I read with interest Dataupiaâ€™s recent press release about its new management team. In it Foster Hinshaw (its President and CEO) is described as â€śthe father of data warehouse appliances.â€ť This started me thinking of whether there is a difference between being a father and being a creator, or inventor, of something. As the father and creator of my children I am very proud because I built them from the ground up. Most of the work of course was done by my wife, but it couldnâ€™t have happened without me! Is this true of fathers in the IT industry? Did they really create and invent the technology they are the father of?
When thinking about fathers of information technology, topics like data warehousing, business intelligence and relational databases come to mind The people most often viewed as the fathers of these technologies are Bill Inmon, Howard Dresner, and Dr. Ted Codd, respectively. While there is no question that these people have made major contributions to the industry and brought each of their respective technologies to the forefront of peopleâ€™s thinking, did they really â€ścreateâ€ť and â€śinventâ€ť the technology?
Letâ€™s consider DW appliances first. As I stated in my previous blog, Netezza was one of the prime movers in getting DW appliances accepted in the industry. Before moving to Dataupia, Foster Hinshaw was the CTO of Netezza, and therefore played a major role in the birth of the DW appliance.
Appliances of course have been around for a long time. Think of toasters, for example (the bread kind, not the Battlestar Gallactica kind). In IT, Network Appliance was one of the first vendors to introduce a hardware appliance. Cisco routers and telephone switches can also be thought of as appliances.
I personally think DW appliances go back to the days of database machines. The creators of those machines were people like Phil Neches who designed the DBC/1012, which became Teradataâ€™s first offering. Other key people at that time were David Britton and Geoffrey Lee who created the Britton-Lee database machine. Their company and technology was later renamed Sharebase. It was subsequently acquired by Teradata who buried it.
Howard Dressner, formerly with Gartner and now CSO of Hyperion (recently acquired by Oracle), is often associated with the term business intelligence. The wikipedia entry for business intelligence states, â€śIn 1989 Howard Dressner, a Research Fellow at Gartner Group popularized â€śBIâ€ť as an umbrella term to describe a set of concepts and methods to improve business decision-making by using fact-based support systems.â€ť I really like the word â€śpopularized.â€ť
On the data warehousing front, Bill Inmon is viewed as the father of data warehousing. The concept of data warehousing was actually invented largely in IBM by Barry Devlin, who (somewhat tongue in cheek) describes himself the â€śgrandfatherâ€ť of data warehousing.
Nobody would question that Dr. Codd is the father of the modern day relational DBMS. He was after all the inventor (and thus creator) of the relational model. Chris Date also played a major roll in making the world aware of Dr. Coddâ€™s work. I donâ€™t think he would mind me saying he â€śpopularizedâ€ť relational technology. He would be appalled, however, if I described him as the father of relational database.
The bottom line for me is that there are the inventors who create new technologies, and there are people who popularize them. These roles may be performed by the same people, but often they are not. Rather than people saying they are the â€śfatherâ€ť of something, I would prefer they said they â€śpopularizedâ€ť something. This is a less loaded term and has the same impact on the industry. I of course wouldnâ€™t say I popularized my children!