Open Source Years are like Dog Years

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The Actian engineering team is spread across the globe with folks in the US, Canada, the UK, Spain, Germany, Brazil and Australia. So earlier this year we arranged to bring the entire team together for some team building and product planning at a Club Med resort in Florida. It was the largest Actian engineering meeting that I’d attended in over a decade and it was fun to catch up with everyone and to meet some of the new Actian engineers for the very first time. We even invited a community developer to join us since he’s heavily involved in the data partitioning projects.

During one of the sessions, Chris Hane, one of our directors in Engineering, outlined some of the challenges he was facing in assisting partners that wanted to port applications that had been developed for other databases to Actian. Chris outlined, with his unique Long Island charm, his frustration that a de-facto standard was running in parallel with the industry standard. Doug Inkster explained in his usual forthright manner the reality as to how standards bodies operate. Nobody was surprised when two weeks later Doug submitted an integration plan to add about two dozen new SQL functions, some of them synonyms for existing functions, some of them new to Actian. Doug is the perfect developer for a small start-up; he can quickly identify the things that will give maximum bang for the buck and implement them as a ‘vacation’ from his usual query optimization and execution projects.

I’m heading to Europe next week for a couple of User Group meetings and some customer meetings. The first User Group event is in the UK next week and I.ve been asked to outline the new features we.ll be delivering in Actian and OpenROAD over the next two years. While we obviously have a product roadmap which outlines the products and features that we’re planning to deliver in the coming years, there will be hundreds of minor features, like the two dozen functions that Doug implemented, which will never make it onto a slide. There will also be the community development projects discussed, which we haven’t put on our published roadmap, and most importantly, innovation where we can take a revolutionary idea from concept through to delivery in a matter of months. I’m reminded of Icebreaker where, after a meeting with rPath, Dave Dargo had a vision of delivering a database appliance – Dave’s vision was realized in a matter of months and is running today in customer deployments. We’re building a whole series of appliances on top of Icebreaker and I’ll be discussing some of those in the UK next week, as well as in future blogs. I.m certain that over the next two years there will be a whole host of products and solutions delivered by Actian that I can’t even conceive of today.

Closed source companies cannot innovate at the pace that open source companies can. I worked for one of the largest software companies in the world for over a decade and for most of the time I was there I knew exactly what was on the development roadmap for years into the future, we rarely deviated from the roadmap until we contributed Actian to open source and then it was a whole different ball game. In open source, development years are like dog years, the open source license and development model enables collaboration and innovation at a pace that the closed source companies will never achieve.

Doug will be in the UK and Germany with me in the coming weeks and I can’t wait to see what new features he produces as a direct result of these meetings. I.m fairly certain that Roy, will try to ply him with alcohol and convince him of the merits of implementing deferred constraints. No doubt that there will be others with equally ingenious ideas competing for Doug’s attention.

About Emma McGrattan

As SVP of Engineering at Actian, Emma leads development for the Actian Vector team, including the Ingres and X100 components, and the Actian Matrix Planner team. A leading authority in DBMS technologies, Emma is celebrating 20 years in Ingres and Actian Engineering.

View all posts by Emma McGrattan →

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