XQuery hits its stride

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X MARKS THE SPOT: The latest version of IBM's DB2 database, "Viper," comes with built-in support for XQuery.

XQuery hits its stride

Despite recently crashing into the market for enterprise resource-planning software, Oracle Corp. is still primarily known as a vendor of relational databases. So it was surprising to hear Oracle's principal architect, Roger Bamford, enthusiastically tout the benefits of XQuery in his keynote speech at the XML 2006 conference held in Boston in December.

According to Bamford, XQuery addresses a fundamental and growing problem with the kind of relational database systems Oracle now delivers. In the past few years, we've seen an explosion of database-driven applications, particularly for the Web. But these applications require flexibility not inherent to databases. Often, new fields need to be added, and entire tables need to be rethought. And once changes are made, the database needs to be reoptimized to achieve timely responses.

The creaky database architecture doesn't lend itself well to these sorts of rapid-fire changes. Extensible Markup Language-encoded databases are inherently more adaptable to this type of work, Bamford argued. Just as Structured Query Language is used to search a database, XQuery is a set of instructions for searching large collections of XML data.

XQuery clearly does not have as wide a range of support tools as SQL, but support is growing. Bamford himself oversees an effort to build an open-source XQuery engine called Zorba, which can be incorporated into a database server. Another Oracle engineer, XML architect Daniela Florescu, discussed XQueryP, an XQuery language extension she is working on that allows the use of variables, bringing a programming-language style of flexibility to XQuery.

Oracle may be onto something. XQuery got more buzz at this year's conference than in years past. Jonathan Robie, one of the designers of XQuery and now chief scientist at XQuery tool vendor DataDirect Technologies of Bedford, Mass., noted he's seen a sea change in attendee response. Whereas he used to get only confused stares and basic questions, now the discussions are getting more sophisticated.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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