Database diversity

Discussion of choices and variety in database management system architecture. Related subjects include:

February 21, 2013

One database to rule them all?

Perhaps the single toughest question in all database technology is: Which different purposes can a single data store serve well? — or to phrase it more technically — Which different usage patterns can a single data store support efficiently? Ted Codd was on multiple sides of that issue, first suggesting that relational DBMS could do everything and then averring they could not. Mike Stonebraker too has been on multiple sides, first introducing universal DBMS attempts with Postgres and Illustra/Informix, then more recently suggesting the world needs 9 or so kinds of database technology. As for me — well, I agreed with Mike both times. :)

Since this is MUCH too big a subject for a single blog post, what I’ll do in this one is simply race through some background material. To a first approximation, this whole discussion is mainly about data layouts — but only if we interpret that concept broadly enough to comprise:

To date, nobody has ever discovered a data layout that is efficient for all usage patterns. As a general rule, simpler data layouts are often faster to write, while fancier ones can boost query performance. Specific tradeoffs include, but hardly are limited to: Read more

September 7, 2012

Integrated internet system design

What are the central challenges in internet system design? We probably all have similar lists, comprising issues such as scale, scale-out, throughput, availability, security, programming ease, UI, or general cost-effectiveness. Screw those up, and you don’t have an internet business.

Much new technology addresses those challenges, with considerable success. But the success is usually one silo at a time — a short-request application here, an analytic database there. When it comes to integration, unsolved problems abound.

The top integration and integration-like challenges for me, from a practical standpoint, are:

Other concerns that get mentioned include:

Let’s skip those latter issues for now, focusing instead on the first four.

Read more

July 8, 2012

Database diversity revisited

From time to time, I try to step back and build a little taxonomy for the variety in database technology. One effort was 4 1/2 years ago, in a pre-planned exchange with Mike Stonebraker (his side, alas, has since been taken down). A year ago I spelled out eight kinds of analytic database.

The angle I’ll take this time is to say that every sufficiently large enterprise needs to be cognizant of at least 7 kinds of database challenge. General notes on that include:

The Big Seven database challenges that almost any enterprise faces are: Read more

June 14, 2012

Workday update

In August 2010, I wrote about Workday’s interesting technical architecture, highlights of which included:

I caught up with Workday recently, and things have naturally evolved. Most of what we talked about (by my choice) dealt with data management, business intelligence, and the overlap between the two.

It is now reasonable to say that Workday’s servers fall into at least seven tiers, although we talked mainly about five that work together as a kind of giant app/database server amalgamation. The three that do noteworthy data management can be described as:

Two other Workday server tiers may be described as: Read more

April 7, 2012

Many kinds of memory-centric data management

I’m frequently asked to generalize in some way about in-memory or memory-centric data management. I can start:

Getting more specific than that is hard, however, because:

Consider, for example, some of the in-memory data management ideas kicking around. Read more

March 16, 2012

Juggling analytic databases

I’d like to survey a few related ideas:

Here goes. Read more

July 15, 2011

Soundbites: the Facebook/MySQL/NoSQL/VoltDB/Stonebraker flap, continued

As a follow-up to the latest Stonebraker kerfuffle, Derrick Harris asked me a bunch of smart followup questions. My responses and afterthoughts include:

Continuing with that discussion of DBMS alternatives:

And while we’re at it — going schema-free often makes a whole lot of sense. I need to write much more about the point, but for now let’s just say that I look favorably on the Big Four schema-free/NoSQL options of MongoDB, Couchbase, HBase, and Cassandra.

July 5, 2011

Eight kinds of analytic database (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I outlined four variants on the traditional enterprise data warehouse/data mart dichotomy, and suggested what kinds of DBMS products you might use for each. In Part 2 I’ll cover four more kinds of analytic database — even newer, for the most part, with a use case/product short list match that is even less clear.  Read more

July 5, 2011

Eight kinds of analytic database (Part 1)

Analytic data management technology has blossomed, leading to many questions along the lines of “So which products should I use for which category of problem?” The old EDW/data mart dichotomy is hopelessly outdated for that purpose, and adding a third category for “big data” is little help.

Let’s try eight categories instead. While no categorization is ever perfect, these each have at least some degree of technical homogeneity. Figuring out which types of analytic database you have or need — and in most cases you’ll need several — is a great early step in your analytic technology planning.  Read more

May 29, 2011

When it’s still best to use a relational DBMS

There are plenty of viable alternatives to relational database management systems. For short-request processing, both document stores and fully object-oriented DBMS can make sense. Text search engines have an important role to play. E. F. “Ted” Codd himself once suggested that relational DBMS weren’t best for analytics.* Analysis of machine-generated log data doesn’t always have a naturally relational aspect. And I could go on with more examples yet.

*Actually, he didn’t admit that what he was advocating was a different kind of DBMS, namely a MOLAP one — but he was. And he was wrong anyway about the necessity for MOLAP. But let’s overlook those details. :)

Nonetheless, relational DBMS dominate the market. As I see it, the reasons for relational dominance cluster into four areas (which of course overlap):

Generally speaking, I find the reasons for sticking with relational technology compelling in cases such as:  Read more

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