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Focusing on XQuery

DataDirect Technologies, Bedford, Mass., provides components for connecting software to data. Developers use these components to develop and deploy business applications across all major databases and platforms, and to connect those applications to a range of data sources.

Although it is owned by Progress Software, DataDirect provides technology not just for the RDBMS of its parent company, but for other major RDBMS makers such as IBM, Sybase, Oracle and Microsoft. In fact, new company president Rick Reidy likes to call DataDirect "the Switzerland of data access."

The XQuery query language specification has become a focus of DataDirect's, Reidy says. This fall, the company will beta test a database-independent XQuery engine that integrates conventional relational databases with XML data sources using XQuery.

XQuery adherents believe the language will change server-side programming as much as Java servlets did. XQuery is designed to query collections of XML data -- not just XML files, but anything that can appear as XML, including relational databases.

Before moving to DataDirect, Reidy served in several management capacities at Progress Software, and had recently been on the M&A side. He was also one of the original developers of the company's flagship database product, the Progress RDBMS.

Reidy's passion for data management has never waned. From his work building a database, he understands the strengths and weaknesses of DBMS technology, particularly the limitations of the SQL language. "It's not so much that SQL has limitations, but that the sources of data and the structure of data are changing very rapidly," he says. "The data of interest to people building business applications, data warehouses, etc., has gone far beyond traditional tables and rows of tables." That is why XML technologies are so popular, he says.

XQuery allows a programmer to query structured, semi-structured and unstructured data sources in one data manipulation language. Although there have been efforts to create universal access layers, Reidy notes, before XQuery there was no standard for defining a query of multiple data sources that were not relational.

Even though DataDirect's suite of JDBC drivers are embedded in many of the top Java application servers, Reidy is not a big fan of Java as a development language. "It is ridiculous that the IT industry is recommending that people write business applications in Java. It doesn't make sense to put Java in the hands of the typical business application programmer who has experience in accounting, manufacturing or CRM," he says.

Reidy has a fondness for 4GL programming languages, which, he says, have been restricted because there's never been a standard space for one. "XQuery should become a 4GL," he says. "The world needs a 4GL universally adopted so that the masses can use that to start writing business applications rather than C++ or Java."

That may never happen, but Reidy is sure of one thing. "XQuery will ultimately replace SQL," he predicts, "[but] perhaps not during my career."

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