Informix's Illustra Database Chosen for Second Phase of NASA's "Mission to Planet Earth"; Informix To Provide 4D Spatial Modeling and Other Complex Data Management for One of the World's Largest and Most Complex Information Systems.
The project procurement for the Illustra DBMS from Informix was made by Electronic Data Systems (EDS) on behalf of Hughes Information Technology Systems, the prime contractor for the EOSDIS Core System (ECS) project. The Illustra product was chosen for Science Data management in the Release "B" of ECS, scheduled for delivery to NASA in mid-1997.
The ECS contract runs through the year 2002 and involves a number of processing, archiving and retrieval centers and science computing facilities worldwide. Informix will provide its high-performance object-relational database engine (Illustra ORDBMS), spatial data handling extensions (including the Illustra Geodetic DataBlade(R) module), and multidimensional spatial indexing to respond to queries from thousands of environmental scientists requiring access to petabytes of earth science data.
"Winning this contract is a major milestone for Informix," said Dick Williams, former CEO of Illustra and now senior vice president of Informix. "When we began developing the Illustra technology in 1992, we had a clear vision of what would be required for 21st century information management. Our vision has been validated."
"EOSDIS is a huge win for Informix -- demonstrating the changing needs in the database world," said J. Neil Weintraut, managing director in technology research at Hambrecht & Quist, investment bankers in San Francisco. "Several trends are at play. Enterprise automation is moving from back-office transaction to front-office case-worker systems. At the same time, the advent of the Internet and Web technology enables the proliferation of context-oriented and media-rich information -- while simple and static information metaphors such as tables and alphanumeric data are being extended or replaced with complex and dynamic ones, notably documents and images.
"As the trend from simple to complex information metaphors continues, the underlying design of relational databases increasingly surfaces as a fundamental limitation. Instead, new, dynamic and complex information metaphors require content management systems that are designed from the ground up to inherently provide the versatility and functionality required by complex content. Illustra's content management system provides powerful technology that exactly and uniquely matches this rapidly emerging need," concluded Weintraut.
"Mission To Planet Earth" Benefits To Be Felt Worldwide
The overall purpose of "Mission To Planet Earth" is to provide the scientific basis for understanding global change. Many groups of people worldwide will benefit from the comprehensive database of disparate data gathered from the project: Farmers and agricultural analysts, for example, will be able to monitor crop yield, track climate forecasts, plan land use and remotely detect the path of parasites. Oceanographers and the fisheries industry will use the EOS data to monitor oil spills and plankton production, which measures the ocean's uptake of carbon dioxide and provides information on where food is available for fish. Ecologists will have the means to track desertification and the breakdown of ecosystems. Governments will be able to track the ravages of war (e.g., the effects of the oil fires on Kuwait). Forestry services will use the system to monitor the spread of wildfires.
"As scientists, we're always searching for more effective ways to find and process information," said Dr. Jeff Dozier, dean of the School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a principal investigator of the Earth Observing System (EOS) project. "For years, we have had to try to use conventional relational database management systems that were designed for completely different purposes, as well as geographic information systems that are neither powerful nor robust.
"Informix provides in its Illustra DBMS, a single database with the ability to automatically reformat, calibrate, locate in precise geographic coordinates on standard grids worldwide. Moreover, it is accessible via straightforward standard query language (SQL) and an interface to the World Wide Web. Informix has the only database technology available today that is capable of accomplishing this mission," concluded Dozier.
Beyond 2D and 3D Data Modeling To Add the Fourth Dimension: Time
A primary benefit of Informix's database technology is that it can be structured to accommodate virtually ANY kind of data -- including time. As part of its contract with the EOSDIS project, Informix will develop a 4D Spatial DataBlade software module that will support longitude, latitude, height and time -- as well as easy indexing of those disparate information types. Up until now, scientists have had no effective way to sort, search and organize four-dimensional data. With Illustra's Spatial DataBlade module and its fast indexing, earth scientists throughout the world will be able to locate data based on both its geographic and temporal attributes.
"We want to make our satellite technology broadly available to the market," said C. Michael Armstrong, chairman and chief executive officer of Hughes Electronics. "To do that, we needed a new generation information management system, one with the flexibility to solve our problems today and enable us to innovate rapidly in the future. We found it with Illustra's technology."
Unlike traditional relational database architectures, which must rely on wrapper solutions to access spatial and other complex data types, the Illustra database is fully extensible which enables it to natively store and manage any kind of data. Its basic object-relational DBMS architecture was designed at the University of California at Berkeley in the mid 1980s as part of the POSTGRES research project under the direction of Dr. Michael Stonebraker.
"We needed a database built from the ground up to accommodate complex ad hoc queries made on a combination of complex data types," said Robert A. Horrigan, project manager for the EOSDIS core program at EDS. "After an exhaustive selection process, we concluded that Illustra' system was the only one of the many we evaluated that will be able to meet all the requirements of Release B."
Illustra Database Technology Ideal for Integrating and Modeling Virtually Any Kind of Data
The NASA ECS project will use the Illustra database to access complex scientific data such as images, grids, multidimensional arrays and compound documents, utilizing structured information (metadata) describing each object. The database's object-relational capabilities allow this rich data to be modeled and managed in the database itself. Scientists working on the EOSDIS project will benefit from this technology in many ways. For example, the extensible architecture of the DataBlade software modules allow for each data type to be stored in the server with its own access methods, providing the research community with the power to explore new and more efficient ways of storing and indexing metadata.
The Illustra database is also ideal for handling the level of abstraction needed by EOS applications. The purely relational incumbent database design is "two-tiered": one tier to handle the data, another to handle information about the schema. Such an architecture is not designed to accommodate the sophisticated needs of the second phase of the project, where, for example, each DAAC (Distributed Active Archive Center) may add new types of data at any time. By contrast, the Illustra database's object-oriented capabilities will allow more direct and efficient data models, so that new data types can be added without affecting existing applications.
Informix Software, based in Menlo Park, Calif., provides innovative database technology that enables the world's leading corporations to manage and grow their business. Informix is widely recognized as the technology leader for corporate computing environments ranging from workgroups to very large OLTP and data warehouse applications. Informix's database servers, application development tools, superior customer service, and strong partnerships enable the company to be at the forefront of many leading-edge information technology solution areas.
With the acquisition of Illustra Information Technology's completely extensible database technology, Informix is now positioned as the first information management company capable of meeting the market's exploding need for a sophisticated database engine that combines enterprise scalability, robustness and parallel processing with the ability to store, retrieve, manage and manipulate virtually any kind of rich content data. More information about Informix is available via the World Wide Web at http://www.informix.com and http://www.illustra.com. -0-
NOTE TO EDITORS: The following are worldwide trademarks of Informix Software, Inc., or its affiliates, registered in the United States of America, as indicated by (R), and numerous other countries worldwide: INFORMIX(R); Illustra(TM) and DataBlade(R). All other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.
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CONTACT: Informix Software, Inc.
Sandra Bateman, 510/873-6209
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|Date:||May 6, 1996|
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