Michael Stonebraker, whose database software breakthroughs helped to tame information overload long before we referred to it as big data, is the recipient of the 2014 ACM A.M. Turing Award, a.k.a. the “Nobel Prize in Computing.”
The annual Association for Computing Machinery honor, which now includes a jacked-up $1M prize funded by Google, recognizes Stonebraker “for fundamental contributions to the concepts and practices underlying modern database systems.”
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His early-1970s development of the INGRES (Interactive Graphics and Retrieval System) relational database management system, one of the first two RDBMSs along with IBM System R, is credited with major advances in query language design and processing techniques as well as data access methods that built the foundation for so many modern database systems.
Not only did Stonebraker commercialize his Unix-based creations through a series of companies such as Ingres (acquired by CA), Illustra (bought by Informix) and Vertica (purchased by HP), but he released open software used by others to grow the database industry.
Stonebraker developed Ingres as well as object-relational Postgres during a 29-year career as a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and currently serves as an adjunct professor of compute science and engineering at MIT and a principal investigator at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where he is co-founder and co-director of the Intel Science and Technology Center for Big Data.
Other work included XPRS, a parallel, “shared nothing” version of Postgres, and Mariposa, a massively-distributed federated database system commercialized via Cohera Corp. More recently, Stonebraker has focused on specialized database management systems, such as SciDB for scientific data.
On the start-up front, the most recent company to lead its pitch with co-founder Stonebraker’s name is Tamr, which formed in 2013 to help enterprises curate data from internal/external data stores and even the Internet of Things.
“Michael Stonebraker’s work is an integral part of how business gets done today,” said ACM President Alexander L. Wolf, in a statement. “Moreover, through practical application of his innovative database management technologies and numerous business start-ups, he has continually demonstrated the role of the research university in driving economic development.”
Stonebraker throughout his career has been outspoken about software developments (See “Database pioneer continues to bash RDBMS,” “Stonebraker/DeWitt and eBay slam MapReduce (again)” and “The ‘NoSQL’ Discussion has Nothing to do with SQL”).
ACM will present the 2014 A.M. Turing Award at its annual Awards Banquet on June 20 in San Francisco.
Past winners have included Microsoft Research’s Leslie Lamport and MIT crypto experts Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali.
You can check out Stonebraker in action in this recent YouTube video, in which he discusses – among other things – the notion that one size doesn’t fit all in databases.