Database pioneer Dave DeWitt has joined Microsoft as a Technical Fellow, and will head a new research lab called the Jim Gray Systems Lab. Jim Gray was a legend in the database world, and was tragically lost at sea in January of 2007.
Ted Kummert, Corp VP at Microsoft said "It’s a great honor to be able to name this lab after Jim Gray. Jim’s impact on the database and computer systems industry is immeasurable – not just in terms of the ideas and works he created, but as importantly on the people in this industry. Jim was very interested and supportive of education throughout his career. Having his name on the lab is a way of honoring both his technical contributions to the field as a Turing award winner and his support of education and research."
I knew Jim Gray for more than 20 years. We worked together for many years at Digital Equipment Corp in the Database Systems Group, and again at Microsoft, although in different groups. Jim is the smartest guy I have ever worked with, and also the most friendly and humble. Jim received the Turing Award in 1999, the equivalent of Nobel Prize for computer science. I stopped by to meet with Jim in his San Francisco office 6 months after he won the award. He had a plaque and a picture from the award ceremony sitting on the floor behind a bunch of computer science journals. I asked him about it and he just shrugged and said "Well, my daughter is very proud of me...that is all that matters". The smartest guy I ever met also understood the simple things in life.
The Jim Gray Systems Lab will be in Madison Wisconsin, where Dave DeWitt was a long time professor. DeWitt recently retired as an active professor, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His technical contributions have been recognized with election to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. DeWitt’s research program produced numerous technical contributions to the database field as well as educating many students who went on to make major contributions to the database system field. Microsoft’s own Technical Fellows Peter Spiro and Rakesh Agrawal both were students under DeWitt. His PhD graduates are a veritable who’s-who of the database industry – many of those graduates here at Microsoft both in the SQL group and in the database group in Microsoft Research.