The Database Industry Needs to Become Internet-Proof in Order to Stay in Business

Article excerpt

BQ may be caught in the web--but database providers sure aren't

The Internet and its Web are giving me a headache. The headache may be due to the whiplash effect a person gets from moving between consideration of Internet speeds and those of the traditional database industry. Of course, I'm not talking modems or T-1 connections here. I'm talking about the speed of growth and change. Clearly the Internet adds more people each day than major search services add in a year. The Internet's presence in the world psyche has now grown so large that even television bows before it.

The latest rage in predictions is the idea that the Net may someday soon even replace computers themselves. At first glance, this idea may appear totally ridiculous. How can a computer-based network of computer networks eliminate computers? The logic is a bit convoluted but not totally nonsensical. Consider all computer tasks as reducible to two components--data content and manipulation software. Well, assume that ever-quickening data communication systems can deliver data fast enough to appear transparent to the user. And assume that the ever-declining cost of data storage makes off-site storage a dirt cheap alternative (certainly cheaper than constantly upgrading to new multimedia platforms with their intimidating installation experiences). Assume too that Internet addiction accustoms everyone to paying monthly for computer service, like phones or cable television, and breaks the habit of thinking of computers as a one-time, end-of-problem purchase.

But what about the software to make the data useful? Very few users have a sophisticated knowledge of their computer software anymore. The better the software, the less they need to know, as software gets self-instructional. What if the modular computer design got so sophisticated that it could send data with the appropriate software functions attached? Your local machine would just be a low-cost terminal for selecting and displaying data with software supplied and supported by offsite client server systems.

RUMBLE. RUMBLE. ROAR!!! Wow! Did you feel that shaking? We sure must be close to the tracks for the Deja Vu Special to be making that much noise. Does any of this sound strangely familiar? Do the words "mainframe" and "centralized systems" mean anything to you? Have we, in fact, surged ahead to the brink of the past, of old online?

Maybe yes. Maybe no. A New Internet World Order may or may not actually break through the $2,000-3,000 Information Age entry barrier. Even if it does, though, the "good new days" may not include the players from the "good old days."

Is Anybody There?

The Internet is calling the world, but so far, the world of the traditional database industry doesn't seem to hear the phone ringing. Look at the databases offered through traditional channels (yes, that does include CD-ROMs). They seem not to recognize the Internet or its Web as real. Oh, sure, search services and leading database producers have their new Web pages up. Have to keep up with the Jones Company, after all. But most of the Web sites do not even connect to the data products. Some barely offer a subscription form or sign-up route to reach the data, albeit through separate calls to separate numbers with separate passwords and separate contracted payment protocols and often through separate communication software packages. Most database industry home pages seem to use the Web as a depository of advertising brochures and ignore the opportunity or challenge of making direct--and immediate--sales. Many of them use industry jargon and company trademark or servicemark designations that would mean nothing to real outsiders.

When it comes to packaging and promotion, the database industry at least recognizes the existence of the Internet and the Web, though it seems a reality with which they do not feel comfortable. When it comes to database content, however, we're living in a time warp. …