The Coming Database Revolution

Courtesy of Optimize One of the most dramatic changes in the enterprise software market is coming to a database near you, and the impact of this pending database revolution will be felt in every possible part of your enterprise, not to mention places such as Redmond, Redwood Shores, and Armonk. What this revolution heralds is a multiprong shift from the Microsoft SQL Servers, Oracles, and IBM DB2s of the world to a mix of options that include open source databases, in-memory databases, and turnkey database/hardware bundles, among others. Although you may not want to rip and replace your current systems to take advantage of the coming database revolution, you may want to seriously consider one of these new options as you plan your new greenfield, database-intensive operations. However different the options, the driving forces behind this revolution are the same. As relational databases grow in size and complexity (and, for the most part, total cost of ownership), their use is becoming more and more commodity-like. This is very much the case for companies using most packaged applications and data warehouses, which are designed to run on multiple databases and therefore treat the database as generic technology. And it is also the case for nontraditional, Web-based companies that are using databases for managing such things as like search and other large applications that nonetheless don't require all the bells and whistles of the relational databases on which they are based. The other main driver is the open source movement, which has the database firmly in its crosshairs and has begotten an impressive number of open source database companies: MySQL, Ingres, and Greenplum, to name just a few. The open source gang is doing a lot of damage to traditional pricing and at the same time upping the ante by providing an increasing amount of functionality that is beginning to encroach on the Big Three providers' turf. One such company, Greenplum, has gone as far as to bundle a turnkey data warehouse, based on Sun Microsystems hardware, that basically takes a zero off the cost of a traditional data warehouse without little or no sacrifice. Meanwhile the "in-memory" database concept is starting to take hold. Oracle's acquisition of TimesTen, one of in-memory's pioneers, is emblematic of how seriously even the traditional players take this challenge. And well they should: Running complex transactions and queries in memory, instead of on disk, has enormous throughput and management advantages. And with the cost of memory coming down faster than the cost of traditional database storage, in-memory is poised to challenge the accepted thinking about massive data farms and storage arrays, not to mention administration and overhead costs. What this means in a nutshell is that there are some important new ways in which your organization can deploy the databases you need in order to run your mission-critical applications without necessarily defaulting to more Oracle, SQL Server, or DB2 licenses. If the database is acting like a commodity, then treat it like one and take those savings and apply them to something innovative. This is one revolution you'll definitely want to join. Josh Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting, has 20 years of experience in the industry as a computer programmer, systems analyst, author, and consultant.