Omnidex in the Early Days
The Omnidex product line began on Hewlett-Packard’s HP-3000 line of mini-computers in 1981. At that time, the HP-3000 was a 16-bit minicomputer, running the MPE operating system, which included HP’s IMAGE database. IMAGE was a 2-level network model that provided high operational efficiency and performance, especially given the very limited hardware capabilities of that era. Despite CPU speeds and memory sizes that would be considered intolerable by today’s standards, many HP-3000 deployments supported 50 or more concurrent users, performing on-line transaction processing in applications such as point of sale, a testimony to the lean efficiency of the OS, DBMS, and application software of that era.
IMAGE had a very serious limitation. Data retrieval in master tables was restricted to search by one fully qualified key value, usually an arbitrarily assigned account number. It was not possible to search by an alternate key, a partial key or in sorted order. If a vendor or customer record was identified by a uniquely-assigned account number, no provisions were available to find that record by social security number, phone number, name, address, or description.
This provided Omnidex with a major market opportunity. Omnidex provided indexing support for multiple columns, including searches using wildcards and full text search. Furthermore, Omnidex supported multi-column and multi-table search capabilities, with flexibility and performance levels that relational databases of that era could not match. Market reaction was very positive, and by the early 1990’s, Omnidex was installed at over 4,000 sites, licensed by over 500 companies and organizations.
Over the years, IMAGE was upgraded to TurboIMAGE/XL, and then IMAGE/SQL. The current product has higher limits and more speed, but Omnidex indexing still provides invaluable speed and flexibility to those applications. In the early 1990’s, HP even developed a direct interface to Omnidex and other third party indexing package. This interface brought Omnidex indexing into the internals of IMAGE/SQL and allowed index updates to be automatically covered by the transaction management capabilities of IMAGE/SQL.
In 2001, HP announced the end-of-life for the HP-3000, including IMAGE/SQL; however, the HP-3000 community has overwhelmingly voiced its support for the robust platform. In response, HP extended the end-of-life several times, and many customers continue to use their stalwart HP-3000 servers to host legacy applications.
Today, Omnidex remains an essential part of IMAGE/SQL applications all over the world. We continue to support Omnidex on the HP-3000, and we will continue to support it into the foreseeable future.