As part of my series on the keys to and likelihood of success, I outlined some examples from the DBMS industry. The list turned out too long for a single post, so I split it up by millennia. The part on 20th Century DBMS success and failure went up Friday; in this one I’ll cover more recent events, organized in line with the original overview post. Categories addressed will include analytic RDBMS (including data warehouse appliances), NoSQL/non-SQL short-request DBMS, MySQL, PostgreSQL, NewSQL and Hadoop.
DBMS rarely have trouble with the criterion “Is there an identifiable buying process?” If an enterprise is doing application development projects, a DBMS is generally chosen for each one. And so the organization will generally have a process in place for buying DBMS, or accepting them for free. Central IT, departments, and — at least in the case of free open source stuff — developers all commonly have the capacity for DBMS acquisition.
In particular, at many enterprises either departments have the ability to buy their own analytic technology, or else IT will willingly buy and administer things for a single department. This dynamic fueled much of the early rise of analytic RDBMS.
Buyer inertia is a greater concern.
- A significant minority of enterprises are highly committed to their enterprise DBMS standards.
- Another significant minority aren’t quite as committed, but set pretty high bars for new DBMS products to cross nonetheless.
- FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) about new DBMS is often justifiable, about stability and consistent performance alike.
A particularly complex version of this dynamic has played out in the market for analytic RDBMS/appliances.
- First the newer products (from Netezza onwards) were sold to organizations who knew they wanted great performance or price/performance.
- Then it became more about selling “business value” to organizations who needed more convincing about the benefits of great price/performance.
- Then the behemoth vendors became more competitive, as Teradata introduced lower-price models, Oracle introduced Exadata, Sybase got more aggressive with Sybase IQ, IBM bought Netezza, EMC bought Greenplum, HP bought Vertica and so on. It is now hard for a non-behemoth analytic RDBMS vendor to make headway at large enterprise accounts.
- Meanwhile, Hadoop has emerged as serious competitor for at least some analytic data management, especially but not only at internet companies.
Otherwise I’d say:
- At large enterprises, their internet operations perhaps excepted:
- Short-request/general-purpose SQL alternatives to the behemoths — e.g. MySQL, PostgreSQL, NewSQL — have had tremendous difficulty getting established. The last big success was the rise of Microsoft SQL Server in the 1990s. That’s why I haven’t mentioned the term mid-range DBMS in years.
- NoSQL/non-SQL has penetrated large enterprises mainly for a few specific use cases, for example the lists I posted for MongoDB or graph databases.
- Internet-only companies have few inertia issues when it comes to database managers. They’ll consider anything they regard as being in their price ballpark (which is however often restricted to open source). I think part of the reason is that as quickly as they rewrite their applications, DBMS are vastly less “strategic” to them than they are to most larger enterprises.
- The internet operations of large companies — especially large retailers — in many cases behave like internet-only companies, but in many other cases behave like the rest of the enterprise.
The major reasons for DBMS categories to get established in the first place are:
- Performance and/or scalability (many examples).
- Developer features (for example dynamic schema).
- License/maintenance cost (for example several open source categories).
- Ease of installation and administration (for example open source again, and also data warehouse appliances).
Those same characteristics are major bases for competition among members of a new category, although as noted above behemoth-loyalty can also come into play.
Cool-vs.-weird tradeoffs are somewhat secondary among SQL DBMS.
- There’s not much of a “cool” factor, because new products aren’t that different in what they do vs. older ones.
- There’s not a terrible “weird” factor either, but of course any smaller offering faces FUD, and also …
- … appliances are anti-strategic for many buyers, especially ones who demand a smooth path to the cloud.)
They’re huge, however, in the non-SQL world. Most non-SQL data managers have a major “weird” factor. Fortunately, NoSQL and Hadoop both have huge “cool” cred to offset it. XML/XQuery unfortunately did not.
Finally, in most DBMS categories there are massive issues with product completeness, more in the area of maturity than that of whole product. The biggest whole product issues are concentrated on the matter of interoperating with other software — business intelligence tools, packaged applications (if relevant to the category), etc. Most notably, the handful of DBMS that are certified to run SAP share a huge market that other DBMS can’t touch. But BI tools are less of a differentiator — I yawn when vendors tell me they are certified for/partnered with MicroStrategy, Tableau, Pentaho and Jaspersoft, and I’m surprised at any product that isn’t.
DBMS maturity has a lot of aspects, but the toughest challenges are concentrated in two main areas:
- Reliability, especially but not only in short-request use cases.
- Performance across a great variety of use cases. I observe frequently that performance in best-case scenarios, performance in the lab and performance in real-world environments are much further apart than vendors like to think.
- Maturity demands seem to be much higher for SQL DBMS than for NoSQL.
- I think this is one of several reasons NoSQL has been much more successful than NewSQL.
- It’s why I think MarkLogic’s “Enterprise NoSQL” positioning is a mistake.
- As for MySQL:
- MySQL wasn’t close to reliable enough for enterprises to trust it until InnoDB became the default storage engine.
- MySQL 5 point releases have added major features, or decent performance for major features. I’ll confess to having lost track of what’s been fixed and what’s still missing.
- In saying all that I’m holding MySQL to a much higher maturity standard than I’m holding NoSQL — because that’s what I think enterprise customers do.
- PostgreSQL “should” be doing a lot better than it is. I have an extremely low opinion of its promoters, and not just for personal reasons. (That said, the personal reasons don’t just apply to EnterpriseDB anymore. I’ve also run out of patience waiting for Josh Berkus to retract untruths he posted about me years ago.)
- SAP HANA checks boxes for performance (In-memory rah rah rah!!) and whole product (Runs SAP!!). That puts it well ahead of most other newish SQL DBMS, purely analytic ones perhaps excepted.
- Any other new short-request SQL DBMS that sounds like is has traction is also memory-centric.
- Analytic RDBMS are in most respects held to lower maturity standards than DBMS used for write-intensive workloads. Even so, products in the category are still frequently tripped up by considerations of concurrent performance and mixed workload management.
There have been 1,470 previous posts in the 9-year history of this blog, many of which could serve as background material for this one. A couple that seem particularly germane and didn’t get already get linked above are: