Oracle: SQL Best For Big Data Analysis - InformationWeek

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10/2/2014
12:55 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Oracle: SQL Best For Big Data Analysis

Oracle admits there's a place for Hadoop and NoSQL, but it's sticking with its relational-database-centric view of big data opportunity.

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The relational database is maligned and misrepresented by big-data zealots. That's the perspective Oracle EVP and Database Group leader Andy Mendelsohn shared at this week's Oracle OpenWorld event.

"A lot of people out there say, 'Relational databases are old, legacy products from 40 years ago,' and now you want something new, like NoSQL or NewSQL," Mendelsohn began in a broad-ranging, hour-long keynote. "You can rest assured that relational databases will keep evolving as needs and technologies evolve."

As the market-share leader in relational databases, Oracle is invariably cited by big-data vendors of every description as the incumbent competition. Indeed, many of those upstarts are thriving on IT budget dollars that might have otherwise gone to Oracle. Mendelsohn's message was that investments in Oracle will advance big data (and cloud) aspirations.

[Want more on Oracle Big Data Discovery? Read Oracle Unveils Hadoop Data Exploration Tool.]

"One of the big myths out there is you need NoSQL databases or Hadoop because relational databases can't deal with unstructured data," he said. "As you all know as Oracle customers, we added support for unstructured data 20 years ago. In fact, we've extended SQL so you can do smart things with unstructured data."

If you have geospatial coordinates, for example, you can ask the database to show you all the customers within a 10-mile radius of your store. "You can't do that with NoSQL databases," Mendelsohn said, allowing, "Maybe you can do that with a lot of work in some of the other system."

Oracle EVP Mendelsohn defends relational databases at Oracle OpenWorld.
Oracle EVP Mendelsohn defends relational databases at Oracle OpenWorld.

Here's where NoSQL vendors Basho and DataStax would point out that the open-source databases that they support (Riak and Cassandra, respectively) are integrated with the Solr search engine, which supports geospatial searches. A separate query approach, yes, but it doesn't sound like a lot of work.

Mendelsohn also noted that Oracle has extended its flavor of SQL to handle JSON (Java Script Object Notation), a fast-growing data type often used by web and mobile applications. And with JSON support recently added to Oracle Database 12c in a July update, you can now add JSON columns to the relational database and use SQL extensions to pluck out attributes or fields from JSON documents.

Here's where a NoSQL vendor like MongoDB might point out that the JSON support that Oracle, IBM (with DB2), and other relational database vendors have introduced doesn't perform in quite the same way as a NoSQL database.

"You end up with compromises with most of these products, like you can't do joins or you can't use all of the indexes that they support, or you can't access

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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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Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
10/4/2014 | 12:14:21 AM
Re: Our view
I concur with you. It's not so meaningful to argue if NoSQL and Hadoop are much better than traditional RDBMS and SQL. They are designed in different era and for different purposes. As IT professional, you need to be able to take the best weapon depending on your battle.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/3/2014 | 5:11:42 PM
Re: Our view
That's a good point on transactional vs. analytical and a distinction that didn't come up in Mendelsohn chat -- mostly because he was also talking about Hadoop, which is a high-scale platform for analytics. SQL does play as a language for transactional work, however, and I would say that Mendelsohn is correct in observing that NoSQL vendors need to mature their languages. Many have SQL-inspired languages, including Cassandra with CQL. Scalability and cost at scale are clearly problems for Oracle and other relational databases, so unless or until they can answer that calling, the coexistence of RDBMS and NoSQL is, as you say, assured.
RSCHUMACHER400
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RSCHUMACHER400,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/3/2014 | 2:34:37 PM
Our view
Nearly all of us here at DataStax have come out of the RDBMS world, have decades of experience with Oracle and other relational engines, and as such, we certainly respect the technology. 

But the enterprises we engage with today use a combination of RDBMS and NoSQL, with the former mostly serving system of record use cases, while the latter is optimized for system of engagement applications (although NoSQL is making strong inroads into system of record apps as well). The fact is, today's Internet Enterprise applications necessitate a new database foundation that provides a more flexible data model (which goes beyond just support for unstructured data and JSON), a simpler and more cost effective performance/scale model, and an optimized data distribution model that provides both full write/read anywhere capabilities as well as always-on availability. And these are things that a NoSQL database like Cassandra was built to provide. 

Robin Schumacher

VP of Products, DataStax
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 4:45:20 PM
The other side of analytics
Mendelsohn is not Oracle's analytics guru. That's a seperate unit that's working on R-based algos and other advanced analytics working on Exadata. Another tidbit of note from Mendelsohn: SAS is working on SaaS services based on the Oracle 12c multi-tenant database.
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