Jim Starkey will be a familiar name to many database aficionados. Now chief executive at web development software company Netfrastructure, Starkey is renowned as the designer of Digital Equipment’s Rdb database, the creator of Interbase’s eponymous product, and the inventor of ‘blob’ technology (the widely used means of storing unstructured data within relational tables) – a track record that stretches back some fifteen years.
Netfrastructure – the name of the product as well as the company – is Starkey’s latest project, an attempt to undercut entrenched competition with an integrated
combination of an SQL database, a Java application server, and a development environment complete with a library of ready-to-use Java ‘classes’.
As such, its all-in-one, web-centric platform overcomes some of the weaknesses of traditional approaches, while slashing the underlying costs of Internet development.
Moreover, according to Paul Beach, Netfrastructure’s vice president of sales and marketing, most other environment have their roots in the Windows era. He argues that existing development tools are not sufficient for developing and deploying sophisticated business applications that use web browsers as their front ends. “The web is now the environment for computing,” says. “[But] it works very differently to a Windows terminal,” he says.
Starkey and Beach know they have a huge job convincing corporate development teams and individual programmers to bet on their system. To offset the reticence of potential users, the company has made its development tools available as a free download from the company web site and is licensing the system on a per-deployment basis.
Although only launched in October 2002, the product set already has a handful of early customers, and according to Beach, companies are finding it possible to replace existing development systems running on expensive high-end servers such as Sun Microsystems’s Starfire with Netfrastructure running on Linux-based servers. The cost difference is so significant, that Starkey’s may one day be a major technology name outside of the esoteric world of database design.