jOOQ Tuesdays: Glenn Paulley Gives Insight into SQL’s History

Welcome to the jOOQ Tuesdays series. In this series, we’ll publish an article on the third Tuesday every other month where we interview someone we find exciting in our industry from a jOOQ perspective. This includes people who work with SQL, Java, Open Source, and a variety of other related topics.


I’m very excited to feature today Glenn Paulley who has been working with and on SQL for several decades.

Glenn, you have been a part of the database ecosystem since the very early days, having been Director of Engineering at Sybase and representing SAP with the SQL Standard committee. What is it that fascinates you so much about databases?

Data management technology has been my favourite subject within Computer Science since I was an undergraduate student at the University of Manitoba, and so it has remained throughout much of my career. I was privileged to be part of the team that implemented the first online IBM DB2 application – using IMS/TM as the transaction monitor – in Canada at Great-West Life Assurance in the late 1980’s, and we hosted some of the DB2 development team from IBM’s San Jose lab – including Don Haderle – to celebrate that achievement. So yes, I guess you could say that I’ve been around for a while.

Much of my personal expertise lies in the realm of query processing and optimization, having had Paul Larson and Frank Wm. Tompa as my Ph.D. supervisors at the University of Waterloo. But I am interested in many related database subjects: query languages certainly, multidatabase systems, and information retrieval. Two closely-related topics within database systems are of particular interest to me.  One is scale. Companies and organizations have a lot of data; billion-row tables in a relational database are fairly routine today in many companies. Advances in other technologies, such as the Internet of Things, are going to dramatically increase the data management requirements for firms wanting to take advantage of these technologies. Implementing solutions to achieve the scale required is difficult, and is of great interest to me. The related issue, quite naturally, is processing queries over such vast collections and getting the execution time down to something reasonable. So query optimization remains a favourite topic.

We’ve had a very interesting E-Mail conversation about SQL’s experiments related to Object Orientation in the late 1990’s. Today, we have ORDBMS like Oracle, Informix, PostgreSQL. Why didn’t ORDBMS succeed?

ORDBMS implementations were not as successful as their developers expected, to be sure, though I would note that many SQL implementations now contain “object” features even though objects are specifically omitted from the ISO SQL standard. Oracle 12c is a good example – Oracle’s PL/SQL object implementation supports a good selection of object-oriented programming features, such as polymorphism and single inheritance, that when coupled with collection types provide a very rich data model that can handle very complex applications. There are others, too, of course: InterSystems’ Caché product, for example, is still available.

So, while object support in relational systems is present, in many instances, to me the significant issues are (1) the performance of object constructions on larger database instances and (2) the question of where do you want objects to exist in the application stack: in the server proper, or in another tier, implemented in a true object-oriented language? The latter issue is the premise behind object-relational mapping tools, though I think that their usage often causes as many problems as they solve.

How do you see the future of the SQL language – e.g. with respect to Big Data or alternative models like document stores (which have N1QL) or graph stores (which have Open Cypher)?

My personal view is that SQL will continue to evolve; having an independent query language that permits one to query or manipulate a database but avoid writing a “program” in the traditional sense is a good idea. Over time that language might evolve to something different from today’s SQL, but it is likely that we will still call it S-Q-L. I do not expect a revolutionary approach to be successful; there is simply far too much invested in current applications and infrastructure. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying SQL doesn’t need improvements. It does.

Unlike the work of e.g. the JCP or w3c, which are public and open, SQL still seems to be a more closed environment. How do you see the interaction between SQL and the end user? Can “ordinary” folks participate in the future of SQL?

The SQL standard is published by the International Standards Organization (ISO), whose member countries contribute to changes to the standard and vote on them on a regular basis. Member countries that contribute to the ISO SQL standard include (at least) the US, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Korea. Participation in the standards process requires individuals or companies to belong to these “national bodies” in order to view drafts of the standard and vote on proposed changes. Usually those meetings are held in-person – at least in Canada and the United States – so there is a real cost to participation in the process.

While having SQL as an international ISO standard is, I think, worthwhile, the ISO’s business model is based on activities such as collecting revenue from the sale of standards documents. Unless governments or other benefactors sponsor the development of those standards, then it is difficult to see how the standard can be made more freely available. That issue is a political one, rather than a technical one.

After a brief stop at Conestoga College, you’re heading back to SAP. What will you be working on in the next few years?

I will be continuing to focus on database technology now that I’ve returned to SAP. So far I’ve had a fantastic experience being back at the SAP Waterloo lab, and I have every expectation that will continue into the future.

You’ve spent a lot of time at SAP (and before SAP) with Sybase. How do the different Sybase distributions relate to SAP’s new flagship database HANA?

The various SAP database systems (SQL Anywhere, IQ, ASE) all contain database technology pertinent to the HANA platform.

Last question: What do SQL and Curling have in common? :-)

As a Level 3 curling coach, one of my tasks as a High Performance Coach for the Ontario Curling Council is to collect performance data on the athletes in our various programs. Naturally I use a database system to store that data, and perform various analyses on it, so the two are not as unrelated as you might think!


jOOQ Newsletter: January 21, 2015 – Groovy and Open Source – jOOQ and the strong Swiss Franc

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Tweet of the Day

Today, we’re very happy to have “spied” on our users as we can now show you a whole Tweet Conversation of the Day

RxJooq, or reactive jOOQ. How does that sound!? Yes, jOOQ is growing to become a hype among SQL and fluent API aficionados. A recent discussion on reddit already puts jOOQ on the same level with Hibernate with more than 10 mentions in answers to the question “Java: What ORM to use”. Our goal has always been for a Java developer to ask themselves at the beginning of a project:

Is this a jOOQ project, or is this a Hibernate project (or both)?

It is too early to announce anything, but at Data Geekery, we’re very interested and thus putting efforts into collaborating with Red Hat to make the jOOQ / Hibernate integration work more seamlessly, so stay tuned for more goodness in that area.

Groovy and Open Source – What it means for us

You may have heard of Pivotal’s recent announcement about their withdrawing sponsorship from the Groovy and Grails ecosystem. This isn’t exactly a surprise to many people as Pivotal’s main focus has shifted towards their PaaS business quite some time ago. The interesting aspect from our perspective is the fact that a whole ecosystem seems to have relied on the benevolence of a single sponsor. Quite a risk!

We think that Open Source should work differently. Open Source is a fine means of offering freemium and (legally) riskless software to potential customers in order to help customers start engaging with a brand. The ultimate vendor goal with Open Source is always upselling. As our valued jOOQ users and jOOQ newsletter and blog readers, we obviously hope that you will eventually understand all the combined SQL value put into jOOQ, and thus upgrade to a commercial jOOQ subscription.

This wasn’t necessarily the case at Pivotal. There is no obvious path from using Groovy (or Grails) to buying Pivotal’s cloud platform solutions. To make things worse, in order to survive, the Groovy platform now depends on a new, arbitrary sponsor whose incentive to sponsor Groovy might be 100% different from Pivotal’s. For the end user, this will not be the same Groovy any more – so it is hard to believe that Groovy will not suffer heavily from any future transition.

We believe that vendors shouldn’t depend on benevolence. We believe that vendors should have a very clear strategy why they’re creating a product, and do everything necessary to satisfy real customer’s needs. So we want to take the opportunity and thank you for being with us, and for making jOOQ (both the Open Source Edition and the Commercial Editions) what it is: A platform valued by both users of Open Source and commercial databases.

More information about our take on Pivotal and Groovy can be found on our blog:

It’s jOONuary! Profit from our 20% Discount Promotion

Speaking of our customers, there has never been a better time to become one!

Your budget for 2015 has been set in stone? You spent too much money on geeky infrastructure during the Holiday Season? Not a problem for your planned jOOQ integration! If you purchase new jOOQ licenses in jOONuary (January 2015), we will offer you a limited-time 20% discount on all price plans. Act quickly!

jOOQ and the Strong Swiss Franc

We’re a Switzerland-based company, and as such are heavily influenced by recent events on the currency exchange markets. The EUR (which is our sale currency) has plummeted almost 20% compared to the CHF (which is our accounting currency).

This affects all of the Swiss export industry, and many companies are starting to take measures. We will not take any measures thus far and continue with our existing EUR-based price model. For our international customers, nothing will change. For our Swiss customers, this means that in addition to the above jOONuary discount, you will now also benefit from a “Euro discount”! Did we say there has never been a better time to become our customer?

jOOQ 3.6 Outlook

The upcoming jOOQ 3.6 will not be less exciting than the previous versions in the least bit. Here is a quick outline of what we’re going to be doing in the upcoming release:

  • SAP HANA support. We’ve been talking to database vendors in the past, and we continue to do so, maintaining good relationships with the technical and community people at the vendor side. This time, the collaboration initiative came from the vendor directly, and we’ve heard them.

    SAP HANA is an emerging cloud SQL and in-memory SQL platform, with a big Java and Scala based tool chain, which constitutes a perfect match for the jOOQ ecosystem. We’re going to support both HANA’s SQL features as well as HANA’s SQLScript features in the jOOQ 3.6 Enterprise Edition. If you’re an SAP HANA user and interested in details, or in a free preview of jOOQ 3.6.0, please contact sales right away. We’re more than happy to provide you with more info.

  • Nested records and tables. One of the SQL standard’s most underestimated features is the capability of nesting records and tables. In a true ORDBMS, tables (or MULTISETs) can be nested any level deep. If your SQL database supports these features, it is very easy to materialise a nested object graph directly in the database, instead of relying on the JOIN-based workarounds provided by modern ORMs.

    Nesting of records can also be very useful when reusing common data structures, such as audit columns (creation_date, creation_user, modification_date, modification_user). JPA supports the @Embedded annotation for this, and we’ll delve into these features as well.

    We believe that true MULTISET support will obsolete our competing products’ most important asset: mapping. Once you can declare all mapping already in SQL, you will no longer miss JPA once you’ve migrated to jOOQ.

  • A new ConverterProvider SPI. Converters are great for supporting custom data types, but having to register them all the time is tedious. What if jOOQ just supported T <-> U conversion right out of the box, for any combination of T and U? We’ll let you register all your favourite converters and jOOQ figures out the conversion path through the converter graph.
  • Even better PL/SQL support. PL/SQL types are ubiquitous, but they are not easily accessible via JDBC, and thus via jOOQ. We’re researching a variety of possibilities of working around JDBC’s limitations to allow you to use your favourite PL/SQL types: BOOLEAN, RECORD types, perhaps even table types.


Upcoming jOOQ Events

Have you missed one of our talks and presentations in the recent past? No problem at all, we’re back on the road after a short winter break. Here are all of our upcoming events:

Keep up to date with our own and third-party jOOQ events on our news website:

We’re looking forward to meeting you and to talking about all things Java and SQL!