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Data Storage Influencer Michael Stonebraker Wins Turing Award

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has named Michael Stonebraker as the winner of the 2014 Turing Award. The award was given to Stonebraker for fundamental contributions to the concepts and practices in modern database systems.

The Turing Award, handed out by the Association for Computing Machinery, is named after Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who pioneered modern computer science and is considered to be the creator of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. He was key in helping Britain crack the German ciphers during the Second World War by devising what he called an Enigma machine.

The Turing Award is considered by those within the computer science industry to be the Nobel Prize of its field. The award originally came with a prize of $250,000 when Google and Intel backed the award, but this year Google went solo and funded the prize kitty with $1 million.

“I am absolutely thrilled. This is every computer scientist’s lifetime dream, and it came true for me,” said Stonebraker.

Stonebraker has carried out research and taught at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and at the University of California Berkeley. He graduated from the University of Michigan, where he earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. He is also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and is an ACM Fellow.

Relational database systems were only a concept until Stonebraker made them a reality, creating a commercial hit and setting the database industry’s research agenda for decades. He invented a lot of the concepts that are used in modern database systems. He developed his systems and released them as open-source software, ensuring wide adoption. In fact, source code from his original systems can still be found in many of today’s modern implementations.

Database systems in general are some of the most commercially popular software systems and are essential to nearly all businesses, helping them to manage, process and analyse their data.

His career spanned four decades and during that time he put his research into application, founding companies such as Ingres, Illustra, Cohera, Streambase and more. One of his companies, Vertica, was sold to HP for $350 million back in 2011.

Ingres was one of the first two relational database systems, with the other being IBM System R. Query language design, query processing techniques, access methods, and concurrency control were all contributions that Stonebraker made to the field. He also demonstrated that query rewrite techniques could be used to for relational views and access control.

“The efficient and effective management of big data is crucial to our 21st century global economy. Michael Stonebraker invented many of the architectures and strategies that are the foundation of virtually all modern database systems,” said Alan Eustace, senior vice president of Knowledge at Google.

Stonebraker has also pushed for the fact that there is no one solution for a database system. He has helped develop database architectures that are designed for specialised purposes and help pioneer real-time processing over streaming data sources. He also developed an intensive data management and data analysis system intended for scientific purposes.

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