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January 9, 2012 / berniespang

Have we entered a new era of data management? I believe so.

I recently read a TechTarget article based on an interview with Michael Stonebraker, a computer scientist who has been in the database software game for some time.  While the title of the article (“Michael Stonebraker predicts trouble for relational databases in 2012”) serves as a provocative attention grabber, I do not agree it is the correct, substantive conclusion.   As my earlier posts outline, I agree with the substance of Michael’s points – that we are no longer in an era where solution developers believe “the answer to all data challenges is a relational database.”   But that only means trouble for providers of relational database management software, if they do not recognize this reality and offer the market a broader set of capabilities for the new generation of solutions.

NoSQL, Big Data and Cloud, while each important to the new generation of solutions, are likewise not the answer to all needs – individually or collectively.  And as Micheal points out in his interview, ACID [atomicity, consistency, isolation, durability] qualities of service can be just as important when using these technologies as they are for business critical data best managed in a relational database.  In this new era of data management it is critical that we  optimize for both functional and qualities of service requirements.

The Information Management team at IBM certainly recognizes this market need.  We offered an Hadoop-based “Big Data” management system, InfoSphere BigInsights, in both a no-charge Basic Edition as well as a more robust Enterprise Edition –  just as we do with DB2 and Informix relational data systems.  Contrary to how I read Oracle’s introduction of its Big Data system, IBM does not consider Hadoop as merely a mechanism for filtering data into a relation database system for subsequent analysis.  Sure that is a valid use case, but perhaps more so is the use of such a system itself for information analysis.  Most client engagements we have seen involve a very complementary integration of the 2 types of systems – each supporting the analysis it does best and sharing the resulting insights appropriately with the other for use in further analysis.  The same complementary relationship is true when InfoSphere Streams is used for analyzing information as it flows in greater volume and/or velocity than can be cost effectively stored.  Or when Informix TimeSeries is being used to save and analyze instrumentation data with greater performance and efficiency than a relational database system can.

The growth of something new does not mean the death of something old

In the late 80’s/early 90’s the death of the mainframe was predicted because of the new era of  “distributed computing.”  In reality, the new types of systems opened new uses of computing to drive business growth, while the volume of business computing best done on the System z “mainframe” also continued to grow.  IBM recognized this reality and is the leader in business computing servers because it offers leading products across Power System (POWER/Unix), x (x86/Linux) and z (z/OS) system lines.

I believe this new era of data management similarly does not mean the “death of the relational database.”  It is fair to say, however, that it could mean trouble for software providers that ignore this new wave of data management needs, and instead tell customers to fit the new square pegs into their existing round hole.  I can assure you that IBM is not one of those.

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