Technology revolutions are typically messy affairs. A new idea springs from an upstart and dozens of companies jump into the space. Some improve on the original idea. Others don’t. Millions of investment dollars are lost, but billions more will eventually be made — or saved — by the winning companies and the customers they enable.
The database industry and, more broadly, the data industry for the enterprise, is at such a juncture. What was a murky landscape a year ago is now clearing up. Over-hyped, open source NoSQL companies are struggling to create sustainable business models, losing cost advantages and faltering in delivering enterprise-hardened products. As DataStax just did recently, they’re also forking the open source code to a proprietary future. That means they aren’t really open and communities fracture when this happens and innovation slows down.
On the other end of the industry spectrum are the incumbent database giants led by Oracle. Their relational databases have dominated for three decades, but they’re yesterday’s technology built for yesterday’s data challenges, and for virtually all of the incumbents, their financial results reflect the success of the maturing NoSQL database market that includes MarkLogic, an enterprise-ready operational and transactional NoSQL database.
Data is no longer small, neat, structured and static as was the case when Oracle’s relational database technology took off in the 1980s. Instead, data now flows into enterprises from websites, wearables, video, smartphones, cars, social media, contact centers, customers traditional ERP systems and the expanding IoT ecosystem. Enterprises need immediate and real-time access to this data to make smart business decisions. And they need to effectively operationalize the data to run their businesses.
Yet relational database technology was never designed for this work. They get clunky as more data sources pour in, enslaving enterprises to cumbersome and costly ETL processes. Data gets stuck in silos and enterprises lack a unified and actionable view into it. That comes at a huge cost to our entire economy. Forrester has estimated that between 60 percent and 73 percent of data that enterprises have access to goes unused for business intelligence and analytics.
Like IBM did in the past, Oracle and the other incumbents are adding features to old technologies in an attempt to meet today’s challenges — features such as in-memory, graph, JSON and XML support. None of them have changed their underlying architectures so their efforts will fall short, just as IBM’s did in the last generational shift of the database industry 35 years ago. What’s more, their widely publicized moves of shifting old technology to the cloud changes the deployment model but doesn’t help solve the modern data challenges their customers are facing. An outdated database technology on the cloud is still an outdated database.
In fact, Oracle is now in the same position that IBM was when Oracle usurped the main-frame with new database technology. During my 14 years at Oracle, we were shocked at how unresponsive IBM was to the challenge. Then it became clear. IBM’s business model was highly dependent — as Oracle’s is now — on legacy businesses, products, relationships, hardware, and services. To spring to the next generation technology would undermine all that it had built. Innovators Dilemma at its best. Yet no company ever thrives on past success. Oracle can’t deal with this change and the ability to change is everything in business.
NoSQL Shake Out & Emergent Victors
There is definitely shake out of the NoSQL vendors and MarkLogic is one of the emergent victors. As an enterprise-ready NoSQL database that handles multiple models natively and doesn’t care if you have two or hundreds of data silos, MarkLogic is becoming the database platform for those with complex data integration problems. In fact, some companies are skipping the relational generation altogether and going straight from the mainframe to NoSQL. Virginia’s Fairfax County recently migrated years of historical data from its 30-year-old mainframe system to MarkLogic’s NoSQL. Residents and employees can now more easily and quickly search all the data—including property records going back to the 1950s and both old and new data coming from multiple data silos.
Native NoSQL is what professor Michael Franklin, a respected database expert, has called a “complete game-changer.” As our economy goes more global than ever, competitive advantages will become harder to find. Foregoing the value of actionable data will no longer be an option. NoSQL will keep enterprises in the game and will be the foundation of next-generation operational and transactional systems.