The Laureates

Copyright © Klaus Tschira Stiftung / Peter Badge

Michael Stonebraker

ACM A.M. Turing Award (2014) “for fundamental contributions to the concepts and practices underlying modern database systems.”

Michael Stonebraker was born on October 11, 1943 in a small coastal town in Massachusetts who grew up to specialize in database research. Dr. Michael Stonebraker has contributed to the field of data base management for his entire career, spanning 40+ years. All enterprises have serious data management issues, which were first surfaced as business data processing problems in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Later the same kinds of challenges have been experienced by most others who need to store and manipulate large amounts of data. More recently, the moniker “big data” has been used to describe these user challenges.

Through a series of academic prototypes and commercial startups, Stonebraker’s research and products are central to many database systems. He is also the founder of several database companies, including Ingres Corporation, Illustra, Paradigm4, StreamBase Systems, Tamr, Vertica and VoltDB, and served as Chief Technical Officer of Informix. He is also an editor for the book series “Readings in Database Systems.”

Dr. Stonebraker has been a pioneer of data base research and technology for more than forty years. He was the main architect of the INGRES relational DBMS, and the object-relational DBMS, POSTGRES. These prototypes were developed at the University of California at Berkeley where Stonebraker was a Professor of Computer Science for twenty-five years. More recently at M.I.T. he was a co-architect of the Aurora/Borealis stream processing engine, the C-Store column-oriented DBMS, the H-Store transaction processing engine, the SciDB array DBMS, and the Data Tamer data curation system. Presently he serves as Chief Technology Officer of Paradigm4 and Tamr, Inc.

Currently, Dr. Stonebraker is spending time on three different activities. First, the major problem killing most CIOs is the challenge of integrating many independently constructed data sets. For example, Verizon has O(10000) operational data stores. To get a complete picture of company operations, these independent constructed “silos” of information would have to be integrated. Similarly, Novartis has some 10,000 chemists and biologists performing lab experiments and writing their results in electronic lab notebooks. The company wishes to integrate these 10,000 data sources to get a complete picture of their research activities. Stonebraker is working on a software system, Data Civilizer, which can perform this sort of data curation at scale. To be cost effective, it must make integration decisions automatically, relying on machine learning and statistics, asking a human expert only when its automatic algorithms are unsure. Data Civilizer is a radically different architecture than traditional approaches to data curation, because it is designed to scale to the large number of data sets, which current enterprises wish to integrate.

Second, Dr. Stonebraker is working on database design techniques. The traditional wisdom, found in all DBMS textbooks, is to build and entity-relationship model for your data and then algorithmically convert it to third normal form tables. In fact, few database designers use this methodology in the real world, and Stonebraker is working on an alternative that will hopefully have more applicability.
Third, Dr. Stonebraker is working on visualization techniques that can support the very large databases that users are constructing. He is especially interested in ones which support exploration of such databases, where the query is “tell me something interesting?”

Professor Stonebraker was awarded the ACM System Software Award in 1992 for his work on INGRES. Additionally, he was awarded the first annual SIGMOD Innovation award in 1994, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997. He received the IEEE John Von Neumann Award in 2005 and the 2014 ACM A.M. Turing Award, and is presently an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at M.I.T.