Thoughts on Jim Gray, Database Pioneer - InformationWeek

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2/20/2007
05:33 PM
David Stodder
David Stodder
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Thoughts on Jim Gray, Database Pioneer

After a period of upheaval, I'm ready to resume contributing to the IE blog. My thoughts, however, are clouded by news of the apparent disappearance of Jim Gray, founder and head of Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center. Gray contributed more than anyone to the advance of database and transaction processing technology, and it's just stunning that he appears to have left us.

After a period of upheaval, I'm ready to resume contributing to the IE blog. My thoughts, however, are clouded by news of the apparent disappearance of Jim Gray, founder and head of Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center (BARC). My heart goes out to his family as well as his immense circle of friends, students and colleagues.According to the news reports, Gray vanished while sailing his beloved yacht, "Tenacious" out to the Farallon Islands, located a little over 20 miles west of San Francisco Bay. As many following this story in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere know, a massive, high-tech search was undertaken to find him. According to the search effort site, the search has been officially called off, although friends and family are still trying.

I worked with Jim on articles and events over the years with Intelligent Enterprise, Database Programming & Design and our Database Summit Series conferences that we held in the late 1990s. It could've been intimidating to work with such a legendary figure-without question, one of the most significant computer scientists and information technologists ever-but Jim was unfailingly generous with his time. His insights, humor, encouragement and good will are things I will never forget, and will miss dearly.

Frankly, it had been on my mind to get in touch with Jim. But in a rush, I was dealing with my own changes and getting ready to travel to India to visit BPO and IT companies Satyam and Sify and attend the NASSCOM conference in Mumbai. I first read the sad news of his disappearance in the papers while en route to India, and followed the story through fellow travelers' mobile devices there. In Mumbai, I lit a candle for him at the Basilica of Mount Mary, where people of all faiths have come to pray since the 17th Century.

An ACM Turing Award winner and driving member of the National Science Foundation, Gray contributed more than anyone to the advance of database and transaction processing technology during a career that included key stints at Tandem, IBM, Digital Equipment Corp. and Microsoft, not to mention U.C. Berkeley and other learning institutions. The spectrum of his contributions is amazing; you can learn more about his recent work at the BARC site. His career led us through the arrival and flowering of relational databases, OLTP, distributed transactions systems, client/server computing, parallel computing and through use of commodity platforms, current efforts to bring the power of information to an ever wider array of users. It's just stunning that he appears to have left us.

I'll have more to say about the trip to India in a future blog. I'd like to close this one by offering my best wishes to Doug Henschen, editor-in-chief of the new online version of Intelligent Enterprise. I thoroughly enjoyed my years with the publication and CMP Technology, and hope to continue contributing to this important venue as I move on to a different role. Intelligent Enterprise is still the place to be when it comes to finding out about BI, business process management, rules systems, search and other strategic information technology.

David Stodder is Editor Emeritus and now Editor at Large of Intelligent Enterprise. Write him at [email protected].After a period of upheaval, I'm ready to resume contributing to the IE blog. My thoughts, however, are clouded by news of the apparent disappearance of Jim Gray, founder and head of Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center. Gray contributed more than anyone to the advance of database and transaction processing technology, and it's just stunning that he appears to have left us.

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