9 NoSQL Pioneers Who Modernized Data Management - InformationWeek

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8/30/2015
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9 NoSQL Pioneers Who Modernized Data Management

The folks profiled here are tackling data management for the Internet Age, helping us all understand what can be done with a mass of unstructured information. See how their work has transformed the way we handle databases.
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(Image: danleap/iStockphoto)

(Image: danleap/iStockphoto)

NoSQL started off in 2006-2007 as an edgy, against-the-mainstream name, a counterpoint to the complete dependence on the SQL access language that relational database systems had at the time.

The pioneers of NoSQL systems never said it was their goal to replace SQL systems, which have been the foundation of venerable relational databases for the last 30 years, such as Oracle, DB2, and PostgreSQL. Rather, NoSQL developers wanted to be freed from the restrictions and preoccupation with precision that marked SQL systems. They were driven by the new demands the Internet was placing on how databases operated in the real world.

Here are the key differences between SQL and NoSQL systems:

  • Where SQL relational databases were concerned only with data integrity, NoSQL is concerned with data immediacy and relevancy.
  • Where a SQL relational system employs the unforgiving ACID test, NoSQL invokes "eventual consistency."
  • Where a SQL system dictates a particular data type, NoSQL allows a loosey-goosey tolerance of many data types -- and still comes up with workable intelligence.

Instead of precision with defined schemas, NoSQL pioneers sought an ability to handle information at high volume and high speed. Instead of getting one transaction exactly right, they wanted to deal with a million users at once.

NoSQL offered the sort of approach that a Twitter or Facebook might appreciate. And, in fact, those organizations quickly became big NoSQL users. Avinash Lakshman at Facebook was a pioneer involved in the formation of two NoSQL systems, DynamoDB during a prior stint at Amazon, and Cassandra at Facebook.

For companies with robust public-facing Internet operations – such as social media, financial institutions, and retailers – customer service is a primary business driver for deploying NoSQL systems.

Let's use Facebook as an example. Does it really matter if someone sees you have 223 friends on Facebook when, in fact, a second ago you picked up your 224th? Users may tolerate such a lag. What they won't tolerate is any delays in getting a response form Facebook when they have a problem. Now, scale that out to thousands of servers answering users' questions, and sifting the terabytes of data required to do so, and you begin to see what NoSQL developers are up against. They're tackling data management for the Internet age. And we say, more power to them.

[Want to get real-time analytics right? Here are some tips.]

Let's celebrate some of the pioneers of the field. The folks profiled here have all acknowledged that NoSQL is less about being opposed to relational SQL database systems, and more about what can be done with a mass of unstructured information. There's no claim to a hierarchy in this list. The pioneers featured here are by no means the only developers and entrepreneurs who've made contributions. No attempt has been made to represent all the key developers, and we'd welcome your help in rounding out our list.

Amazon, for example, declined to name the individuals behind SimpleDB, an early NoSQL system that emerged in December 2007 and remains available as a service today, because it doesn't single out individuals from team efforts.

With that, we give you nine NoSQL pioneers whose work has changed how we process and respond to information. What has your experience been with NoSQL? Have you had the pleasure of working with any of these pioneers? Are there others you'd like to see get credit for their work in NoSQL? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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8/31/2015 | 4:22:55 PM
NoSQL system builders are not necessarily data scientists
Asksqn, Few NoSQL pioneers would ever claim to be data scientists. They're system builders for big data purposes, not data scientists working with big data. But you might try Lisa Morgan's: 6 Characteristics of Data Drive Rock Stars. http://www.informationweek.com/big-data/big-data-analytics/6-characteristics-of-data-driven-rock-stars/d/d-id/1320502

 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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9/4/2015 | 5:53:11 PM
Altiscale CEO describes Cutting's sense of system design
This comment came in from Raymie Stata, who hired Doug Cutting at Yahoo at the time Stata was chief architect of algorithmic search. (He's now CEO of Hadoop company, Altiscale.) "What I appreciate about Doug is that he has a great design sense--relatively few programmers have that--and yet he's also very practical (and prodigious), so he gets things done fast.  Lucene and Avro demonstrate Doug's originality and creativity, and the result is clean but practical systems that have become very popular. The case of Hadoop is different: his good design sense told him that the Google guys did a great job and that there wasn't much sense in trying to improve upon that. He stated this quite explicitly. While those around them (some inside Yahoo!, some out) were busy trying to improve upon the MapReduce paradigm, Doug used Google's paper as the blueprint and (with Mike Cafarella) cranked out the initial implementation amazingly fast. This was important, because it turned out that the important engineering was more about building an implementation that could scale, rather than improving upon the abstraction. It's unusual for a single developer to have two 'smash hits' in Open Source (Lucene and Hadoop). I chalk that up to Doug's combination of design sense and practicality." - Raymie Stata, CEO of Altiscale

 

 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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9/4/2015 | 6:25:03 PM
How about Chris Lindblad as the 10th?
A nominee that's come in as the tenth pioneer is Chris Lindblad, co-founder of MarkLogic predecessor Cerisent in 2001. It became MarkLogic in 2005 with headquarters in San Carlos, Calif. He is the former chief architect of the Ultraseek search engine at Infoseek; Ultraseek is now part of Autonomy. Lindblad still works as chief of development at the firm. MarkLogic is a document-oriented database that evolved out of XML database roots, which can also conduct relational's ACID transactions. The BBC used MarkLogic for its 2012 Olympic Data Services. So is Chris a NoSQL pioneer or a combined database system pioneer? Any votes for Chris Lindblad?

 

 
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