VISIT REPORT L. Burnard

ICL Computer House

19 March 1979

ICL DMUG/ End User Facilities Sub Group (79) Second Meeting

This Sub Group has recently reconstituted itself to investigate primarily the sort of conceptual view end users should/would like to have of databases supported by ICL software. The meeting was well attended (about 25 people from organisations such as BBC, Post Office, CAA, Plesseys, Sainsburys, West Midland Gas, an Insurance Company, Oxfordshire County Council and the Ministry of Defence in various forms.

The terms of reference proposed at the last meeting were discussed and a rewording which removed some wooliness from the original draft agreed. Some discussion of Data Display (the query facility currently supplied for IDMS) indicated that it would not fall within the province of this group but rather within that of the IDMS group.

Harry Ellis responded on behalf of ICL to the terms of reference, thus giving some weight to the proceedings.

After lunch it was agreed to begin by considering existing types of conceptual view (relational, binary, hierarchic &c), in particular the interfaces proposed by recent articles in the literature fo between a relational conceptual view and an IDMS structured internal view. Links between IDMS and other pieces of software (STATS, FAME &c) were also suggested as possible areas for exploration. This seemed a more profitable starting point that the description of yet another all purpose query language, parameters for which had already been defined by the last EUFSG. A part of MOD called OECON (theyfight phantasy wars for NATO) had a document on the setting up of such a query language which might be made available to the group; so had CAA produced a report.

The most interesting revelation of the day was that ICL are 'productizing' (Mr Ellis's word) the relational database system RDBMS designed by Andrew Hutt at Southampton and implemented experimentally on their 1900 some time ago. Whether this would be a stand-alone product (linked into the DDS of necessity but discrete from IDMS) or whether it could be made to 'front-end' onto (existing?) IDMS databases was not yet clear. ICL were aware of the requirements Universities and others had for simplicity of access to databases, and appeared to think that the relational view was the answer. If this is the line taken, most if not all, of the problems currently being experienced with IDMS usability (4 month learning process etc.) should disappear. The relational view is also (unlike the Codasyl structures) academically respectable. The work of this subgroup as a pressure group on ICL seems to me to be very important, and its effects may be far-reaching.