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ADABAS, a contraction of “adaptable database system",[1][2] is a database package that was developed by Software AG to run on IBM mainframes. Launched in 1971 as a non-relational[3] software package, earnings reports for the package's vendor were already being followed by The New York Times in the early 1980s.[4]

As of 2017, ADABAS is marketed[5] for use on a wider range of platforms, including Linux, UNIX and Windows.[6]

4GL support[edit]

Beginning with the 1979 introduction of Natural[7][8] access to ADABAS databases has grown. By 1990 SAS[9] was also supporting ADABAS.


Writing partly in the past tense, IBM described ADABAS/Natural as "applications that are written in a pre-relational database, such as Adabas, are no longer mainstream and do not follow accepted IT industry standards."[10] However, this assessment neglects the fact that an Adabas database can, if preferred, be designed in accordance with the relational model. While there are tools and services to facilitate conversion,[11][12], there is a mix of costs and benefits.[13][14] not all agree on the end target,[15] which can include COBOL, C# or JAVA.[16]


ADABAS was developed to handle shortcomings of RDBMSes with the 3rd normal form, and makes it possible to store multiple data relationships in the same table. Since there are no data redundancies,[13] such as found in relational database systems, leaving ADABAS can mean a significant increase in disk storage space.[17]

Although there is no standard SQL engine built into Adabas, since 2004, the Adabas SQL Gateway was introduced (through an acquired company, CONNX) to handle the SQL shortcoming.[18]

Initially released by Software AG in 1971[19] on IBM mainframe systems using DOS/360, OS/MFT or OS/MVT, Adabas, is currently available on a range of enterprise systems including, BS2000, zVSE, zOS, Unix, Linux, and Microsoft Windows.[20] Historically, Adabas is frequently used in conjunction with Software AG's programming language NATURAL, so that many applications that use Adabas as a database on the back-end are developed with Natural. In 2016, Software AG announced that Adabas and Natural would continue to be supported through the year 2050 and beyond.[21]

Adabas Data Model[edit]

Adabas is an acronym for Adaptable Data Base System[22] (originally written in all caps, today only the initial cap is used for the product name)

Adabas is an inverted list data base, with the following characteristics or terminology:

  • Works with tables (referred to as files) and rows (referred to as records) as the major organizational unit
  • Columns (referred to as fields), as components of a content unit
  • No embedded SQL engine. SQL access is provided by the Adabas SQL Gateway. It provides ODBC, JDBC and OLE DB access to ADABAS and enables SQL access to Adabas using COBOL programs.
  • Search facilities may use indexed fields or non indexed fields or both.
  • Does not natively enforce referential integrity constraints, i.e. parent-child relations must be maintained by application code.
  • Supports two methods of denormalization: repeating groups in a record ("periodic groups"); and multiple value fields in a record ("multi-value fields").

Adabas is typically used in applications that require high volumes of data processing or in high transaction online analytical processing environments.[citation needed]

Adabas access is normally via direct calls, which Natural and/or SQL Solutions perform under the covers. Much the same as Oracle Databases do.

Example of Natural program running against Adabas[edit]

  WHERE SALARY  < 28000

Output of Program:

 JONES KEVIN      DERBY     7000

See also[edit]


  1. ^ S.M. Deen (1977). Fundamentals of Data Base Systems. p. 174. ISBN 1349158437. 
  2. ^ "Adaptable Data Base System, or ADABAS, was developed by Software AG of Darmstadt, West Germany. Its first version appeared in 1971, and by now it has over 80 installations in Europe and the United States."
  3. ^ "Historically, the solution was to use nonrelational structures, such as the inverted structure used by Adabas ..." John Watson (2007). Pro Oracle Collaboration Suite 10g. p. 324. ISBN 1430202351. 
  4. ^ "SOFTWARE AG SYSTEMS GROUP INC reports earnings for Qtr to Aug 31". The New York Times. October 6, 1982. 
  5. ^ formerly named with ALL-caps, today as Adabas
  6. ^ "Adabas for Linux, UNIX & Windows". 
  7. ^ "Adabase new products". Computerworld. May 29, 1978. p. 27. 
  8. ^ "Both the Adabas Data Dictionary System and the Adacom batch report writer are due out in July while Natural, a natural programming language, is expected to be ... Described as entirely reentrant, multithreaded and priority dispatched, the system is in Alpha testing and scheduled for general release in January 1979.
  9. ^ "SAS/ACCESS 9.2 Interface to ADABAS: Reference" (PDF). 
  10. ^ "Converting Adabas to IBM DB2 for z/OS" (PDF). 
  11. ^ "ADABAS Database Migration to IBM DB2, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server". 
  12. ^ "... including the conversion of any applications written in 4th Generation languages (4GL) to more contemporary languages, and the adaptation of any applications in standard programming languages to directly access the new relational database. Included in that coverage is Adabas and Natural from Software AG ..."
  13. ^ a b "Adabas to DB2 conversion". 
  14. ^ "COSTS: "So far its been 2 years and 30 million dollars to convert." _versus_ BENEFITS: (but) "a single SQL statement (with joins) to replace pages of code."
  15. ^ COBOL/DB2 vs JAVA: "Automated Tool for Converts ADABAS/Natural to Java". 
  17. ^ The seemingly objective example cited by one public company was a jump of 7 disk drives to 120, but with 2 years and $30 million that was cut back considerably.
  18. ^ "CONNX for Adabas | CONNX Solutions". Retrieved 2017-09-01. 
  19. ^ "Adabas continues to play a vital role for installed base". Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  20. ^ "Adabas & Natural Database Management System - Software AG". Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Pratt & Adamski 1987, p. 471


  • Pratt, Philip J.; Adamski, Joseph J. (1987). DATABASE SYSTEMS: Management and Design. Boston: Boyd & Fraser Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87835-227-9. 

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