16 NoSQL, NewSQL Databases To Watch - InformationWeek

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6/12/2014
08:10 AM
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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D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
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8/18/2014 | 10:42:52 AM
Re: Do others belong on this list?
Yes, FoundationDB was considered. Honestly we needed to cut it off at a good, round number. Originally I was working on a list of 12 but decided I needed to expand the list. I was looking at things like marquis customers, recent customer wins, volume of announcements and news coverage, number of search hits... all indicators of activity, interest and success.

FoundationDB was in definitely in the running and is also worth a look.   
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/15/2014 | 1:51:06 PM
Re: redis and scalebase
I did mention Redis in the intro, along with Memchached and why I didn't include them.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/13/2014 | 2:19:17 PM
Re: Don't forget about IBM Informix
You must be kidding! This is a listing of "New"SQL offerings. What's the Informix story on ease/cost of ultra-high scale and ease of admin at that scale? Then let's talk about cost. Sure, big banks are still using Informix (invented circa 1980), but it doesn't belong on this list.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
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6/13/2014 | 2:17:32 PM
More evidence on the state of CouchDB
In February 2013, Jan Lehnardt wrote about "The State of CouchDB" at length. He felt compelled to assert that "CouchDB is not Dead," and added a lot of detail about a "CouchDB reboot." If you're interested in knowing more about CouchDB, I would read this article and know that the the database's fortunes have only improved with IBM's Cloudant purchase. But I did not separtely list it as a NoSQL "database to watch" and it would not have even come up if not for the IBM/Cloudant deal.

According to posts, Jan is affiliated with The Couch Firm, but do an Internet search of that name you'll see that it's a fledgling entity that emerged last year. I can't find much evidence -- just some Tweets and a single static web page -- of a solid, stable org that a company would trust to support a mission-critical application. 
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.
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. 
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,
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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.
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,
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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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