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Database Trends

By Adrian Lane

This is a non-security post, in case that matters to you. A few days ago I was reading about a failed Telcomm firm ‘refocusing’ its business and technology to become a cloud database provider. I’m thinking that’s the last frackin’ thing we need. Some opportunistic serial start-up-tard can’t wait to fail the first time, and wants skip over onto not one but two, hot trends. Smells like 1999. Of course they landed an additional $4M; couple Cloud with a modular database and it’s a no-lose situation – at least for landing venture funding.

So why do we need vendor #22 jumping onto the database in the cloud bandwagon? I visited the xeround site, and after looking at their cloud database architecture … damn, it appears solid. Think of a more modular MySQL. Or better yet, Amazon Dynamo with less myopic focus on search and content delivery. Modular back-end storage options, multiple access nodes disassociated from the query engines, and multiple API handlers. The ability to mix and match components to form a database engine depending upon the task at hand makes more sense than the “everything all the time” model we have with relational vendors. I don’t see anything novel here, just a solid assemblage of features. To fully take advantage of the elastic, multi-zone, multi-tenant pay-as-you go cloud service, a modular, dynamic database is more appropriate. Notice that I did not say ‘requirement’ – you can run Oracle as an AMI on Amazon too, but that’s neither modular nor nimble in my view.

The main point I want to make is that the next generation of databases is going to look more like this and less like Oracle and IBM DB2. The core architecture described embodies a “use just what you need” approach, and allows you tailor the database to fit the application service model.

And don’t mistake me for yet another analyst claiming that relational database platforms are dead. I have taken criticism in the past because people felt I was indicating relational platforms had run their course, but that’s not the case. It’s more like the way RISC concepts appeared in CISC processors to make them better, but did not supersede the original as promised. NoSQL concepts are pushing the definition of what ‘database’ means. And we see all these variants because the relational platforms are not a good fit for either the application model or cloud service delivery models. Expect many of the good NoSQL ideas to show up in relational platforms as the next evolutionary step. For now, the upstarts are pointing the way.

Note that this is not an endorsement of the xeround technology. Frankly I am too busy to load up an AMI and try their database to see if it works as advertised. And their feature comparison is kinda BS. But conceptually I think this model is on track. That’s why will see many new database solutions on the market, as many firms struggle to find the right mix of features and platform options to meet requirements of application developers and cloud computing customers.

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