Michael Stonebraker

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Michael Stonebraker
File:Michael Stonebraker P1120062.jpg
Michael Stonebraker giving the 2015 Turing lecture
Born (1943-10-11) October 11, 1943 (age 74)
Milton, New Hampshire
Institutions University of California, Berkeley,
University of Michigan,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Alma mater Princeton University,
University of Michigan
Thesis The Reduction of Large Scale Markov Models for Random Chains (1971)
Doctoral advisor Arch Waugh Naylor
Notable students Diane Greene
Joseph M. Hellerstein
Clifford A. Lynch
Margo Seltzer
Dale Skeen[1]
Known for Ingres, Postgres, Vertica, Streambase, Illustra, VoltDB, SciDB
Notable awards IEEE John von Neumann Medal (2005)
ACM Turing Award (2014)
Spouse Beth

Michael Ralph Stonebraker (born October 11, 1943[2]) is a computer scientist specializing in database research. Through a series of academic prototypes and commercial startups, Stonebraker's research and products are central to many relational database systems on the market today. He is also the founder of a number of database companies, including Ingres, Illustra, Cohera, StreamBase Systems, Vertica, VoltDB, Tamr and Paradigm4. He was previously the chief technical officer (CTO) of Informix. He is also an editor for the book Readings in Database Systems.

Stonebraker earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1965 and his master's degree and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1967 and 1971,[3] respectively. He has received several awards, including the IEEE John von Neumann Medal and the first SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award. In 1994 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery.[4] In 1997 he was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In March 2015 it was announced he won the 2014 ACM Turing Award.[5] In September 2015, he won the 2015 Commonwealth Award, chosen by council members of MassTLC.[6]

Michael Stonebraker was a Professor of Computer Science at University of California, Berkeley, for twenty-nine years, where he developed the Ingres and Postgres relational database systems. He is currently an adjunct professor at MIT, where he has been involved in the development of the Aurora,[7] C-Store, H-Store, Morpheus, and SciDB systems.

Major projects

Stonebraker's career can be broadly divided into two phases; his time at Berkeley when he focused on relational systems, and the past decade at MIT where he has developed several new data management systems.

The Berkeley years (1971–2000)

Stonebraker joined UC Berkeley as an assistant professor in 1971. It was there that he did his early pioneering work on relational databases in the Ingres and Postgres projects.


In 1973, Stonebraker and his colleague Eugene Wong decided to start researching relational database systems after reading a series of seminal papers published by Edgar F. Codd on the relational data model.[8]

Their project, known as Ingres (Interactive Graphics and Retrieval System),[9] was one of the first systems (along with System R from IBM) to demonstrate that it was possible to build a practical and efficient implementation of the relational model. A number of key ideas from INGRES are still widely used in relational systems, including the use of B-trees, primary-copy replication, the query rewrite approach to views and integrity constraints, and the idea of rules/triggers for integrity checking in an RDBMS. Additionally, much experimental work was done that provided insights into how to build a locking system that could provide satisfactory transaction performance.[10]

By the mid-1970s, Stonebraker's team had produced, using a rotating team of student programmers, a usable relational database system. At the time INGRES was considered "low end" compared to IBM's System R, as it ran on Unix-based Digital Equipment Corporation machines as opposed to the "big iron" IBM mainframes.[citation needed]

By the early 1980s, however, the performance and capabilities of these low-end machines were seriously threatening IBM's mainframe market, and with the threat came the ability of INGRES to become a viable, "real" product for a large number of applications. INGRES was offered using a variation of the BSD license for a nominal fee, and soon a number of companies took advantage of this to create commercial versions of INGRES.[citation needed]

These included Stonebraker, who with fellow Berkeley professors Larry Rowe and Eugene Wong helped found Relational Technology, Inc., later called Ingres Corporation. Subsequently sold to Computer Associates, Ingres was re-established as an independent company in 2005. Other startups based on the INGRES code line include Sybase, founded by Robert Epstein, a student on the INGRES project, and Britton Lee, Inc. Sybase's code was later used as a basis for Microsoft SQL Server.[11]


After founding Relational Technology, Stonebraker and Rowe began a "post-INGRES" effort, to address the limitations of the relational model. The new project was named POSTGRES (POST inGRES),[12] and was designed to add support for complex data types to database systems and improve end-to-end performance of data-intensive applications. Postgres provided an object relational programming model in which fields could be complex datatypes, and where users could register new types as well as scalar and aggregate functions over those types. POSTGRES was extensible in a number of other ways, making it easy for programmers to modify or add to the optimizer, query language, runtime, and indexing frameworks. These features improved both database programmability and performance, and made it possible to push large portions of a number of applications inside the database, including geographic information systems and time series processing. This had the effect of substantially broadening the commercial database market.

POSTGRES was also offered using a BSD-like license, and the code forms the basis of today's free software, PostgreSQL. Stonebraker also led an effort to commercialize the code, creating Illustra which was purchased by Informix. PostgreSQL has been used as the basis for a number of other startup companies, including Aster Data Systems, EnterpriseDB, and Greenplum.

Informix acquired Illustra in 1996, and Stonebraker became Informix's CTO, a position he held until September 2000.

Informix integrated Illustra's O-R mapping and DataBlades into the 7.x OnLine product, resulting in Informix Universal Server (IUS), or more generally, Version 9.

Mariposa and Cohera

After the Postgres project, Stonebraker initiated the Mariposa[13] project which became the basis of Cohera Corporation. The main idea behind Mariposa was to build a federated database over an economic model of resource trading, in which data distributed across multiple organizations could be integrated and queried from a single relational interface, governed by site-specific policies that would charge for data processing and storage. These economic policies allowed traditional ideas in query optimization to be carried out over competing sites, and also served as the basis for data storage, replication and movement within a federation.

Cohera's initial mission was to commercialize ideas from the Mariposa project, but eventually focused on a Business-to-Business Catalog Management application implemented on top of the core federated data integration engine. Cohera's intellectual property was purchased by PeopleSoft in 2001, and used as the basis of PeopleSoft's Enterprise Catalog Management. PeopleSoft was in turn purchased by Oracle in 2004.

The MIT years (2001–present)

Stonebraker moved to MIT in 2001, where he began another series of research projects and founded a number of companies.

Aurora and StreamBase

In the Aurora Project, Stonebraker, along with colleagues from Brandeis University, Brown University, and MIT, focused on data management for streaming data, using a new data model and query language. Unlike relational systems, which "pull" data and process it a record at a time, in Aurora, data is "pushed", arriving asynchronously from external data sources (such as stock ticks, news feeds, or sensors.) The output is itself a stream of results (such as windowed averages) that are sent to users.

Stonebraker co-founded StreamBase Systems in 2003 to commercialize the technology behind Aurora.

C-Store and Vertica

In the C-Store project, started in 2005, Stonebraker, along with colleagues from Brandeis University, Brown University, MIT, and University of Massachusetts Boston, developed a parallel, shared-nothing column-oriented DBMS for data warehousing. By dividing and storing data in columns, C-Store is able to perform less I/O and get better compression ratios than conventional database systems that store data in rows.

In 2005, Stonebraker co-founded Vertica to commercialize the technology behind C-Store[citation needed].

Morpheus and Goby

In 2006, Stonebraker started the Morpheus project, along with researchers from the University of Florida. Morpheus is a data integration system which relies on a collection of "transforms" to mediate between data sources. Each transform provides a queryable interface to particular web site or service, and Morpheus makes it possible to search for and compose multiple transforms to provide a new service or a unified view of several services.

In 2009, Stonebraker co-founded Goby,[14] a local search company based on ideas from Morpheus, for people to explore new things to do in free time.

H-Store and VoltDB

In 2007, with researchers from Brown University, MIT, and Yale University, Stonebraker started the H-Store project. H-Store is a distributed main-memory OLTP system designed to provide very high throughput on transaction processing workloads.

In 2009, Stonebraker co-founded, and currently serves as an adviser to, VoltDB a commercial startup based on ideas from the H-Store project.


In 2008, along with David DeWitt and researchers from Brown University, MIT, Portland State University, SLAC, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stonebraker started SciDB[15][16] an open-source DBMS specially designed for scientific research applications.[17]


Founded with Marilyn Matz, the current CEO. Paradigm4 developed SciDB, which is used mostly by life sciences and financial markets so far. Novartis, Foundation Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health are some of the company's clients.[6][18]


More recently, during 2010 and 2011, Stonebraker has been a critic of the NoSQL movement.[19][20][21]

Data Analysis & Extraction

Michael Stonebraker et al. founded Tamr in 2013 to build a commercial-grade solution designed to tackle the challenge of connecting and enriching diverse data at scale, quickly and cost effectively.


In addition to his contributions to academia and industry, Stonebraker has trained more than 30 students who have themselves contributed significantly to academia and industry. Notable students include:[1]

Selected works


  1. 1.0 1.1 Michael Stonebraker at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. "Contributors" (pdf). TRANSACTIONS ON SYSTEMS, MAN, AND CYBERNETICS,. IEEE. Sep 1972. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  3. Stonebraker, Michael Ralph (1971). The Reduction of Large Scale Markov Models for Random Chains (PhD thesis). University of Michigan. 
  4. "Michael Ralph Stonebraker - ACM author profile page". Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  5. Conner-Simons, Adam (March 25, 2015). "Michael Stonebraker wins $1 million Turing Award". MIT News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved March 25, 2015. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Geller, Jessica. "PTC Chief Heppelman named CEO of the year by Mass. tech council." betaBoston. The Boston Globe. Sept. 16, 2015
  7. Abadi, D. J.; Carney, D.; �Etintemel, U.; Cherniack, M.; Convey, C.; Lee, S.; Stonebraker, M.; Tatbul, N.; Zdonik, S. (2003). "Aurora: A new model and architecture for data stream management". The VLDB Journal the International Journal on Very Large Data Bases. 12 (2): 120. doi:10.1007/s00778-003-0095-z.  replacement character in |last3= at position 1 (help)
  8. Codd, E. F. (1970). "A relational model of data for large shared data banks" (PDF). Communications of the ACM. 13 (6): 377. doi:10.1145/362384.362685. 
  9. Stonebraker, M.; Held, G.; Wong, E.; Kreps, P. (1976). "The design and implementation of INGRES". ACM Transactions on Database Systems. 1 (3): 189. doi:10.1145/320473.320476. 
  10. "Relational Roots". Joseph Hellerstein. 1998. Retrieved 2009-11-24. 
  11. "Motivation & DBMS Architecture Overview". Joseph Hellerstein. 1998. Retrieved 2009-11-24. 
  12. Stonebraker, M.; Rowe, L. A. (1986). "The design of POSTGRES". ACM SIGMOD Record. 15 (2): 340. doi:10.1145/16856.16888. 
  13. Stonebraker, M.; Aoki, P. M.; Litwin, W.; Pfeffer, A.; Sah, A.; Sidell, J.; Staelin, C.; Yu, A. (1996). "Mariposa: A wide-area distributed database system". The VLDB Journal the International Journal on Very Large Data Bases. 5: 48. doi:10.1007/s007780050015. 
  14. Goby .
  15. Brown, P. G. (2010). "Overview of sciDB". Proceedings of the 2010 international conference on Management of data - SIGMOD '10. p. 963. ISBN 9781450300322. doi:10.1145/1807167.1807271. 
  16. Stonebraker, M.; Brown, P.; Poliakov, A.; Raman, S. (2011). "The Architecture of SciDB". Scientific and Statistical Database Management. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. 6809. p. 1. ISBN 978-3-642-22350-1. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-22351-8_1. 
  17. "SciDB: Relational daddy answers Google, Hadoop, NoSQL". The Register. 2010-09-13. Retrieved 2012-01-11. 
  18. Alspach, Kyle. "New Money: MassChallenge Alum Gets Dorm Room Fund Investment; Drone Co. Raises Seed Round." BostInno. Nov. 30, 2015
  19. Stonebraker, M. (2010). "SQL databases v. NoSQL databases". Communications of the ACM. 53 (4): 10. doi:10.1145/1721654.1721659. 
  20. Stonebraker, M. (2011). "Stonebraker on NoSQL and enterprises". Communications of the ACM. 54 (8): 10. doi:10.1145/1978542.1978546. 
  21. Stonebraker, M.; Abadi, D.; Dewitt, D. J.; Madden, S.; Paulson, E.; Pavlo, A.; Rasin, A. (2010). "MapReduce and parallel DBMSs". Communications of the ACM. 53: 64. doi:10.1145/1629175.1629197. 

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