dbtest 2011

A few weeks ago, the latest edition of the DBTest workshop took place. As in the years before, the workshop was held in connection with SIGMOD, meant to draw a good crowd of practitioners. And draw it did: the gathering was well attended throughout the day by both academics and folks from industry! I would guess that DBTest evolved into the workshop with the largest crowd from industry in all of SIGMOD?

This year’s keynote presentation, by Glenn Paulley of Sybase, was centered around the question of ‘how much more complexity can database systems deal with?’ Quite a interesting outlook and effectively a call to arms to simplify and restructure database architecture as a whole. Some interesting stats: Microsoft was one of the main contributors, as was the case in previous years, and quite a number of papers were authored by attendees of last year’s Dagstuhl workshop on robust query processing.

So, we’ve had some seriously successful workshop. Now, where to go from here? It seems, the organizers of the next edition(s) will face a couple of interesting challenges:

Where will new material come from?

Unlike with pure academic research, most material published in DBTest is surveying actual implementations or reports on long-term experiences with real systems. The systems we are talking about are not just prototypes but may have significant release cycles. On top of that, it’s a very small community that takes interest in this subject. Putting it all together, this means there really is only limited number of papers each year and keeping the quality bar high may not be easy.

How to involve a larger community?

I’ve attended this workshop over the past 4 years and each time I met first-time attendees who expressed their surprise at the high quality of talks and the relevance of the material. In the past, organizers have done a great job soliciting submissions. But main stream research has traditionally stayed clear of testing even though there’s a huge opportunity for collaboration and plenty of money industry would be willing to part with. This workshop could be a great forum to connect the two sides!

Where to focus on next?

In the past, this workshop had a strong ‘applied’ component, i.e., great war stories, descriptions of test harnesses, benchmark ideas. This is great stuff and I believe it should remain the staple of this workshop. At the same time, we should also recognize that testing and fundamental research have significant overlap: disciplined testing is really about validating models. While quite interesting with regards to conventional database research, I predict a much greater role of test methodologies in the context of self-tuning, auto-calibration, and various machine learning application areas.

In summary, DBTest has become a unique platform that brings together academics and practitioners with significant potential for future joint research.

Would like to hear your opinion on this! Have you considered submitting material to DBTest? What areas are you most interested in? Which areas do you think need the most attention? Where do you see the biggest potential? Drop me a line or comment on this page!

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