Among the numerous prediction pieces during the rounds at the moment, Bradford Stephens, founder of Drawn to Scale suggested we could be in for continued proliferation of NoSQL database technologies in 2011, while Redmonk’s Stephen O’Grady predicted consolidation. I agree with both of them.
To understand how NoSQL could both proliferate and consolidate in 2011 it’s important to look at the small print. Bradford was talking specifically about open source tools, while Stephen was writing about commercially successful projects.
Given the levels of interest in NoSQL database technologies, the vast array of use cases, and the various interfaces and development languages – most of which are open source – I predict we’ll continue to see cross-pollination and the emergence of new projects as developers (corporate and individual) continue to scratch their own data-based itches.
However, I think we are also beginning to see the a narrowing of the commercial focus on those projects and companies that have enough traction to generate significant business opportunities and revenue, and that a few clear leaders will emerge in the various NoSQL sub-categories (key-value stores, document stores, graph databases and distributed column stores).
We can see previous evidence of the dual impact of proliferation and consolidation in the Linux market. While commercial opportunities are dominated by Red Hat, Novell and Canonical, that has not stopped the continued proliferation of Linux distributions.
The main difference between NoSQL and Linux markets, of course, is that the various Linux distributions all have a common core, and the diversity in the NoSQL space means that we are unlikely to see proliferation on the scale of Linux.
However, I think we’ll see a similar two-tier market emerge with a large number of technically interesting and differentiated open source projects, and a small number of commercially-viable general-purpose category leaders.