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6/12/2014
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Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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16 NoSQL, NewSQL Databases To Watch

Traditional relational databases weren't invented with mobile, social, and big data types -- or extreme scale -- in mind. Get expert context on 16 next-era NoSQL and NewSQL choices.
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Why are businesses increasingly choosing alternatives to the leading relational database management systems when grappling with new data types and extreme scale?

We put that question to Bryson Koehler, CIO of The Weather Company, which is using a NoSQL database, Riak, as the foundation of a cloud-based weather prediction and forecasting system handling 20 terabytes of data per day. His answer was emphatic:

"We knew that we needed to run globally, and we knew we needed to scale to an astronomical level. I knew that I needed that to be fundamentally baked in to how we built the system. I didn't want it to be an add-on. I didn't want it to be an option. I didn't want it to have to require a team of people to maintain it. Your traditional relational data approaches are incredibly cumbersome, complicated, and don't, in my view, scale globally."

That's as strong an endorsement as you can get for NoSQL in a high-scale cloud deployment. We've heard equally positive comments about the flexible, schema-agnostic data-handling characteristics and ease of development offered by products like MongoDB and Couchbase. These guys get mobile, social, clickstream, and sensor data, proponents argue, and they might note that adding JSON support to a conventional database is like putting lipstick on a pig.

If there's one complaint raised, it's that NoSQL products, well, don't speak SQL, a mature language that supports all sorts of transactional and analytical capabilities. Enter NewSQL, an emerging category populated by vendors like Clustrix, MemSQL, VoltDB, and others that promise the global scalability of NoSQL without giving up SQL.

To date, NewSQL options have been far less popular than the NoSQL options, in part because they are very new, but also because a relational approach and data flexibility aren't easily combined. What's more, NewSQL vendors face more competition from old SQL vendors and complacent customers who give familiar products the first crack at solving new problems. That's an expensive mistake, argue the NewSQL vendors.

This collection offers a closer look at 16 notable NoSQL and NewSQL database management systems that deserve a closer look. Excluded from this portfolio are graph databases, which serve a very specific network-analysis role and do not serve in the same broad transactional role as these NoSQL and NewSQL databases. Also excluded are hugely popular products including Redis and Memcached, which tend to serve as data-caching tiers rather than as durable data stores.

This collection is distinguished from our 16 Top Big Data Analytics Platforms analysis, in that these are not, generally speaking, analytical platforms. Running transactional applications is the name of the game here, although these products can also address operational analytical needs. We're also not calling this a "top" collection because the dust hasn't even begun to settle, particularly in the NewSQL category.

Read on to get a bead on new options for modern data-management needs.

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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mraffi
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mraffi,
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6/13/2014 | 12:44:43 PM
Re: On CloudDB: Why I didn't list it separately
I couldn't have said it any better nslater. Perfect.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/13/2014 | 12:43:50 PM
Re: On CloudDB: Why I didn't list it separately
Follow that link to "The Couch Firm" and you won't find much there, there. It's just a landing page with no information about a company, its services/support offerings, its customers. It's history. Etc. Like I wrote and as these comments acknowlege, CouchDB's future is now closely tied up into whatever IBM does with Cloudant's technology. That's why CouchDB showed up in our listing by way of IBM/Cloudant.
nslater
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nslater,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2014 | 12:38:00 PM
Re: On CloudDB: Why I didn't list it separately
The Couch Firm provides support for CouchDB on-premises:

"The Couch Firm provides training, consulting, custom development, and support services for Apache CouchDB from the people you know and trust.

"Our team is a professional collective made up of people who contribute to the Apache CouchDB project and its community."

I believe The Couch Firm is modelled on The Node Firm, which does something similar for Node.js.

My larger point here was that Cloudant is in the process of merging its CouchDB fork back into the project. Once that happens, IBM engineers will be working directly on the project, contributing fixes, features, and enhancements directly to CouchDB. At this point, there will be parity between CouchDB (the DB you can download and run on premises) and Cloudant (the CouchDB platform).

I understand that Cloudant will continue to offer value-added extras on top of CouchDB, much in the same way as Hortonworks or Cloudera add in features to their own distributions of Hadoop.

I'm not employed by Cloudant, so I don't know if IBM has any plans to offer on premises support.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/13/2014 | 12:15:51 PM
On CloudDB: Why I didn't list it separately
A couple of CloudDB developers/fans have Tweeted that I should have listed CloudDB on its own merits, but there are several reasons why I didn't. First off, Cloudant is the only support option we know of for CouchDB (Are we missing a real option, here? We've asked and searched to no avail.) Cloudant only offers it as a service in the cloud. Second, there's evidence that CouchDB has been "eclipsed," as I state in my commentary on Cloudant, by rivals including Couchbase and MongoDB.

If CouchDB were more in demand, wouldn't we know about a company staking its future on supporting CouchDB on premises? I'm not disputing that CouchDB was early to NoSQL and has many fans. But without support, there is no hope for CouchDB to see broad enterprise adoption. If not for the existance of DataStax, for example, I would not have listed Cassandra. And if not for MongoDB the company (formerly 10Gen), MongoDB would not be where it is today.

In the case of CouchDB, it was included indirectly only because IBM bought Cloudant. IBM has the wherewithall to do whatever it wants. If it wants to support CouchDB on premises, the fortunes of CouchDB, the open source database, will greatly rise. Rivals speculate that it only bought Cloudant for its database-as-a-service technology. That's why CouchDB - by way of IBM/Cloudant - is a NoSQL option to watch. We'll find out soon enough whether IBM is going to throw some real weight behind CouchDB. 
mulpat
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mulpat,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2014 | 2:33:36 AM
JavaScript for NoSQL
Hi Doug, that's a great post, thanks! One point that I am missing is the increasingly important role of JavaScript for dealing with NoSQL. Many of the NoSQL databases are based on a RESTful API that provides data as JSON. By haviing a database support JavaScript, programmers can re-use over 70k libraries to manage and analyze data, which sounds very promising in my view as application developer. One of the interesting ideas is that with JSON you can apply different data models, such as key-value, documents and most recently graphs. An interesting comparison of database that use JavaScript is here: https://www.arangodb.org/2012/11/13/comparing-arangodb-with-mongodb-and-couchdb - but with ArangoDB supporting graphs, it looks most promising to me.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/12/2014 | 4:19:49 PM
Re: Do others belong on this list?
Leon,

Thanks for the feedback. A few points on your points:

1. MarkLogic has recast its technology and is on plenty of NoSQL lists.

2. Splice Machine adapts Darby database

3. IBM/Cloudant is only commercial support option we know of for CouchDB. See listing on why it's included. As stated, "CouchDB seems to have been eclipsed..." Who supports the DB on-premises? That's why we focused on Cloudant, not CouchDB. 

4. Yes, many NewSQL vendors have short cusotmer lists -- that why we "watch"

5. SQL Fire and SAP Hana are in-memory, and not in NoSQL group. Just because they are new(er) doesn't make them "NewSQL." I wouldn't list TimesTen or SolidDB here, either.

6. I mentioned FoundationDB in a comment below the article. InfiniDB is aimed at analytics, not transactions. I'm not familiar with the others, but please add details on them in comments if they belong here.

Thanks

Doug
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/12/2014 | 3:59:22 PM
HBase avalable at GoGrid
Hbase was one of the systems in place at GoGrid, for those looking for a place to tryit out as a Big Data systems. HBase talks directly to the spinning disk spindles, says CEO John Keagy.
leon.wrinkles
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leon.wrinkles,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/12/2014 | 3:38:10 PM
Re: Do others belong on this list?
  1. MarkLogic is from 2001. It wasn't really part of the NoSQL movement that came after Google's BigTable paper.
  2. SpliceMachine is just a middleware layer on top of HBase. It's not really a new DBMS architecture like the other ones listed here.
  3. Cloudant is just a SaaS provider for CouchDB (which you didn't list).
  4. I've never heard of anybody using TransLattice.
  5. You forgot Pivotal's SQLFire and SAP'S HANA.
  6. There are a bunch of nascent NewSQL systems that are too new to determine whether they are useful: DeepDB, InfiniDB, InfinitySQL, JustOneDB, and FoundationDB.

-- Leon --
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/12/2014 | 11:16:38 AM
Do others belong on this list?
These guides can't go on forever. FoundationDB was among the NoSQL vendors I contemplated adding but it didn't make the cut. That said, it's probably just as viable, well-funded and embraced by customers as some of the NewSQL vendors listed above. Are there other deserving companies worthy of watching? List them here, but please include DBMS type, Description, Notable customers, Company status and a brief comment what makes it stand out.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/12/2014 | 10:57:30 AM
Great examples
Doug, helpful context on a wide group of key players here. The Weather Company's project needs offer a great example of the scale issue. See this related article on their big data work.
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