I ran across Robin Harris’s analysis of the Hyder transaction database research project, and his subsequent analysis on how Microsoft could threaten Oracle in the data center on his ZDNet blog. Mr. Harris is raising the issue of disruption in the database market, a topic I have covered in my Dark Reading posts, but he is also pointing out how he thinks this could erode Oracle’s position in the data center. I think looking at Hyder and like databases as disruptive is spot on, but I think the effects Mr. Harris outlines are off the mark. They both miss the current trends I am witnessing and seem to be couched in the traditional enterprise datacenter mind set.

To sketch out what I mean, I first offer a little background. From my perspective, during the Internet boom of the late 90’s, Oracle grew at a phenomenal rate because every new development project or web site selected Oracle. Oracle did a really smart thing in that they made training widely available so every DBA I knew had some Oracle knowledge. You could actually find people to architect and manage Oracle, unlike DB2, Sybase and Informix (SQL Server was considered a ‘toy’ at the time). What’s more, the ODBC/JDBC connectors actually worked. This combination made development teams comfortable with choosing Oracle, and the Oracle RDBMS seemed ubiqitous as small firms grew out of nothing. Mid-sized firms chose databases based upon DBA analysis of requirements, and they tended to skew the results to the platforms they knew.

But this time it’s different. This latest generation of developers, especially web app developers, are not looking for transactional consistancy. They don’t want to be constrained by the back end. And most don’t want to be burdened by learning about a platform that does not enhance the user experience or usability of their applications. Further, basic application behavior is changing in the wake of fast, cheap and elastic cloud services. Developers conceptualize services based upon the ability ot leverage these resources. Strapping a clunky relational contraption on the back of their cheap/fast/simple/agile services is incongrous. It’s clear to me that growth in databases is there, but the choice is non-relational databases or NoSQL variants. Hyder could fill the bill, but only if it was a real live service, and only if transactional consistancy was a requirement. Ease of use, cheap storage, throughput and elasticity are the principle requirements.

The question is not if Oracle will lose marketshare to Microsoft because because of Hyder – nobody is going to rip out an entrenched Oracle RDBMS as migration costs and instability far outweigh Hyder’s percieved benefits. This issue is developers of new applications are losing interest in relational databases. The choice is not ‘Hyder vs. Oracle’, it’s ‘can I do everything with flat files/NoSQL or do I need a supporting instance of MySQL/Postgres/Derby for transactional consistency’? The architectural discussion for non-enterprise applications has fundamentally shifted. I am not saying relational databases are dead. Far from it. I am saying that they are not the first – or even second – choice for web application developers, especially those looking to run on cloud services. With the current app development surge relational technologies are an afterthought. And that’s important as this is where a lot of the growth is happening.

I have not gone into what this means for database security as that is the subject for future posts. But I will say that monitoring, auditing and assessment all change, as does the application of encryption and masking technologies.