Ontos Inc, one of the earliest of the object database companies, has re-emerged as a middleware company after virtually disappearing over the last two years. Once an object purist, Ontos has now realized that full-blown object databases are for niche markets only, and is touting the benefits of its Object Integration Server as an object-relational […]
Ontos Inc, one of the earliest of the object database companies, has re-emerged as a middleware company after virtually disappearing over the last two years. Once an object purist, Ontos has now realized that full-blown object databases are for niche markets only, and is touting the benefits of its Object Integration Server as an object-relational integration tool. It still sells the full Ontos database, now renamed DB/Explorer, but at a vastly reduced giveaway price of $500 – it was previously $7,000. Privately-held Ontos, which does not give out financial details, seems to have survived largely due to the continued interest of one of its biggest customers, Daimler Benz AG, which poured a much needed $5m capital into the Lowell, Massachusetts-based company at the end of 1994 in exchange for a 20% stake. The rest of the shares are held by J P Morgan & Co and Wolfensohn Associates. The Ontos database is made up of extensible C++ classes, and Object Integration Server is the storage management component, sub-classed and mapped to other data structures, specifically Oracle and Sybase. The Object Integration Server front-end comes from Neuron Data Corp. Object Integration Server comes in three parts. The schema capture and mapper tool represents the data graphically and maps it to a C++ object model. This is stored in a repository independently from the database, currently a cut-down version of the Ontos database, although a flat file option is due out next month. Then there is a run-time environment, automatically generating SQL or C++ code that gets compiled into the application – from then on the application can access the database directly.
Object Integration Server runs on Sun Microsystems Inc workstations, but HP-UX, AIX, Digital Equipment Corp Alpha and Microsoft Corp Windows NT versions are due this quarter. Previously, object-relational mapping had to be carried out by hand, a very difficult task. There is still sometimes room for hand-tweaking once Object Integration Server has done its job, but Ontos says that its support for denormalized tables, relational standard procedures, graphical user interfaces and user-defined keys puts it up to two years ahead of the competition. The mainstream relational players are working on the same problem from the other direction, but none of them has made a convincing job of it, says Ontos: Computer Associates International Inc gave up on its plan to integrate its existing software with Fujitsu Ltd’s ODB II; Sybase Inc abandoned its Brahms object strategy at the beginning of the year and started again from scratch; Oracle Corp’s SQL3 extensions will not do the trick for those that require full multiple inheritance and polymorphism; and Informix Corp’s purchase of Illustra Technologies Inc has generated a great deal of scepticism. Ontos is currently keen to work with as many object and database companies as it can, so Oracle and high-end object database house Versant Object Technologies Inc were beta partners for Object Integration Server, and Ontos is working with IBM Corp on a DB/2 version. Informix support may follow, but others, including CA-Ingres, will have to be accessed via a generic Object DataBase Connectivity version currently under development with Intersolv Inc, due out as a product in December. Ontos is also working on object request broker integration with Sun Microsystems Inc, Digital Equipment Corp and Expersoft Inc, with software development firms such as Forte Software Inc and Platinum Technology Corp, and increasingly with vertical market software houses such as London-based Intelligent Computer Solutions Ltd, which writes software fo r the process and power industries. Also up its sleeve is something Ontos calls ODT, Objects on the DeskTop, aimed at developers and end-users working with Visual Basic, PowerBuilder or Java-based browser environments. It plans to demonstrate an Objects on the DeskTop prototype with Java application programming interface and integration with ActiveX at the Object World West show in San Jose next month. Meanwhile, the original Ontos database, now DB/Explorer, will be further cannibalized for future products. As a stand-alone system it will either gradually fade away, or boom spectacularly as a developer-Web database under its new low price tag.