Fosdem Linux France 
 [ Home ] [ Interviews ] Free and Open Source Software Developers' Meeting 


 This Year

Developers Room


 Practical Info


 Press Room

-- ABOUT US --
 Support FOSDEM

 Promotional material

 The FOSDEM Team

 Our Sponsors

 The Story

 Contact FOSDEM




 Become a member

 Why register?


2003/01/08 - Ann Harrison


An interview conducted by Alain Buret
Alain Buret - Please present yourself

Ann Harrison - The Firebird project works by consensus between the administrators so there is no one chief. I'm one of those administrators - my role is resident dinosaur. In 1985, I was the third person to join the company that produced the first versions of InterBase, the original source from which Firebird was forked. The first person in the company was my husband, Jim Starkey. He implemented version one and designed the next two. So, I know the original architecture of the product pretty well.

When Borland expressed interest in releasing the source to InterBase I was already involved through the support lists and worked with Borland to get the source ready to release. In the end, the release was less ... harmonious ... than might have been wished and as a result, Mark O'Donohue and a few others created the Firebird fork.

Mostly I answer questions like "Why was the limit on indexes set to 64?" and "What happens if we change this?" As more people learn the code, I get more free time.

Alain Buret - Firebird came from a commercial company. Can you explain us this story ?

Ann Harrison - Yes. It started as an independent company, Interbase Software Corporation. That company was sold to Ashton-Tate, in hopes that they could lend some respectability to the product. They ran it as a wholly owned subsidiary, also called InterBase Software Corporation. After acquiring Ashton-Tate, Borland moved InterBase from Massachusetts to California and integrated it into their development organization. Later they spun it off as a subsidiary also called InterBase Software Corporation, then brought it back into the main development group again, then released the source and created yet another InterBase Software Corporation, then abandoned the open source project and brought the developers back into the Borland corporate fold again.

Perhaps you can see why we use phoenix and Firebird as symbols for the project...

Alain Buret - What was the main goal when starting Firebird. It can be seen as "another database" ...

Ann Harrison - Different groups had different interests. When Borland first suggested releasing the source to InterBase, they wanted to take advantage of the popularity of open source companies. Many of the users of InterBase were interested in open source because they could be sure that the product would continue to exist and could be maintained - by them, if necessary. The code itself interested a group of developers, as did the chance to make their contribution to the database industry. For me, I like the fact that Firebird is small, transaction-based, and portable. Unlike the major commercial databases, it is designed to run without the help of a database administrator, which makes it a good choice for many applications that can't support much overhead.

Alain Buret - Is there a commercial project behind Firebird, like consultancy or something else ?

Ann Harrison - Yes and no. IBPhoenix, the company I work for, offers support and consulting for InterBase and Firebird. There are a number of other individuals and small companies that also offer those services, and more who specialize in consulting. In addition, there are a number of companies that offer add-on products.

However, there is no commercial organization that controls the code.

Alain Buret - You clearly say you want to have backward compatibility with Borland's Interbase ... why ?

Ann Harrison - Because we want their customers. Borland has sold millions of copies of Delphi, most of which include at least a limited version of InterBase. We want to attract those developers into the open source world.

Alain Buret - What kind of arguments would you give someone to persuade him to use Firebird instead of another (free) database like MySQL or PostgreSQL ?

Ann Harrison - We try not to argue about which open source database people should use, but to argue that open source databases have the same capabilities as the big-name commercial systems. MySQL is tuned to serve as a "read-mostly" web back-end. PostgreSQL is very extensible. Firebird is available on several platforms, free even for commercial products, low-maintenance, and has been used commercially for more than 15 years.

Alain Buret - What are you expectation from you Fosdem talk ?

Ann Harrison - I'd like to raise the visibility of Firebird in Europe.


  Special announcement

will take place
on February 8 - 9 2003
in Brussels...

  FOSDEM search

  Search this site :


  Best background:
best background

Create the coolest Fosdem background design and win cool stuffs... More info

  Sponsors corner


 [ Home ] [ Interviews ] © FOSDEM 2002 - powered by Argon7