Database Pioneer Michael Stonebraker Wins Turing Award

The ACM recognized Michael Stonebraker with the A.M. Turing Award for his contributions to the database field.

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The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) named database pioneer Michael Stonebraker the recipient of the 2014 ACM A.M. Turing Award for fundamental contributions to the concepts and practices in modern database systems.

Michael Stonebraker, Ph.D., co-founder and CTO of Tamr, helped bring relational database systems from concept to commercial success and set the research agenda for the multibillion-dollar database field for decades. Database systems are critical applications of computing and preserve much of the world's important data.

The ACM Turing Award, widely considered the "Nobel Prize of Computing," carries a $1 million prize with financial support provided by Google. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing.

"Michael Stonebraker's work is an integral part of how business gets done today," ACM President Alexander L. Wolf, said in a statement. "Moreover, through practical application of his innovative database management technologies and numerous business startups, he has continually demonstrated the role of the research university in driving economic development."

Stonebraker, 71, also is an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL), where he is also co-founder and co-director of the Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) for Big Data. The ISTC is an Intel-funded initiative that brings together top academic researchers in the United States that are involved in database systems to create new technologies for dealing with big data.

Prior to MIT, Stonebraker was professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley for 29 years. A graduate of Princeton University, Stonebraker earned his master's degree and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Stonebraker is an ACM Fellow and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

Stonebraker invented many of the concepts used in almost all modern database systems. He demonstrated how to engineer database systems that support these concepts and released these systems as open software, which ensured their widespread adoption. Source code from Stonebraker's systems can be found in many modern database systems.

During Stonebraker's four-decade career, he has provided practical application of his research, founding several successful companies to commercialize his work, including Ingres (acquired by ASK and then Computer Associates), Illustra (acquired by Informix), Cohera (acquired by PeopleSoft), Streambase (acquired by Tibco), Vertica Systems (acquired by HP), VoltDB, Paradigm4 and Tamr.

Database systems are among the most commercially successful software systems and are an essential part of the infrastructure of our global economy. They are indispensable to business management, transaction processing, data analysis and electronic commerce, to name a few.

Stonebraker developed Ingres, proving the viability of the relational database theory. Ingres was one of the first two relational database systems—the other was IBM System R. With Ingres, Stonebraker made major contributions, including query language design, query processing techniques, access methods and concurrency control, and showed that query rewrite techniques could be used to implement relational views and access control.

"The efficient and effective management of big data is crucial to our 21st century global economy," Alan Eustace, senior vice president of Knowledge at Google, said in a statement. "Michael Stonebraker invented many of the architectures and strategies that are the foundation of virtually all modern database systems."

Stonebraker introduced the object-relational model of database architecture with the release of Postgres, integrating important ideas from object-oriented programming into the relational database context. Postgres extended the relational database model, enabling users to define, store and manipulate rich objects with complex state and behavior.

Concepts introduced in Ingres and Postgres can be found in nearly all major database systems today. Ingres and Postgres were built on Unix, released as open software and formed the basis of many modern commercial database systems, including Illustra, Informix, Netezza and Greenplum.

Stonebraker also developed lasting technical results on distributed query processing and transaction coordination protocols through development of Distributed Ingres, one of the first distributed database systems. Another highly influential project was XPRS, a parallel version of Postgres that explored the "shared nothing" approach to parallel database management. Mariposa, a massively-distributed federated database system, explored ideas such as opportunistic data replication and decentralized query processing.

Moreover, Stonebraker set the course for the design of scalable data systems as an early advocate for the adoption of the shared nothing database architecture. This approach is widely viewed as the only way to achieve and maintain scale, and is employed by nearly every major database vendor and "big data" solution today.

More recently, Stonebraker has been an advocate of the "no size fits all" approach to database systems architecture and has developed database architectures for specialized purposes. He pioneered real-time processing over streaming data sources (Aurora/StreamBase). His work on column-oriented storage architecture resulted in systems optimized for complex queries (C-Store/Vertica). He developed a high throughput, distributed main-memory online transaction processing system (H-Store/VoltDB). Stonebraker has also developed an extreme-scale data management and data analysis system for science (SciDB).