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Netherlands University evolves with RDMS.

As computers become faster, cheaper and easier to use, more people want to do their own computing on their own equipment. This "computer evolution" is gradually eroding the traditional role of the large central computing center. This is particularly true in large organizations such as universities, which for years have relied on centralized computing service centers to do everything from maintaining databases to printing mailing lists. The University of Technology in Delft, The Netherlands, is no exception to this trend.

UT Delft is the Netherlands' largest technical university, with over 13,000 students enrolled in a variety of courses including aerospace; mechanical, petroleum and geodetic engineering; applied physics; chemical technology; industrial design; and architecture. Many of the department faculty members, staff and students use computers for study and research purposes.

"The campus is becoming less and less dependent on centralized computing, and the university needed to control the costs of services," s the UT Computing Center's director, J.C. Zuidervaart. "That's why we started to look for another function we could fulfill as an organization."

Ten years ago, the UT Delft Computing Center supplied the university with its computer facilities for technical and scientific computing work. At that time, notes Zuidervaart, students, staff and faculty shared large central systems accesible through terminals. In the past five years, however, increasingly powerful computers have been appearing in the departments. Today, says Zuldervaart, "there are more than two thousand PCs and several hundred workstations at the University of Technology. There are also dozens of DEC, Gould and HP minicomputers used for technical and scientific computing. We had to adapt to this situation."

We wanted to offer database services through a center where users could transmit and store their data.

The growing use of desktop computers was accompanied by a huge increase in data production, which in turn meant a greater need for management, administration, archiving and protection for that data. The computing center staff were quick to find an opportunity to meet this need. "We had to sell our services to survive as an organization," says Zuidervaart. "We wanted to offer database services through a data center where users could transmit and store their data. In this way, we could offer the cost-effective [benefits] of central data storage as well as disk management, backup Delft, from PCs to IBM mainframes," says C.P.F. Thijs, who chaired the working group. "It also had to be user-friendly. And it had to be a relational database."

This explains that the software had to function as a distributed system in two ways: "It had to be possible to work with databases on various systems, as if they were one large database. We also needed to process data from one computer on another system." In addition, the software had to incorporate SQL, cause SQL is an accepted standard and SQL queries are easily transmitted through a network."

The working group insisted that the entire system be as transparent as possible to the user. Users also needed to communicate and mix data with applications running elsewhere. According to Thijs, this meant that the database management system had to be more than a simple, local database product.

Besides these important requirements, the center's staff had a long wish list for the software supplier. They wanted to involve as few vendors as possible and preferred to receive support from a company with offices in The Netherlands. They also wanted to purchase a system that was immediately available.

After a thorough selection process, the INGRES relational database management system emerged as the best system for UT. "As far as we're concerned, INGRES, developed by Ingres Corp. [in] Alameda, Calif., meets our conditions best," says Dr. J.A.M. Snoek, one of the working group members. "First of all, Ingres Corp. is clearly more advanced in providing distributed databases. In addition, the INGRES query optimizer is acknowledged to be the best, and the company offers an excellent report generator. INGRES is available for the PC/XT and supports 65 different graphic devices."

In making the decision, the Computing Center also looked to the future. "Ingres Corp. is clearly ahead of the other suppliers as far as database theory is concerned," Snoek continues. "INGRES will soon have semantic and object-oriented database management capabilities."

Adds Thijs, "INGRES was clearly our top choice, specifically because it is available on so many different machines."

After consulting with the departments, the Computing Center purchased a campuswide license entitling it to not only install INGRES on all of the school's computers, but also to provide services, support and training to UT users. The Computing Center receives technical support from Ingres Corp.'s Amsterdam office.

* A Voluntary Doeision

INGRES has become quite popular at the university. Eight departments have already decided to pay the center to introduce INGRES in one or more of their systems. "Their decision to choose INGRES is entirely voluntary," says Zuidervaart. "But many of the departments want to standardize on one system. Even [the] Mechanical Engineering [department], which has used another relational database management system for three years, decided to switch to INGRES."

The University of Technology in Delft has adapted to its changed role. "We want users to be able to handle their problems on the most suitable machine," says Zuidervaart. "You can often do a rough simulation very adequately on a workstation, but for more accurate calculations you need more computing capacity. We are now aiming to create a functionally integrated package of computer facilities for all kinds of computers."

"We are becoming more and more like a spider in the middle of a web," he adds, "with strands to the local researchers in the departments. While they work, we make sure their data is secure; that it transmits smoothly; and that they always have easy, flexible access to it. And INGRES is helping us do it.
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Title Annotation:Applications; INGRES relational data base management system being used at University of Technology in Delft, The Netherlands
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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