VISIT REPORT LBurnard

The Burn, Glenesk

BCS/Codasyl DBAWG

6-9 September

This three day meeting was one of the more productive DBAWG events; there has been somewhat of a lull in activity this year and a feeling that the group was not heading anywhere particularly interesting or productive. No doubt due to the fresh Highland air, these tendencies were reversed at this meeting. Attendees were as usual, with a few faces new to me, notably a vociferous gentleman from GCTA and a dour lady from Aberdeen.

Day 1 was taken up with admin, liaison reports etc. The ANSI draft proposed NDL (due for publication next month) and RDL standards had been exhaustively reviewed by WG15 of ISO TC97Of the comments on the RDL passed back to ANSI for action, the vast majority had originated with DBAWG; commentary implying further work on NDL was clearly now a little late in the day. DBAWG"s major concern here was to ensure that some standardisation body carried on its own work on DSDL; this had been accepted as a work item by WG15. During the discussion, several voiced the opinion that in this area, as in so many others, American public bodies have a tendency to ignore European comment, however authoritative or reasonable.

The group then turned to a lengthy and remarkably vapid paper from a different ISO group (WG5) on the database environment, on which detailed comment had been requested. The paper was the only evidence so far available of WG5's (perhaps over-ambitious) goal of defining a reference model for any dbms; demolishing it took up most of the rest of the first evening.

Day 2 (apart from a report on BNCOD3 which more or less tallied with the opinions in my own visit report on same) was given over to three working papers on "New Datatypes"The latter had been proposed at the January agm as an important work item, but this was the first occasion that the group as a whole had discussed exactly what it might mean. Two of the papers, by representatives of Philips and DCE, were very general, while the third (mine) was very specific. During the discussion, which was wide ranging, not to say heated, it became apparent that none of them was really concerned with what the group as a whole thought "New Datatypes" meant. By midnight it was apparent that any future work in this area would concentrate on the use of abstract datatypes (things like Algol68 structures, Pascal sets etc), despite valiant efforts on my part to tie the matter down to specifics such as text or graphics.

For all of Day 3, we divided into two subgroups (apart from an informal resumption of the main protagonists of the "new datatypes' controversy).

Following the acceptance of the current D6DL as an ISO work item, DBAWG had agreed to extend its current specification to support the RDL as well as the NDL draft proposed standards One of the subgroups therefore concerned itself with this new relational D6DL, and reportedly made considerable progress.

The other subgroup, in which I participated, turned again to the vexed question of Access Control. This topic is now enjoying a new lease of life, breathed into it by two recent working papers in which some real syntax has begun to emerge. Last year's work in defining a reference model of access control, from the top down as it were, is now static; this years will be on the definition of the functions necessary to support the reference model, from the bottom up Several hours of reasonably productive discussion ensued and promises of some six working papers.

Day 3 closed with a plenary discussion of DBAWG's aims and objectives over the next year; these were much more clearly apparent by this stage than at the start of the meeting. On the journey back I had the opportunity of comparing entity models with the CACI representative, an interesting experience.