This post is the spiritual sequal to my (slight) diatribe against database powered websites of a few weeks ago. And a continuation of my thoughts regarding the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle. Just to add a quick subtitle: Oracle is a huge vendor of database software, and about 18 months ago (? or so) Sun acquired mySQL which is the largest and most successful open-source competitor to Oracle's products.
With all this swirling around in my head I've been thinking about the future of database technology. Like ya'do...
For many years, 15 at least, relational database systems (rdbms') have ruled without much opposition. This is where Oracle has succeeded, and mySQL is an example of this kind of system, and on the whole they accomplish what they set out to do very well.
The issue, and this is what I touched on the last time around, is that these kinds of systems don't "bend" well, which is to say, if you have a system that needs flexibility, or that is storing a lot of dissimilar sorts of data, the relational database model stops making a lot of sense. Relational databases are big collections of connected tabular data and unless the data is regular and easily tabulated... it's a big mess.
So we're starting to see things like CouchDB, google's big table, Etoile's CoreObject MonetDB that manage data, but in a much more flexible and potentially multi-dimensional way. Which is good when you need to merge dissimilar kinds of data.
So I can tell the winds are blowing in a new direction, but this is very much outside of the boundaries of my area of expertice or familiarity. This leads me to two obvious conclusions
1. For people in the know: What's happening with database engines, and the software that is built upon these database systems. I suspect there's always going to be a certain measure of legacy data around, and developers who are used to developing against RBDMS' aren't going to let go of that easily.
At the same time, there's a lot of rumbling that suggests that something new is going to happen. Does anyone have a sense of where that's going?
2. For people who lost me at when I said the word database: In a lot of ways, I think this has a huge impact on how we use computers and what technology is able to do in the near term. Computers are really powerful today. In the nineties the revolution in computing was that hardware was vastly more powerful than it had been before; in the aughts it became cheaper. In the teens--I'd wager--it'll become more useful, and the evolution of database systems is an incredibly huge part of this next phase of development.