Theory and architecture

Analysis of design choices in databases and database management systems. Related subjects include:

December 31, 2015

Oracle as the new IBM — has a long decline started?

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:

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:

Oracle’s decline, if any, will be slow — but I think it has begun.


Oracle/IBM analogies

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

December 10, 2015

Readings in Database Systems

Mike Stonebraker and Larry Ellison have numerous things in common. If nothing else:

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

November 19, 2015

The questionably named Cloudera Navigator Optimizer

I only have mixed success at getting my clients to reach out to me for messaging advice when they’re introducing something new. Cloudera Navigator Optimizer, which is being announced along with Cloudera 5.5, is one of my failures in that respect; I heard about it for the first time Tuesday afternoon. I hate the name. I hate some of the slides I saw. But I do like one part of the messaging, namely the statement that this is about “refactoring” queries.

All messaging quibbles aside, I think the Cloudera Navigator Optimizer story is actually pretty interesting, and perhaps not just to users of SQL-on-Hadoop technologies such as Hive (which I guess I’d put in that category for simplicity) or Impala. As I understand Cloudera Navigator Optimizer:

Read more

November 19, 2015

CDH 5.5

I talked with Cloudera shortly ahead of today’s announcement of Cloudera 5.5. Much of what we talked about had something or other to do with SQL data management. Highlights include:

While I had Cloudera on the phone, I asked a few questions about Impala adoption, specifically focused on concurrency. There was mention of: Read more

October 26, 2015

Differentiation in data management

In the previous post I broke product differentiation into 6-8 overlapping categories, which may be abbreviated as:

and sometimes also issues in adoption and administration.

Now let’s use this framework to examine two market categories I cover — data management and, in separate post, business intelligence.

Applying this taxonomy to data management:
Read more

October 15, 2015

Cassandra and privacy requirements

For starters:

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:

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):

Read more

October 15, 2015

Basho and Riak

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.

For starters:

Basho’s product line has gotten a bit confusing, but as best I understand things the story is:

Technical notes on some of that include:  Read more

October 15, 2015

Couchbase 4.0 and related subjects

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.

Technical notes on Couchbase 4.0 — and related riffs :) — start: Read more

October 7, 2015

Notes on packaged applications (including SaaS)

1. The rise of SAP (and later Siebel Systems) was greatly helped by Anderson Consulting, even before it was split off from the accounting firm and renamed as Accenture. My main contact in that group was Rob Kelley, but it’s possible that Brian Sommer was even more central to the industry-watching part of the operation. Brian is still around, and he just leveled a blast at the ERP* industry, which I encourage you to read. I agree with most of it.

*Enterprise Resource Planning

Brian’s argument, as I interpret it, boils down mainly to two points:

I’d add that SaaS (Software As A Service)/on-premises tensions aren’t helping incumbent vendors either.

But no article addresses all the subjects it ideally should, and I’d like to call out two omissions. First, what Brian said is in many cases applicable just to large and/or internet-first companies. Plenty of smaller, more traditional businesses could get by just fine with no more functionality than is in “Big ERP” today, if we stipulate that it should be:

Read more

September 28, 2015

Cloudera Kudu deep dive

This is part of a three-post series on Kudu, a new data storage system from Cloudera.

Let’s talk in more detail about how Kudu stores data.

Read more

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