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Apple Takes a Little ACID with its NoSQL

There was some big news in the NoSQL world with the acquisition of FoundationDB by Apple. When Apple makes a move it always has an impact and this move was no exception.

The first reaction was around what I like to think of as the perils of “faux-pen” source. Forbes chronicled the turmoil in the community in its article An Open Source Cautionary Tale, Apple Buys and Shutters FoundationDB. This builds on a well-timed article the week before from Silicon Angle, NoSQL market frames larger debate: Can open source be profitable?, framing the larger question – only to have it play out with Apple at the helm the following week!

Lost in that discussion was what Apple was going to do with the technology. Apple itself says nothing – only that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we do not discuss our purpose or plans.” A couple of pieces have speculated that Apple will bring in FoundationDB to power its operations. Since a good amount of Apple’s public data is focused on media and retail, acquiring new data capabilities to deal with customer interactions makes a lot of sense.

But perhaps the best place to look is on FoundationDB’s own site. The first stop is the FoundationDB home page where, like most players in the NoSQL space, the company talks about flexibility with data: “Developers can store all types of data.” It’s true that this is a core value of NoSQL databases where schema flexibility enables the management of a much wider and diverse set of information. FoundationDB also touts its ability to “easily scale.” The ability to scale out and in as your needs change is also another basic tenet of NoSQL. It would seem that these capabilities are a good match for Apple and nearly every organization that sees the value of combining multiple sources of data with any kind of usage or data scale.

But the real story here can be found in FoundationDB’s The Transaction Manifesto white paper. FoundationDB, along with MarkLogic, is one of the few NoSQL databases to understand the value of transactions, actually know what ACID means and promote its importance in maintaining data integrity. This one quote sums it up: “Every application that needs to support simultaneous clients (concurrency) should be built using transactions with ACID properties.” These days, that’s just about every application out there that matters.

The company goes on to stress that transactions enable developer efficiency, promote simpler data models and make the database more reliable and flexible overall. The final word: “Transactions are the future of NoSQL”.

We at MarkLogic couldn’t agree more! The combination of schema flexibility and transactions make it possible to not just aggregate the data, but to actually do something with it. The fact that MarkLogic provides ACID transactions is one of the major reasons Gartner named MarkLogic the Number 1 Operational Data Warehouse Database Management System. Projects such as the Warner Bros digital supply chain that delivers orders for digital media, that enrolls citizens in healthcare plans and even NBC’s SNL 40th Anniversary app – that responds intuitively to user actions – illustrate how transactions and data flexibility have real world results.

For Apple, and any other media company or digital retailer, it is not just about having technology to manage complex data, it’s about being able to manage the transactions that underlay the business of interacting with customers.

Clearly Apple saw something it liked in FoundationDB and I think it’s the combination of being able to manage diverse data, ensure data integrity and easily scale as needed.

At MarkLogic we’re focused on making these capabilities available to everyone else.

Matt Turner - Chief Technology Officer - Media Publishing | MarkLogic

Matt Turner is the CTO, Media and Manufacturing at MarkLogic where he develops strategy and solutions for the media, entertainment and manufacturing markets. Matt works with customers and prospects to develop MarkLogic enterprise NoSQL operational data hubs that enable them to get the most of their data and deliver their products to the fans, audiences and customers that love them.

Before joining MarkLogic, Matt was at Sony Music and PC World developing innovative information and content delivery applications.

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