendors, Microsoft and Netscape.

Traditionally using the familiar HTTP protocol, Netscape has recently announced that it is moving towards an implementation using the CORBA Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP).  The IIOP is rapidly becoming the new protocol for the internet, and is replacing http as a standard method for Web communications.

Microsoft is also looking at providing access to distributed ORBs by using their ActiveX product.  Microsoft will link all of their ActiveX objects using a DCE-RPC-enabled communications protocol.

While these efforts are still in their infancy, it is clear that the availability of ORBs on the Internet is not very far away, and that Web surfers will soon be able to make requests for services to ORBs that are distributed on a worldwide basis.




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