Refdbms 3 -- a distributed bibliographic database system

The 15th revision of the alpha release of Refdbms version 3 is now available. It can be obtained by anonymous FTP from, in the pub/refdbms/ directory. The system has been tested on the following systems:

It also includes code that should make it easily ported to other systems, but I have not tested this. Code has been contributed to port to a few other systems, and this will be integrated into the release soon.

The reference database project is a joint project between John Wilkes of the Concurrent Systems Project at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and Richard Golding , formerly of the Concurrent Systems Laboratory at UC Santa Cruz (now also at HP Labs). The Refdbms version 1 system has been in use at HPL for several years, and consists of a database of references for approximately 3500 academic papers in computer graphics and computer systems, with a smattering of other topics. The system includes tools to query the database, to produce bibliographies for LaTeX documents, and to enter new references into the database.

Version 3 extends this system to significantly improve performance and to support distributed databases. A reference database can be replicated at several sites, using TCP to communicate updates between servers. It is part of ongoing research into wide-area distributed information systems on the Internet. At last count about 30 databases were available containing more than 21,000 references.

An overview of the system's architecture was presented at the Winter 1994 Usenix conference.

The beginnings of the Web-based user's manual are available.

Features of this system include:

An experimental WWW-to-refdbms gateway has been put together by Peter Bosch, of the Pegasus project at Universiteit Twente. Another is used in the Cognitive Science Library at Georgia Tech.

For more information, please send mail to Richard Golding ( Information on the basic architecture and on the research this system contributes to can be found in a number of technical reports available from the CIS Board at UC Santa Cruz. They can be FTP'd from, in pub/tr, or you can send me mail.

There is also a mailing list for people to discuss Refdbms. I will be posting announcements of Refdbms bug fixes to that mailing list. You can subscribe by sending mail to

We intend to freeze the alpha.x version as refdbms 3.1 soon when the manual is complete and the alpha.x version has seen at least one month's production use.

We strongly suggest that all sites upgrade to the alpha.13 (or later) version now, since it fixes several important bugs.

For version 3.2 we intend to make a few major changes to the storage and replication mechanisms.

Differences between alpha.15 and previous versions:

Version alpha.14 was not released.

Differences between alpha.13 and previous versions:

The alpha.12 version experimentally introduces the interest facility.

Differences between alpha.11 and previous versions:

Differences between alpha.10 and previous versions: