Articles by Guy Harrison
To predict how MongoDB may navigate COVID-19 and post COVID-19 environment would require an ability to predict how our industry as a whole will fare—which is a big ask. Nevertheless, let's give it a shot.
Posted May 13, 2020
In the HBO series "Silicon Valley," Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks attempted to return power to the people by creating a peer-to-peer "new internet" in which data and communications are distributed across all the devices on the network with no central point of control. In the real world, several technology companies are trying to do the same thing, and blockchain is the critical enabling technology. Elastos is one of these next-generation blockchain projects.
Posted April 08, 2020
Posted March 05, 2020
The decade just ended has truly been revolutionary. Technological forces have combined to revolutionize almost every aspect of our daily lives and transform our society—and not always for the better. But although the components of a revolution were in place in 2010, the transformations that would result from the integration of cloud, mobile, and social were far from obvious.
Posted February 10, 2020
When I was a young man—a long, long time ago now—I worked as an Oracle DBA (Oracle version 6, if you must know). I remember my astonishment at finding out that information in the database was stored in plain text within the database files. That meant if I could gain read access just to those files, I could read all the information in the database. It didn't matter what security controls I, as the DBA implemented at the database level—an attacker who could gain read access to the files on disk could read everything.
Posted January 02, 2020
Prior to 2008, whatever your database question, the answer was always, "Oracle"—or sometimes, "MySQL" or, "SQL Server." The relational database management system (RDBMS) model—really a triumvirate of technologies combining Codd's relational data model, the ACID transaction model, and the SQL language—dominated database management systems completely.
Posted December 18, 2019
Prior to 2008, whatever your database question, the answer was always,"Oracle"—or sometimes, "MySQL" or, "SQL Server." The relational database management system (RDBMS) model—really a triumvirate of technologies combining Codd's relational data model, the ACID transaction model, and the SQL language—dominated database management systems completely.
Posted December 09, 2019
Researchers at Google recently announced they had achieved "quantum supremacy" by performing a non-trivial computation on a quantum computer that decisively outperformed a "classical" computer performing the same task. Although IBM disputed some details of the achievement, this announcement will probably stand as a milestone in the development of quantum computing technology. In minutes Google's quantum computer performed the calculation that would have taken most traditional computers thousands of years.
Posted December 01, 2019
Despite the failed promises of the data lake, the concept retains some resonance in larger enterprises, and so MongoDB has chosen to leverage the term for one of its latest offerings. MongoDB's Atlas Data Lake bears only superficial similarity to Hadoop-powered data lakes. Nevertheless, it's a useful feature that stands to see significant uptake.
Posted October 31, 2019
Regardless of its long-term prospects, Hadoop remains a pivotal technology in the history of databases. Hadoop was one of the key technologies that broke the stranglehold of relational databases, and it forced a shift in the way in which we think about and store data.
Posted October 01, 2019
MongoDB 4.2 may seem like a grab bag of features, but all of the features represent useful additions to your MongoDB toolkit. Some features—the Atlas Data Lake, for instance—need significant enhancements to cover all conceivable use cases. Nevertheless, MongoDB 4.2 will be a useful upgrade and I'd expect it to be widely deployed.
Posted September 03, 2019
After almost a generation of relative stability, database technology has been rocked over the past decade by two megatrends—the end of the one-size-fits-all RDBMS model and the rise of cloud computing.
Posted August 07, 2019
MongoDB gained popularity with developers very early on, but serious database engineers were often skeptical about MongoDB architecture and implementation. One area that came under some criticism was cluster consistency.
Posted July 18, 2019
The blockchain technology market is generally believed to be about $2 billion in 2019 and growing at an annual rate in excess of 50%—with projections for the market to exceed $10 billion by the end of 2025. Almost all of that new spending will be cloud-oriented; very few organizations consider running their own blockchain hardware. Therefore, it's not surprising to see cloud vendors actively promoting blockchain solutions.
Posted June 10, 2019
If you have been wondering whether the tipping point for database-as-a-service (DBaaS) has arrived, it's instructive to look at the success of MongoDB Atlas.
Posted May 01, 2019
The implications of CAP Theorem, more than anything else, led to the schism in modern database management systems. With the rise of global applications with extremely high uptime requirements, it became unthinkable to sacrifice availability for perfect consistency. Almost in unison, the leading Web 2.0 companies such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook introduced new database services that were only "eventually" consistent but globally and highly available. Google has tried to resolve this database schism with its Spanner SQL database.
Posted April 09, 2019
MongoDB's recent and well-publicized new license—the Server Side Public License (SSPL)—was explicitly designed to prevent cloud vendors such as Amazon from deploying a MongoDB cloud service without paying MongoDB license fees. In early January, Amazon announced DocumentDB, a MongoDB-compatible cloud database service.
Posted March 04, 2019
Virtually all analyst firms, industry experts, and technology authorities still believe that blockchain is a key innovation in computer science and expect blockchain to have a massive impact across multiple industries over the next 10 years. The same authorities also agree that the ultimate success of blockchain technology depends on significant advancements to overcome the limitations inherent in the current implementations. In particular, the environmental impact of the public blockchain is too high, and the throughput of the public blockchain is too low.
Posted February 08, 2019
For some time now, the majority of open source investment has come from venture capital and mega-corporations. There is good reason to think that this level of patronage will not persist indefinitely. Should VC-funded open source companies fail to return on investment, then VC investment will dry up. The high-profile companies bolstering open source do so primarily for selfish motives and can't necessarily be relied on to do so forever. So it's essential that companies that develop and market open source products be able to generate some return on their investment.
Posted January 02, 2019
GraphQL has emerged as the favorite alternative to REST for modern web API design. GraphQL was first used internally at Facebook before being open sourced in 2015. GraphQL is described as a data query and manipulation language which at first glance might suggest more in common with SQL than with REST. However, in reality both GraphQL and REST are applicable across a very similar range of web API scenarios.
Posted December 04, 2018
It's been a while since MongoDB has felt threatened by another document database vendor. Historically, the closest contender for document database dominance was Couchbase, the offspring of the original CouchDB database, which arguably ignited the document database segment.
Posted November 01, 2018
We've all seen the movie about the kidnap victim whose family asks for a "proof of life." The proof is typically a photograph of the victim posed with a current newspaper. Blockchain technology is now allowing us to provide similar proofs for the existence of digital assets. The immutable nature of the blockchain—the fact that it is impossible to overwrite time-stamped blockchain ledger entries—allows us to create "proof of existence" entries for digital assets.
Posted October 10, 2018
We all know that self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles are coming. Prototypes of self-driving vehicles can be seen around Silicon Valley, and self-driving features are commercially available in Teslas and other brands. However, there are significant "smart car" features on the way that will affect both human- and self-driven vehicles.
Posted August 08, 2018
The introduction of transactions in MongoDB 4.0 represents possibly the most significant change in MongoDB's architecture since its original release. The lack of a transactional capability previously defined the capabilities of the database: Without transactions, MongoDB was blocked from consideration for a wide range of application scenarios. With the implementation of transactions, MongoDB can for the first time truly claim to be a general purpose DBMS.
Posted July 02, 2018
It may seem strange to see MongoDB expanding the very features of the relational databases that it originally rejected. In the last few releases, we've seen implementation of joins, strict schemas, and now ACID transactions. However, what this indicates is that MongoDB is increasingly contending for serious enterprise database workloads: MongoDB is expanding the scope of its ambitions.
Posted June 01, 2018
The serverless computing architecture—sometimes called function as a service or FaaS—hides not just the underlying virtual machine, but also the application server itself. The cloud simply agrees to execute your code on demand or in response to an event.
Posted April 12, 2018
It's understandable that those new to MongoDB - a so-called "schema free" database - might assume that they no longer need to be concerned with the art-science of data modeling. However, in reality data modeling is just as important in MongoDB as in other databases. Indeed, because of some of the modeling principles for MongoDB are less well understood, arguably, more attention needs to be given to the data modeling process.
Posted March 07, 2018
The Bitcoin bubble is a mixed bag for blockchain and cryptocurrency enthusiasts. While the incredible increase in Bitcoin's valuation has resulted in a huge windfall for early adopters and enhanced the recognition of blockchain technology, it has also highlighted the volatility of Bitcoin as a currency and the limitations of the underlying blockchain network.
Posted February 01, 2018
The suddenness of the non-relational "breakout" created a lot of noise and confusion and—at least initially—an explosion of new database systems. However, the database landscape is settling down, and in the past few years, the biggest meta trend in database management has been a reduction in the number of leading vendors and consolidation of core technologies. Additionally, we're starting to see database as a service (DBaaS) offerings become increasingly credible alternatives to on-premise or do-it-yourself cloud database configuration.
Posted January 03, 2018
MongoDB 3.6 was announced publically in November and should be in production by the time this article is posted. There are no shock features in this version, but it is an attractive release that should see rapid uptake.
Posted January 02, 2018
Posted December 01, 2017
In filing for its IPO, MongoDB has been required to disclose both their strategies for growth as well as risks inherent in their IPO. There's no shock disclosure here, but they are certainly worth reviewing: They represent the company's official strategy for success.
Posted November 01, 2017
Virtual reality (VR)—the use of computers to create a complete simulation of a human reality—has been an active concept since the early days of digital computing and a popular theme in science fiction for many decades. The idea became part of mainstream consciousness with the release of The Matrix in 1999, in which the protagonist turned out to be living in a simulation indistinguishable from the real thing.
Posted October 18, 2017
MongoDB recently announced some interesting, though incremental, enhancements. These included improved "joins" in the aggregation framework, better document validation using JSON schema, and more reliable behavior in the event of network failures. These features attempt to close the gap between the functionality of MongoDB and traditional relational databases - joins, schemas, and commits. On top of these incremental updates, MongoDB announced a couple of features that intrude on functionality usually provided by application servers or desktop programs.
Posted September 07, 2017
The emergence of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology may prove to be almost as significant an innovation as the internet itself. Blockchain offers a mechanism for the mediation of any transactions that previously would have required trusted third parties, while cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin may eventually become a significant alternative to traditional "fiat" (e.g., government-backed) currencies. These technologies could eventually revolutionize the global banking infrastructure which has underpinned global commerce for centuries.
Posted August 09, 2017
Posted July 05, 2017
Posted June 01, 2017
MongoDB faced its worst-ever public relations challenge earlier this year when a spate of ransomware attacks plagued tens of thousands of Mongo instances. It's important to realize that we are not talking about some sort of obscure vulnerability here - these MongoDB databases were configured with NO passwords at all, and were easily found listening on the default port (27017) on publicly-accessible servers.
Posted May 05, 2017
There's a wide and growing acceptance that containers are replacing operating systems as the deployment target for application components. While application modules were previously designed to be installed upon a specific version of an operating system on a particular hardware platform, they are now increasingly being designed to run within a virtualized representation of an operating system—most frequently within a Docker container.
Posted April 07, 2017
Imagine you are standing by a railway track near a lever that switches between two sets of tracks. A runaway rail trolley is heading toward the fork in the tracks, and five people are trapped on the currently activated line. You could switch the trolley to the alternative track, but there is a single person trapped there as well. Do you switch the trolley? The artificial intelligence community is increasingly wrestling with similar moral conundrums implicit in the ever-more pervasive algorithms that underlie much of our technological infrastructure.
Posted February 08, 2017
Java started its life in the early 1990s as an attempt to develop an architecture-independent language that could be used in consumer electronics and other embedded contexts. It found itself in the right place at the right time when the web exploded in the mid-1990s and over the next 10 years became one of the mainstays of web development. Today, Java remains as popular as ever. It's arguably the most popular programming language of our generation.
Posted January 03, 2017
The many compromises demanded by our current plethora of database technologies make selecting a database system far harder than it ought to be. Whichever DBMS you choose, you are probably going to experience a "not-quite-right" solution.
Posted December 08, 2016
It's been amusing to watch the NoSQL movement transition from a "We don't need no stinking SQL" attitude to a "Can I please have some SQL with that?" philosophy. The nonrelational databases that emerged over the past 8 years initially offered no SQL capabilities. However, today we have an embarrassment of SQL options for "NoSQL." Hive offers SQL for Hadoop systems, Spark has SparkSQL, MongoDB has a SQL-based BI connector, and so on.
Posted December 01, 2016
The business of arranging millions or billions of zeros and ones in exactly the right order—also known as the business of software—has undergone many significant shifts over the history of computing, and we might be about to experience yet another.
Posted November 02, 2016
For many years now, Cassandra has been renowned for its ability to handle massive scaling and global availability. Based on Amazon's Dynamo, Cassandra implements a masterless architecture which allows database transactions to continue even when the database is subjected to massive network or data center disruption. Even in the circumstance in which two geographically separate data centers are completely isolated through a network outage, a Cassandra database may continue to operate in both geographies, reconciling conflicting transactions—albeit possibly imperfectly—when the outage is resolved.
Posted October 07, 2016
It is widely accepted that to realize the full potential of blockchain technology we will need a next-generation blockchain to supplement the one provided in the Bitcoin implementation. Ethereum represents just such a next-generation blockchain.
Posted September 02, 2016
Posted August 04, 2016
By the mid-2000s, a huge number of web apps were built upon the so-called LAMP stack. LAMP applications utilize the Linux operating system, Apache web server and MySQL database server, and implement application logic in PHP or another language starting with the letter "P," such as Python or Perl. But the LAMP stack is now essentially obsolete technology, and the MEAN stack provides a lot of productivity advantages, especially for modern highly-interactive web sites. But the MEAN stack is not without compromise. Here's why.
Posted July 12, 2016
For those who haven't encountered the term, the "trough of disillusionment" is a standard phase within the Gartner hype cycle. New technologies are expected to pass from a "peak of inflated expectations" through the trough of disillusionment before eventually reaching the "plateau of productivity." Most new technologies are expected to go through this trough, so it's hardly surprising to find big data entering this phase.
Posted June 09, 2016
It's become almost a standard career path in Silicon Valley: A talented engineer creates a valuable open source software commodity inside of a larger organization, then leaves that company to create a new startup to commercialize the open source product. Indeed, this is virtually the plot line for the hilarious HBO comedy series, Silicon Valley. Jay Krepes, a well-known engineer at LinkedIn and creator of the NoSQL database system, Voldemort, has such a story.
Posted March 31, 2016
In a new book titled "Next Generation Databases," Guy Harrison, an executive director of R&D at Dell, shares what every data professional needs to know about the future of databases in a world of NoSQL and big data.
Posted March 08, 2016
Few of us working in the software industry would dispute that agile methodologies represent a superior approach to older waterfall-style development methods. However, many software developers would agree that older enterprise-level processes often interact poorly with the agile methodology, and long for agility at the enterprise level. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) provides a recipe for adopting agile principles at the enterprise level.
Posted March 03, 2016
Say what you will about Oracle, it certainly can't be accused of failing to move with the times. Typically, Oracle comes late to a technology party but arrives dressed to kill.
Posted February 10, 2016
The development of a functional and practical quantum computing system has been "pending" for some decades now, but there are some real signs that this technology may become decisive soon. The implications of cryptography are encouraging major government investment - both the U.S. and China, in particular, are heavily investing in quantum computing technology. The arms race to develop functional quantum computing has begun.
Posted January 07, 2016
It's commonly asserted—and generally accepted—that the era of the "one-size-fits-all" database is over. We expect that enterprises will use a combination of database technologies to meet the distinct needs created by various application architectures.
Posted December 02, 2015
Almost every commercial endeavor and, indeed, almost every human undertaking, has software at its core. Yet, with software at the core of so much of our society, it's surprising to realize it's getting harder and harder to actually make a living selling software. In his recent book, "The Software Paradox," Stephen O'Grady - co-founder of analyst firm RedMonk - provides a cohesive and persuasive analysis of what those of us in the software business have been experiencing for several years - it's getting increasingly difficult to generate revenues selling "shrink-wrapped" software.
Posted November 09, 2015
There are quite a few databases competing to be "king" of NoSQL. MongoDB claims to have the fastest-growing NoSQL database ecosystem, MarkLogic claims to be the only Enterprise NoSQL database, while other databases claim to be the fastest or most scalable system.
Posted October 07, 2015
Shortly after the explosion of non-relational databases, around 2009, it became apparent that rather than being part of the problem, SQL would instead continue to be part of the solution. If the new wave of database systems excluded the vast population of SQL-literate professionals, then their uptake in the business world would be impeded. Furthermore, a whole generation of business intelligence tools use SQL as the common way of translating user information requests into database queries. Nowhere was the drive toward SQL adoption more clear than in the case of Hadoop.
Posted August 10, 2015
Dystopian visions of a future in which automation eliminates the vast majority of jobs are nothing new. However, even though previous predictions of doom have been misplaced, there is new concern about the impact of the latest generation of automation on the nature of work and the prospects for universal employment in the future. In particular, we're increasingly seeing automation disrupt jobs that were long considered to require human judgment or abilities.
Posted July 08, 2015
There's no doubt that the new wave of nonrelational systems represents an important and necessary revolution in database technology. But while we need to avoid being wedded to the technologies of the past and continuously innovate, ignoring the lessons of history is never a good idea.
Posted June 09, 2015
You would have to have been living under a rock for the past few years not to have heard of Bitcoin. Bitcoin is an electronic "crypto" currency which can be used like cash in many web transactions. At time of writing there are about 14 million bitcoins in circulation, trading at approximately $250 for a total value of about $3.5 billion.
Posted May 14, 2015
While the new data stores and other software components are generally open source and incur little or no licensing costs, the architecture of the new stacks grows ever more complex, and this complexity is creating a barrier to adoption for more modestly sized organizations.
Posted April 06, 2015
Someone new to big data and Hadoop might be forgiven for feeling a bit confused after reading some of the recent press coverage on Hadoop. On one hand, Hadoop has achieved very bullish coverage in mainstream media. However, counter to this positive coverage, there have been a number of claims that Hadoop is overhyped. What's a person to make of all these mixed messages?
Posted February 11, 2015
Smart watches can perform continuous biometric validation (through pulse signatures and other cues), and are always at hand - or at least, at wrist. Coupled with the ability to continually monitor health and fitness, and perhaps even the ability to include basic phone capability, there are real advantages to be had as smart watches mature.
Posted January 07, 2015
The introduction of increased transactional capability into non-relational databases makes sense—in the same way that providing SQL layers on top of Hadoop and many other non-relational stores makes sense. But it does raise the possibility of convergence of relational and non-relational systems. After all, if I take a non-relational database and add SQL and ACID transactions, have I still got a non-relational database, or have I come full circle back to the relational model?
Posted December 03, 2014
We are now seeing a seismic shift and increase in the significance of social network data for marketing and brand analysis. The next wave of social network exploitation promises to allow companies to narrowly target consumers and leads to predict market trends, and to more actively influence consumer behavior.
Posted November 12, 2014
One feature of the big data revolution is the acknowledgement that a single database management system architecture cannot meet all needs. However, the Lambda Architecture provides a useful pattern for combining multiple big data technologies to achieve multiple enterprise objectives. First proposed by Nathan Marz, it attempts to provide a combination of technologies that together can provide the characteristics of a web-scale system that can satisfy requirements for availability, maintainability, and fault-tolerance.
Posted October 08, 2014
In this month's column, Guy Harrison writes about Docker, an open source project based on Linux containers that is showing rapid adoption. "Unlike virtual machines, Docker containers do not have to include a copy of the guest OS - each Docker container essentially shares the same copy of the underlying OS," explains Harrison. "This allows Docker containers to be much smaller, which, in turn, allows them to be more easily deployed, provides for greater density (more containers per host) and permits faster initialization."
Posted September 10, 2014
The pioneers of big data, such as Google, Amazon, and eBay, generated a "data exhaust" from their core operations that was more than sufficient to allow them to create data-driven process automation. But, for smaller enterprises, data might be the scarcest commodity. Hence, the emergence of data marketplaces.
Posted August 05, 2014
Big data analytics is a complex field, but if you understand the basic concepts—such as the difference between supervised and unsupervised learning—you are sure to be ahead of the person who wants to talk data science at your next cocktail party!
Posted June 11, 2014
The "Internet of Things" (IoT) is shifting from aspirational buzzword to a concrete and lucrative market. New-generation computing devices require new types of operating systems and networks. While many have been initially based on some variation of the Linux OS and connect using existing Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless protocols, new operating systems and networking protocols are emerging.
Posted May 08, 2014
About 3 years ago, the AMP (Algorithms, Machines, People) lab was established at U.C. Berkeley to attack the emerging challenges of advanced analytics and machine learning on big data. The resulting Berkeley Data Analytics Stack—particularly the Spark processing engine—has shown rapid uptake and tremendous promise.
Posted April 04, 2014
Ironically, although the thin client advocates were right about many things - the success of browser-based applications, in particular - they were dead wrong about the diminishing role of the OS. More than ever, the OS is the source of competitive differentiation between various platforms, and a clear focus of innovation for the foreseeable future.
Posted March 12, 2014
Solid State Disk (SSD)—particularly flash SSD—promised to revolutionize database performance by providing a storage media that was orders of magnitude faster than magnetic disk, offering the first significant improvement in disk I/O latency for decades. Aerospike is a NoSQL database that attempts to provide a database architecture that can fully exploit the I/O characteristics of flash SSD.
Posted February 10, 2014
New devices promise to open up ways for us to improve our mental functioning and perhaps to further revolutionize social networking and big data. A world in which Facebook "likes" are generated automatically might not be far off, and mining the big data generated from our own brains has some amazing - though sometimes creepy - implications.
Posted January 07, 2014
Not all Hadoop packages offer a unique distribution of the Hadoop core, but all attempt to offer a differentiated value proposition through additional software utilities, hardware, or cloud packaging. Against that backdrop, Intel's distribution of Hadoop might appear to be an odd duck since Intel is not in the habit of offering software frameworks, and the brand, while ubiquitous, is not associated specifically with Hadoop, databases or big data software. However, given its excellent partnerships across the computer industry, Intel has support from a variety of vendors, including Oracle and SAP, and many of the innovations in its distribution show real promise.
Posted December 04, 2013
Two new approaches to application quality have emerged: "risk-based testing" - pioneered in particular by Rex Black - and "exploratory testing" - as evangelized by James Bach and others. Neither claim to eradicate issues of application quality, which most likely will continue as long as software coding involves human beings. However, along with automation of the more routine tests, these techniques form the basis for higher quality application software.
Posted November 13, 2013
Security for NoSQL continues to evolve rapidly in order to attract wider enterprise adoption. Robust security is a must-have for any database in the enterprise, and over the decades since the emergence of the relational model, security and authentication capabilities have continually improved. The first new-generation non-relational "NoSQL" databases, like the early relational databases, had very simplistic security mechanisms. Here is how security for NoSQL is changing.
Posted October 09, 2013
We've seen a lot of progress in the nearly 50 years between 1965 and 2013: the modern smartphone and the World Wide Web, in particular,have been transformative. However, it's probably true that our current world would not astonish a time traveler from 1965 as much as 1965 would have surprised a visitor from 1915. Where are the jetpacks, flying cars, colonies on Mars? However, it does look like we are finallygoing to see one of the long-awaited benefits of the future: the self-driving car.
Posted September 11, 2013
In many ways, Hadoop is the most concrete technology underlying today's big data revolution, but it certainly does not satisfy those who want quick answers from their big data. Hadoop - at least Hadoop 1.0 - is a batch-oriented framework that allows for the economical execution of massively parallel workloads, but provides no capabilities for interactive or real-time execution.
Posted August 07, 2013
Like many of my generation, my early visions of the future were influenced by films like "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the original "Star Trek" TV series. In each of these, humans interact with computers using conversational English, posing complex questions and getting intelligent relevant responses. So, you can imagine how primed someone like me is to hear that Google has been explicitly trying to create that Star Trek computer. At the Google IO conference in San Francisco in May, Amit Singhal, Google senior vice president, spoke of his early childhood experiences watching "Star Trek," and his dreams of one day building that computer.
Posted July 09, 2013
When NoSQL first hit the IT consciousness in 2009, an explosion of NoSQL databases seemed to appear out of thin air. Some of these contenders had in fact been around for some time, with others thrown together rather quickly to exploit the NoSQL buzz. The NoSQL pack thinned out as leaders in specific categories emerged, but for some time, there was no clear leading key-value NoSQL database.
Posted June 13, 2013
The term "NoSQL" is widely acknowledged as an unfortunate and inaccurate tag for the non-relational databases that have emerged in the past five years. The databases that are associated with the NoSQL label have a wide variety of characteristics, but most reject the strict transactions and stringent relational model that are explicitly part of the relational design. The ACID (Atomic-Consistent-Independent-Durable) transactions of the relational model make it virtually impossible to scale across data centers while maintaining high availability, and the fixed schemas defined by the relational model are often inappropriate in today's world of unstructured and rapidly mutating data.
Posted April 10, 2013
Google's dominance of internet search has been uncontested for more than 12 years now. Before Google, search engines such as AltaVista indexed web pages and allowed for keyword search with an interface and functionality superficially similar to that provided by Google. However, these first-generation search engines provided relatively poor ordering of results. Because an internet search would return pages ranked by the number of times a term appeared on the website, unpopular or irrelevant sites would be just as likely to achieve top rank as popular sites.
Posted March 14, 2013
Hadoop is the most significant concrete technology behind the so called "Big Data" revolution. Hadoop combines an economical model for storing massive quantities of data - the Hadoop Distributed File System - with a flexible model for programming massively scalable programs - MapReduce. However, as powerful and flexible as MapReduce might be, it is hardly a productive programming model. Programming in MapReduce reminds one of programming in Assembly language - the simplest operations require substantial code.
Posted February 13, 2013
Coverage of Windows 8 has understandably focused on the revolutionary Metro interface. Many believe that this new interface, while fine for tablets and phones, is a step backwards for desktop productivity. By forcing users to switch between two modes of operation - desktop and Metro, Windows 8 diminishes productivity and imposes steep learning curve on new users. The Metro interface itself supports only very limited multi-tasking, so, serious work often must be done in the traditional Windows desktop. Microsoft implicitly acknowledges these limitations by providing the latest version of Microsoft Office, not in Metro format, but as traditional "desktop" applications.
Posted January 03, 2013
As the undisputed pioneer of big data, Google established most of the key technologies underlying Hadoop and many of the NoSQL databases. The Google File System (GFS) allowed clusters of commodity servers to present their internal disk storage as a unified file system and inspired the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS). Google's column-oriented key value store BigTable influenced many NoSQL systems such as Apache HBase, Cassandra and HyperTable. And, of course, the Google Map-Reduce algorithm became the foundation computing model for Hadoop and was widely implemented in other NoSQL systems such as MongoDB.
Posted December 06, 2012
Five years ago, Radio Frequency ID (RFID) seemed posed to revolutionize commerce. Way back in 2003, Wal-Mart announced that it would be requiring that RFID tags - so called "electronic barcodes" - be attached to virtually all merchandise. Many- myself included - became convinced that the Wal-Mart directive would be the tipping point leading to universal adoption of RFID tabs in consumer goods and elsewhere.
Posted November 13, 2012
It's in the nature of hype bubbles to obscure important new paradigms behind a cloud of excitement and exaggerated claims. For example, the phrase "big data" has been so widely and poorly applied that the term has become almost meaningless. Nevertheless, beneath the hype of big data there is a real revolution in progress, and more than anything else it revolves around Apache Hadoop. Let's look at why Hadoop is creating such a stir in database management circles, and identify the obstacles that must be overcome before Hadoop can become part of mainstream enterprise architecture.
Posted October 10, 2012
Google is the pioneer of big data. Technologies such as Google File System (GFS), BigTable and MapReduce formed the basis for open source Hadoop, which, more than any other technology, has brought big data within reach of the modern enterprise.
Posted October 10, 2012
The first computer program I ever wrote (in 1979, if you must know) was in the statistical package SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), and the second computer platform I used was SAS (Statistical Analysis System). Both of these systems are still around today—SPSS was acquired by IBM as part of its BI portfolio, and SAS is now the world's largest privately held software company. The longevity of these platforms—they have essentially outlived almost all contemporary software packages—speaks to the perennial importance of data analysis to computing.
Posted September 11, 2012
Throughout the 2000s, a huge number of website developers rejected the Enterprise Java or .NET platforms for web development in favor of the "LAMP" stack - Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/Python/PHP. Although the LAMP stack was arguably less scalable or powerful than the Java or .NET frameworks, it was typically easier to learn, faster in early stages of development - and definitely cheaper. When enterprise architects designed systems, they often chose commercial application servers and databases (Oracle, Microsoft, IBM). But, when web developers or startups faced these decisions, the LAMP stack was often the default choice.
Posted July 25, 2012
Seriously chronic geeks like me usually were raised on a strong diet of science fiction that shaped our expectations of the future. Reading Heinlein and Asimov as a boy led me to expect flying cars and robot servants. Reading William Gibson and other "cyberpunk" authors as a young man led me to expect heads-up virtual reality glasses and neural interfaces. Flying cars and robot companions don't seem to be coming anytime soon, but we are definitely approaching a world in which virtual - or at least augmented - reality headsets and brain control interfaces become mainstream.
Posted July 11, 2012
One of the earliest of the new generation of non-relational databases was CouchDB. CouchDB was born in 2005 when former Lotus Notes developer Damien Katz foresaw the nonrelational wave that only fully arrived in 2009. Katz imagined a database that was fully compatible with web architectures — and more than a little influenced by Lotus Notes document database concepts.
Posted June 13, 2012
Websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn have brought social networking and the concept of online community to a huge cross-section of our society. Penetration and usage of these platforms may vary depending on demographic (age and geography, in particular), but no one can debate the impact of Facebook and Twitter on both everyday life and on society in general.
Posted May 09, 2012
It's hard to overestimate Amazon's influence on cloud computing and on NoSQL databases. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the first and still is the leading concrete example of an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud - a collection of cloud-based services such as compute (EC2), storage (S3) and other application building blocks.
Posted April 11, 2012
Knowing how your customers feel about your products is arguably as important as actual sales data but often much harder to determine. Traditionally, companies have used surveys, focus groups, customer visits, and similar active sampling techniques to perform this sort of market research. Opposition or lack of faith in market research takes a number of forms. Henry Ford once said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses," while Steve Jobs said, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them." The real problem with market research is more pragmatic: It's difficult and expensive to find out what people think.
Posted March 07, 2012
In years to come, we might remember October 2011 as the month the big database vendors gave in to the dark side and embraced Hadoop. In October, both Microsoft and Oracle announced product offerings which included and embraced Hadoop as the enabler of their "big data" solution. The last of the big three database vendors - IBM - embraced Hadoop back in 2010.
Posted February 09, 2012
Along with thousands of IT professionals, I was in the San Francisco Moscone Center main hall last October listening to Larry Ellison's 2011 Oracle Open world keynote. Larry can always be relied upon to give an entertaining presentation, a unique blend of both technology insights and amusingly disparaging remarks about competitors.
Posted January 11, 2012
As the leading provider of relational database software, it's hardly surprising that Oracle initially gave little or no credence to the NoSQL movement that emerged in 2009. Indeed, an Oracle white paper from May 2011 concluded with the recommendation to "Go for the tried and true path," and avoid NoSQL databases.
Posted December 01, 2011
My 20-year-old daughter recently remarked that Facebook isn't as cool as it used to be. Sure, everyone has to be on Facebook, but that very ubiquity removes its mystique. The recently released Google+ is clearly targeted at Facebook and adds some features - particularly "Circles" - that are not available on Facebook. Facebook dominance may be indisputable today, but it is not guaranteed for all time. If I were Mark Zuckerberg, I would fear losing my cool status more than anything else.
Posted November 10, 2011
One of the greatest achievements in artificial intelligence occurred earlier this year when IBM's Watson supercomputer defeated the two reigning human champions in the popular Jeopardy! TV show. Named after the IBM founder Thomas Watson and not - as you may have thought - Sherlock Holmes' famous assistant, Watson was the result of almost 5 years of intensive effort by IBM, and the intellectual successor to "Deep Blue," the first computer to beat a chess grand master.
Posted October 15, 2011
The term "machine learning" evokes visions of massive super computers that eventually turn on and enslave humanity - think SkyNet from Terminator or HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the truth is that machine learning algorithms are common in web applications that we use every day and have a growing relevance to enterprise applications.
Posted September 14, 2011
Michael Stonebraker is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of the relational database. While at Berkeley, he co-founded the INGRES project, which implemented the relational principles published by Edgar Codd in his seminal papers. The INGRES project became the basis for the commercial Ingres RDBMS, which, during the 1980s, provided some of the most significant competition to Oracle.
Posted August 11, 2011
One of the funniest moments in the classic Star Trek motion pictures is the scene when the engineer "Scotty" - who has traveled back in time to the 1980s with his comrades - attempts to use a computer. "Computer!" he exclaims, attempting to initiate a dialogue with the PC. Embarrassed, a contemporary engineer hands him a mouse. "Aha," says Scotty who then holds the mouse to his mouth only to again exclaim, "Computer!" The idea that computers in the future would be able to understand human speech was common a few decades ago. Speech generation and recognition is so fundamental to the human experience that we tend to underestimate the incredible complexity of human information processing that makes it possible.
Posted July 07, 2011
Both HBase and Cassandra can deal with large data sets, and provide high transaction rates and low latency lookups. Both allow map-reduce processing to be run against the database when aggregation or parallel processing is required. Why then, would a merge of Cassandra and Hadoop be a superior solution?
Posted June 08, 2011
The rise of "big data" solutions - often involving the increasingly common Hadoop platform - together with the growing use of sophisticated analytics to drive business value - such as collective intelligence and predictive analytics - has led to a new category of IT professional: the data scientist.
Posted May 12, 2011
The relational database is primarily oriented toward the modeling of objects (entities) and relationships. Generally, the relational model works best when there are a relatively small and static number of relationships between objects. It has long been a tricky problem in the RDBMS to work with dynamic, recursive or complex relationships. For instance, it's a fairly ordinary business requirement to print out all the parts that make up a product - including parts which, themselves, are made up of smaller parts. However, this "explosion of parts" is not consistently supported by all the relational databases. Oracle, SQL Server and DB2 have special, but inconsistent, syntax for these hierarchical queries, while MySQL and PostgreSQL lack specific support.
Posted April 05, 2011
When computers first started to infringe on everyday life, science fiction authors and society in general had high expectations for "intelligent" systems. Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" series from the 1940s portrayed robots with completely human intelligence and personality, and, in the 1968 movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," the onboard computer HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) had a sufficiently human personality to suffer a paranoid break and attempt to murder the crew!
Posted March 09, 2011
Salesforce.com is well known as the pioneer of software as a service (SaaS) - the provision of hosted applications across the internet. Salesforce launched its SaaS CRM (Customer Relationship Management) product more than 10 years ago, and today claims over 70,000 customers. It's less widely known that Salesforce.com also has been a pioneer in platform as a service (PaaS), and is one of the first to provide a comprehensive internet-based application development stack. In 2007 - way before the current buzz over cloud development platforms such as Microsoft Azure - Salesforce launched the Force.com platform, which allowed developers to run applications on the same multi-tenant architecture that hosts the Salesforce.com CRM.
Posted February 02, 2011
The NoSQL acronym suggests it's the SQL language that is the key difference between traditional relational and newer non-relational data stores. However, an equally significant divergence is in the NoSQL consistency and transaction models. Indeed, some have suggested that NoSQL databases would be better described as "NoACID" databases - since they avoid the "ACID" transactions of the relational world.
Posted January 07, 2011
Because any database that does not support the SQL language is, by definition, a "NoSQL" database, some very different databases coexist under the NoSQL banner. Massively scalable data stores like Cassandra, Voldemort, and HBase sacrifice structure to achieve scale-out performance. However, the document-oriented NoSQL databases have very different architectures and objectives.
Posted November 30, 2010
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been notoriously critical of cloud computing - or at least of the way in which the term "cloud" has been applied. He often has expressed his frustration when "cloud" is applied to long established patterns such as software as a service (SaaS), especially when this is done by Salesforce.com. While there's widespread agreement that "cloud" has become a faddish, over-hyped and often abused term, some have speculated that Ellison's obvious frustration has been fueled by Oracle's inability to fully engage in the cloud computing excitement prior to the conclusion of the Sun acquisition.
Posted November 09, 2010
In Greek mythology, Cassandra was granted the gift of prophesy, but cursed with an inability to convince others of her predictions - a sort of unbelievable "oracle," if you like. Ironically, in the database world, the Cassandra system is fast becoming one of the most credible non-relational databases for production use - a believable alternative to Oracle and other relational databases.
Posted October 12, 2010
The relational database - or RDBMS - is a triumph of computer science. It has provided the data management layer for almost all major applications for more than two decades, and when you consider that the entire IT industry was once described as "data processing," this is a considerable achievement. For the first time in several decades, however, the relational database stranglehold on database management is loosening. The demands of big data and cloud computing have combined to create challenges that the RDBMS may be unable to adequately address.
Posted October 12, 2010
The promises of public cloud computing - pay as you go, infinite scale and outsourced administration - are compelling. However, for most enterprises, security, geography and risk mitigation concerns make private cloud platforms more desirable. Enterprise customers like the idea of on-demand provisioning, but are often unwilling to take the performance, security and risk drawbacks of moving applications to remote hardware that is not under their direct control.
Posted September 07, 2010
NoSQL - probably the hottest term in database technology today - was unheard of only a year ago. And yet, today, there are literally dozens of database systems described as "NoSQL." How did all of this happen so quickly? Although the term "NoSQL" is barely a year old, in reality, most of the databases described as NoSQL have been around a lot longer than the term itself. Many databases described as NoSQL arose over the past few years as reactions to strains placed on traditional relational databases by two other significant trends affecting our industry: big data and cloud computing.
Posted August 10, 2010
In biology, we are taught that survival favors diversity. Organisms that reproduce without variation die out during periods of rapid change, while organisms that show variation in feature tend to survive and adapt. Likewise, ecosystems consisting of relatively few homogenous species thrive only when conditions stay static. Does IT diversity create a competitive advantage in the business application ecosystem? Predictably, large vendors with vertically integrated stacks argue that mixing software components is a Bad Thing. These vendors claim that reducing the diversity in the application stack leads to better efficiency and maintainability.
Posted July 12, 2010
Although VMware continues to hold the majority share of the commercial virtualization market, other virtualization technologies are increasingly significant, though not necessarily as high profile. Operating system virtualization-sometimes called partial virtualization-allows an operating system such as Solaris to run multiple partitions, each of which appears to contain a distinct running instance of the same operating system. However, these technologies cannot be used to host different operating system versions, making them less appealing to enterprises seeking to consolidate workloads using virtualization.
Posted June 07, 2010
Until recently, IT professionals have been conditioned to regard response time, or throughput, as the ultimate measure of application performance. It's as though we were building automobiles and only concerned with faster cars and bigger trucks. Yet, just as the automotive industry has come under increasing pressure to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, so has the IT industry been challenged to reduce the power drain associated with today's data centers.
Posted May 10, 2010
Spreadsheets, which have long been a disruptive force to enterprise IT, to some extent are the "killer" applications that helped drive the adoption of personal computers (PCs) in the enterprise. Spreadsheet products such as Lotus 1,2,3 - and early versions of Excel on the Mac - saw rapid adoption by business users. Inevitably, these users pushed the boundaries of the spreadsheet model, using spreadsheets as databases, and even to develop simple business applications. In the late 1980s, it was typical to see corporate IT rolling out massively expensive mainframe-based solutions, while departmental users got their real work done on spreadsheets running on cheap PCs.
Posted April 07, 2010
Open source applications were somewhat niche at the beginning of the decade but now are clearly mainstream. Credible open source alternatives now exist for almost every category of application, as well as every component of the application.
Posted March 04, 2010
In 1995, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen famously claimed that applications of the future would run within a web browser, relegating the role of the operating system - Windows, in particular - to "a poorly debugged set of device drivers." Fifteen years later, we can see that although rich applications such as Microsoft Office are still dominant, the web browser has become a platform that can deliver almost any conceivable type of business or consumer application.
Posted February 09, 2010
Google's first "secret sauce" for web search was the innovative PageRank link analysis algorithm which successfully identifies the most relevant pages matching a search term. Google's superior search results were a huge factor in their early success. However, Google could never have achieved their current market dominance without an ability to reliably and quickly return those results. From the beginning, Google needed to handle volumes of data that exceeded the capabilities of existing commercial technologies. Instead, Google leveraged clusters of inexpensive commodity hardware, and created their own software frameworks to sift and index the data. Over time, these techniques evolved into the MapReduce algorithm. MapReduce allows data stored on a distributed file system - such as the Google File System (GFS) - to be processed in parallel by hundreds of thousands of inexpensive computers. Using MapReduce, Google is able to process more than a petabyte (one million GB) of new web data every hour.
Posted January 11, 2010
When a company like Microsoft talks about the future of computing, you can expect a fair bit of self-serving market positioning - public software companies need to be careful to sell a vision of the future that doesn't jeopardize today's revenue streams. But, when a company like Microsoft releases a new version of its fundamental development framework - .NET, in this case - you can see more clearly the company's technical vision for the future of computing.
Posted December 14, 2009
There's an old but clever internet parody describing the "Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge device (BOOK)." This device is described as a "revolutionary breakthrough in technology" that is compact and portable, never crashes and supports both sequential and indexed information access. Though satirical, the article makes excellent points: the printed book is indeed an information technology device, arguably the oldest in widespread use today
Posted November 11, 2009
The idea of "virtual" reality—immersive computer simulations almost indistinguishable from reality—has been a mainstay of modern "cyberpunk" science fiction since the early 1980s, popularized in movies such as The Thirteenth Floor and The Matrix. Typically, a virtual reality environment produces computer simulated sensory inputs which include at least sight and sound, and, perhaps, touch, taste and smell. These inputs are presented to the user through goggles, earphones and gloves or—in the true cyberpunk sci-fi—via direct brain interfaces.
Posted October 13, 2009
Google introduced the MapReduce algorithm to perform massively parallel processing of very large data sets using clusters of commodity hardware. MapReduce is a core Google technology and key to maintaining Google's website indexes.
Posted September 14, 2009
Attendees at the O'Reilly Velocity conference in June were treated to the unusual phenomenon of a joint presentation by Google and Microsoft. The presentation outlined the results of studies by the two companies on the effects of search response time. Aside from the novelty of Microsoft-Google cooperation, the presentation was notable both in terms of its conclusions and its methodology.
Posted August 14, 2009
Predictive Analytics - sometimes referred to as Predictive Data Mining - is a branch of Business Intelligence that attempts to use historical data to make predictions about future events. At its simplest, predictive analytics utilizes statistical techniques, such as correlation and regression, which many of us have encountered in college or even high school. Correlation analysis determines if there is a statistically significant relationship between two variables. For instance, height and age are highly correlated, while IQ and height are very weakly correlated. Regression attempts to find an equation between the two or more variables, so that you can predict one from the other.
Posted July 13, 2009
Virtualization has changed the IT landscape more dramatically than perhaps any other technology introduced over the past decade. Virtualized environments are omnipresent in the modern data center due to their economic advantages in hardware consolidation and manageability.
Posted June 15, 2009
Both open source software (OSS) and cloud computing continue to experience strong interest and growth despite the economic downturn. Clearly, both provide the promise of reduced operating and software licensing costs.
Posted May 19, 2009
Both open source software ( OSS) and cloud computing continue to experience strong interest and growth despite the economic downturn. Clearly, both provide the promise of reduced operating and software licensing costs. For instance, corporations looking to reduce the cost incurred by Microsoft Office licensing are looking more closely at the open source OpenOffice alternative, or at Google's online application suite, Google Apps. There's understandable resistance to moving from the rich experience offered by Microsoft to these lower-cost alternatives, but resistance has a way of disappearing in the face of financial imperatives.
Posted May 15, 2009
The business intelligence (BI) market is big: at least $10 billion in 2008 and much more if you include data warehousing projects. The tough economic environment may slow the growth of the BI market, but cost constraints, compliance and similar measures demanded by the current economy require accurate and timely business data, so BI is expected to remain a vigorous market segment regardless of the macro-economic situation.
Posted April 15, 2009
Way back in 2003, Walmart announced that it would require Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags—so-called "electronic barcodes"—to be attached to virtually all merchandise. Walmart pioneered the use of the printed bar code back in the 1970s, and many—myself included—became convinced that the company's directive would be the tipping point leading to universal adoption of RFID tabs in consumer goods and elsewhere.
Posted March 15, 2009
few years ago, it seemed as though the days of the "micro-ISV"-very small Independent software vendors consisting of one or two developers-were over. The role once played by shareware windows applications had been supplanted by free web applications financed by advertising revenue. The start-up costs for such web applications-including funding a scalable and reliable web hosting infrastructure-were beyond the reach of most small software entrepreneurs.
Posted February 15, 2009
In the classic comedy, "The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy," a frustrated Ford Prefect can't understand why a bunch of marketing consultants shipwrecked on prehistoric earth can't invent the wheel.
Posted January 15, 2009
MOORE'S law—first expressed by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore in 1965—predicts that computing power will increase exponentially, doubling roughly every 18 months. Moore's law has proved remarkably accurate and we have all benefited from the rapid growth in CPU and computer memory available for our desktop computers.
Posted December 15, 2008
Posted September 15, 2008
Non-relational cloud databases such as Google's BigTable, Amazon's SimpleDB and Microsoft'sSQL Server Data Services (SSDS) have emerged. But while these new data stores may well fill a niche in cloud-based applications, they lack most of the features demanded by enterprise applications - in particular, transactional support and business intelligence capabilities.
Posted July 15, 2008
For the first time in over 20 years, there appear to be cracks forming in the relational model's dominance of the database management systems market. The relational database management system (RDBMS) of today is increasingly being seen as an obstacle to the IT architectures of tomorrow, and - for the first time - credible alternatives to the relational database are emerging. While it would be reckless to predict the demise of the relational database as a critical component of IT architectures, it is certainly feasible to imagine the relational database as just one of several choices for data storage in next-generation applications.
Posted June 15, 2008