Discussion of NoSQL concepts, products, and vendors.
1. The cloud is super-hot. Duh. And so, like any hot buzzword, “cloud” means different things to different marketers. Four of the biggest things that have been called “cloud” are:
- The Amazon cloud, Microsoft Azure, and their competitors, aka public cloud.
- Software as a service, aka SaaS.
- Co-location in off-premises data centers, aka colo.
- On-premises clusters (truly on-prem or colo as the case may be) designed to run a broad variety of applications, aka private cloud.
Further, there’s always the idea of hybrid cloud, in which a vendor peddles private cloud systems (usually appliances) running similar technology stacks to what they run in their proprietary public clouds. A number of vendors have backed away from such stories, but a few are still pushing it, including Oracle and Microsoft.
This is a good example of Monash’s Laws of Commercial Semantics.
2. Due to economies of scale, only a few companies should operate their own data centers, aka true on-prem(ises). The rest should use some combination of colo, SaaS, and public cloud.
This fact now seems to be widely understood.
I’ve been an analyst for 35 years, and debates about “real-time” technology have run through my whole career. Some of those debates are by now pretty much settled. In particular:
- Yes, interactive computer response is crucial.
- Into the 1980s, many apps were batch-only. Demand for such apps dried up.
- Business intelligence should occur at interactive speeds, which is a major reason that there’s a market for high-performance analytic RDBMS.
- Theoretical arguments about “true” real-time vs. near-real-time are often pointless.
- What matters in most cases is human users’ perceptions of speed.
- Most of the exceptions to that rule occur when machines race other machines, for example in automated bidding (high frequency trading or otherwise) or in network security.
A big issue that does remain open is: How fresh does data need to be? My preferred summary answer is: As fresh as is needed to support the best decision-making. I think that formulation starts with several advantages:
- It respects the obvious point that different use cases require different levels of data freshness.
- It cautions against people who think they need fresh information but aren’t in a position to use it. (Such users have driven much bogus “real-time” demand in the past.)
- It covers cases of both human and automated decision-making.
Straightforward applications of this principle include: Read more
I visited DataStax on my recent trip. That was a tipping point leading to my recent discussions of NoSQL DBAs and misplaced fear of vendor lock-in. But of course I also learned some things about DataStax and Cassandra themselves.
On the customer side:
- DataStax customers still overwhelmingly use Cassandra for internet back-ends — web, mobile or otherwise as the case might be.
- This includes — and “includes” might be understating the point — traditional enterprises worried about competition from internet-only ventures.
Customers in large numbers want cloud capabilities, as a potential future if not a current need.
One customer example was a large retailer, who in the past was awful at providing accurate inventory information online, but now uses Cassandra for that. DataStax brags that its queries come back in 20 milliseconds, but that strikes me as a bit beside the point; what really matters is that data accuracy has gone from “batch” to some version of real-time. Also, Microsoft is a DataStax customer, using Cassandra (and Spark) for the Office 365 backend, or at least for the associated analytics.
Per Patrick McFadin, the four biggest things in DataStax Enterprise 5 are: Read more
- I spent three weeks in California on a hybrid personal/business trip. I had a bunch of meetings, but not three weeks’ worth.
- The timing was awkward for most companies I wanted to see. No blame accrues to those who didn’t make themselves available.
- I came back with a nasty cough. Follow-up phone calls aren’t an option until next week.
- I’m impatient to start writing. Hence tonight’s posts. But it’s difficult for a man and his cough to be productive at the same time.
A running list of recent posts is:
- As a companion to this post, I’m publishing a very long one on vendor lock-in.
- Spark and Databricks are both prospering, and of course enhancing their technology as well.
- Ditto DataStax.
- Flink is interesting as the streaming technology it’s now positioned to be, rather than the overall Spark alternative it used to be positioned as but which the world didn’t need.
Subjects I’d like to add to that list include:
- MemSQL, Zoomdata, and Neo Technology (also prospering).
- Cloudera (multiple topics, as usual).
- Analytic SQL engines (“traditional” analytic RDBMS aren’t doing well).
- Microsoft’s reinvention (it feels real).
- Metadata (it’s ever more of a thing).
- Machine learning (it’s going to be a big portion of my research going forward).
- Transitions to the cloud — this subject affects almost everything else.
When I find myself making the same observation fairly frequently, that’s a good impetus to write a post based on it. And so this post is based on the thought that there are many analogies between:
- Oracle and the Oracle DBMS.
- IBM and the IBM mainframe.
And when you look at things that way, Oracle seems to be swimming against the tide.
Drilling down, there are basically three things that can seriously threaten Oracle’s market position:
- Growth in apps of the sort for which Oracle’s RDBMS is not well-suited. Much of “Big Data” fits that description.
- Outright, widespread replacement of Oracle’s application suites. This is the least of Oracle’s concerns at the moment, but could of course be a disaster in the long term.
- Transition to “the cloud”. This trend amplifies the other two.
Oracle’s decline, if any, will be slow — but I think it has begun.
There’s a clear market lead in the core product category. IBM was dominant in mainframe computing. While not as dominant, Oracle is definitely a strong leader in high-end OTLP/mixed-use (OnLine Transaction Processing) RDBMS.
That market lead is even greater than it looks, because some of the strongest competitors deserve asterisks. Many of IBM’s mainframe competitors were “national champions” — Fujitsu and Hitachi in Japan, Bull in France and so on. Those were probably stronger competitors to IBM than the classic BUNCH companies (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, Honeywell).
Similarly, Oracle’s strongest direct competitors are IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server, each of which is sold primarily to customers loyal to the respective vendors’ full stacks. SAP is now trying to play a similar game.
The core product is stable, secure, richly featured, and generally very mature. Duh.
The core product is complicated to administer — which provides great job security for administrators. IBM had JCL (Job Control Language). Oracle has a whole lot of manual work overseeing indexes. In each case, there are many further examples of the point. Edit: A Twitter discussion suggests the specific issue with indexes has been long fixed.
Niche products can actually be more reliable than the big, super-complicated leader. Tandem Nonstop computers were super-reliable. Simple, “embeddable” RDBMS — e.g. Progress or SQL Anywhere — in many cases just work. Still, if you want one system to run most of your workload 24×7, it’s natural to choose the category leader. Read more
|Categories: Cloud computing, Database diversity, Exadata, IBM and DB2, Market share and customer counts, Microsoft and SQL*Server, NoSQL, Oracle, Software as a Service (SaaS)||25 Comments|
Mike Stonebraker and Larry Ellison have numerous things in common. If nothing else:
- They’re both titanic figures in the database industry.
- They both gave me testimonials on the home page of my business website.
- They both have been known to use the present tense when the future tense would be more accurate.
I mention the latter because there’s a new edition of Readings in Database Systems, aka the Red Book, available online, courtesy of Mike, Joe Hellerstein and Peter Bailis. Besides the recommended-reading academic papers themselves, there are 12 survey articles by the editors, and an occasional response where, for example, editors disagree. Whether or not one chooses to tackle the papers themselves — and I in fact have not dived into them — the commentary is of great interest.
But I would not take every word as the gospel truth, especially when academics describe what they see as commercial market realities. In particular, as per my quip in the first paragraph, the data warehouse market has not yet gone to the extremes that Mike suggests,* if indeed it ever will. And while Joe is close to correct when he says that the company Essbase was acquired by Oracle, what actually happened is that Arbor Software, which made Essbase, merged with Hyperion Software, and the latter was eventually indeed bought by the giant of Redwood Shores.**
*When it comes to data warehouse market assessment, Mike seems to often be ahead of the trend.
**Let me interrupt my tweaking of very smart people to confess that my own commentary on the Oracle/Hyperion deal was not, in retrospect, especially prescient.
Mike pretty much opened the discussion with a blistering attack against hierarchical data models such as JSON or XML. To a first approximation, his views might be summarized as: Read more
- I’ve suggested in the past that multi-data-center capabilities are important for “data sovereignty”/geo-compliance.
- The need for geo-compliance just got a lot stronger, with the abolition of the European Union’s Safe Harbour rule for the US. If you collect data in multiple countries, you should be at least thinking about geo-compliance.
- Cassandra is an established leader in multi-data-center operation.
But when I made that connection and checked in accordingly with my client Patrick McFadin at DataStax, I discovered that I’d been a little confused about how multi-data-center Cassandra works. The basic idea holds water, but the details are not quite what I was envisioning.
The story starts:
- Cassandra groups nodes into logical “data centers” (i.e. token rings).
- As a best practice, each physical data center can contain one or more logical data center, but not vice-versa.
- There are two levels of replication — within a single logical data center, and between logical data centers.
- Replication within a single data center is planned in the usual way, with the principal data center holding a database likely to have a replication factor of 3.
- However, copies of the database held elsewhere may have different replication factors …
- … and can indeed have different replication factors for different parts of the database.
In particular, a remote replication factor for Cassandra can = 0. When that happens, then you have data sitting in one geographical location that is absent from another geographical location; i.e., you can be in compliance with laws forbidding the export of certain data. To be clear (and this contradicts what I previously believed and hence also implied in this blog):
- General multi-data-center operation is not what gives you geo-compliance, because the default case is that the whole database is replicated to each data center.
- Instead, you get that effect by tweaking your specific replication settings.
|Categories: Cassandra, Clustering, DataStax, HBase, NoSQL, Open source, Specific users, Surveillance and privacy||3 Comments|
Basho was on my (very short) blacklist of companies with whom I refuse to speak, because they have lied about the contents of previous conversations. But Tony Falco et al. are long gone from the company. So when Basho’s new management team reached out, I took the meeting.
- Basho management turned over significantly 1-2 years ago. The main survivors from the old team are 1 each in engineering, sales, and services.
- Basho moved its headquarters to Bellevue, WA. (You get one guess as to where the new CEO lives.) Engineering operations are very distributed geographically.
- Basho claims that it is much better at timely product shipments than it used to be. Its newest product has a planned (or at least hoped-for) 8-week cadence for point releases.
- Basho’s revenue is ~90% subscription.
- Basho claims >200 enterprise clients, vs. 100-120 when new management came in. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the usual questions about divisions vs. whole organizations, OEM sell-through vs. direct, etc.
- Basho claims an average contract value of >$100K, typically over 2-3 years. $9 million of that (which would be close to half the total, actually), comes from 2 particular deals of >$4 million each.
Basho’s product line has gotten a bit confusing, but as best I understand things the story is:
- There’s something called Riak Core, which isn’t even a revenue-generating product. However, it’s an open source project with some big users (e.g. Goldman Sachs, Visa), and included in pretty much everything else Basho promotes.
- Riak KV is the key-value store previously known as Riak. It generates the lion’s share of Basho’s revenue.
- Riak S2 is an emulation of Amazon S3. Basho thinks that Riak KV loses efficiency when objects get bigger than 1 MB or so, and that’s when you might want to use Riak S2 in addition or instead.
- Riak TS is for time series, and just coming out now.
- Also in the mix are some (extra charge) connectors for Redis and Spark. Presumably, there are more of these to come.
- There’s an umbrella marketing term of “Basho Data Platform”.
Technical notes on some of that include: Read more
|Categories: Aerospike, Basho and Riak, Cassandra, Clustering, Couchbase, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, DataStax, HBase, Health care, Log analysis, MapR, Market share and customer counts, MongoDB, NoSQL, Pricing, Specific users, Splunk||Leave a Comment|
I last wrote about Couchbase in November, 2012, around the time of Couchbase 2.0. One of the many new features I mentioned then was secondary indexing. Ravi Mayuram just checked in to tell me about Couchbase 4.0. One of the important new features he mentioned was what I think he said was Couchbase’s “first version” of secondary indexing. Obviously, I’m confused.
Now that you’re duly warned, let me remind you of aspects of Couchbase timeline.
- 2 corporate name changes ago, Couchbase was organized to commercialize memcached. memcached, of course, was internet companies’ default way to scale out short-request processing before the rise of NoSQL, typically backed by manually sharded MySQL.
- Couchbase’s original value proposition, under the name Membase, was to provide persistence and of course support for memcached. This later grew into a caching-oriented pitch even to customers who weren’t already memcached users.
- A merger with the makers of CouchDB ensued, with the intention of replacing Membase’s SQLite back end with CouchDB at the same time as JSON support was introduced. This went badly.
- By now, however, Couchbase sells for more than distributed cache use cases. Ravi rattled off a variety of big-name customer examples for system-of-record kinds of use cases, especially in session logging (duh) and also in travel reservations.
- Couchbase 4.0 has been in beta for a few months.
Technical notes on Couchbase 4.0 — and related riffs — start: Read more
|Categories: Cache, Clustering, Couchbase, Data models and architecture, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, Exadata, Hadoop, MarkLogic, MongoDB, MySQL, NoSQL, Open source, Schema on need, Structured documents, Web analytics||1 Comment|
MongoDB isn’t the only company I reached out to recently for an update. Another is DataStax. I chatted mainly with Patrick McFadin, somebody with whom I’ve had strong consulting relationships at a user and vendor both. But Rachel Pedreschi contributed the marvelous phrase “twinkling dashboard”.
It seems fair to say that in most cases:
- Cassandra is adopted for operational applications, specifically ones with requirements for extreme uptime and/or extreme write speed. (Of course, it should also be the case that NoSQL data structures are a good fit.)
- Spark, including SparkSQL, and Solr are seen primarily as ways to navigate or analyze the resulting data.
Those generalities, in my opinion, make good technical sense. Even so, there are some edge cases or counterexamples, such as:
- DataStax trumpets British Gas‘ plans collecting a lot of sensor data and immediately offering it up for analysis.*
- Safeway uses Cassandra for a mobile part of its loyalty program, scoring customers and pushing coupons at them.
- A large title insurance company uses Cassandra-plus-Solr to manage a whole lot of documents.
*And so a gas company is doing lightweight analysis on boiler temperatures, which it regards as hot data.
While most of the specifics are different, I’d say similar things about MongoDB, Cassandra, or any other NoSQL DBMS that comes to mind: Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Cassandra, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, DataStax, NoSQL, Open source, Petabyte-scale data management, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Specific users, Text||6 Comments|