February 22nd, 2013 — Data management
Aster Discovery. Delphix and SAP. Hadoop use-cases. And more.
And that’s the data day, today.
November 9th, 2012 — Data management, Uncategorized
Funding for Neo, Elasticsearch and Hadapt. And more
And that’s the Data Day, today.
October 8th, 2012 — Data management
SiSense refreshes Prism. How Twitter, PayPal and Facebook scale MySQL. And more.
And that’s the Data Day, today.
August 24th, 2012 — Data management
Facebook’s Prism. CAP Theorem. Keeping MySQL open. And more.
And that’s the Data Day, today.
July 11th, 2011 — Data management
It has been fascinating to watch how the industry has responded to ‘NewSQL’ since we published our first report using the term.
From day one the term has taken on a life of its own as the vendors such as ScaleBase, VoltDB, NimbusDB and Xeround have picked it up and run with it , while the likes of Marten Mickos and Michael Stonebraker have also adopted the term.
The reaction hasn’t been all positive, of course, although much of the criticism has been of the “are you kidding?” or “this is getting silly” variety rather than constructive debate about either the term or the associated technologies.
Another popular response is along the lines of “does this mean the end of NoSQL?”. I think it is important to address this question because it depends on a common misunderstanding about technology: that in order for the latest technology to succeed it is necessary for the technology that immediately preceded it to fail.
While our report into NoSQL, NewSQL and Beyond identified common drivers for interest in NoSQL and NewSQL databases, as well as data caching/grid technologies, in truth there is a significant difference between the requirements for databases that provide relaxed consistency and/or schema dependency and those that retain the ACID properties of transactional database systems.
Although there will be isolated examples, it is going to be rare, therefore, that any potential adopter would be directly comparing NoSQL and NewSQL technologies unless they are still at the stage trying to figure out the level of consistency required for an individual application.
The other option they would have is to use an existing SQL database, particularly Oracle’s MySQL, which provides the middle ground that overlaps both NoSQL and NewSQL. A significant number of the NoSQL deployments we have identified have migrated from MySQL, while existing MySQL deployments (although probably not the same ones) are also targets for the numerous NewSQL vendors.
VoltDB is a primary example, as last’s week’s GigaOm article covering CTO Michael Stonebraker’s view on Facebook’s MySQL ‘fate worse than death’ illustrated.
Much debate (125 comments at last count) has followed Stonebraker’s assertion that Facebook would be better off migrating to a NewSQL offering like VoltDB, most of which has not supported his view.
There’s a good reason for that. There is a good argument to be made that if you were trying to create Facebook from scratch today you probably wouldn’t choose the shard management overhead involved in MySQL. In that regard, Stonebraker has a point.
However, the fact is that MySQL was pretty much the only logical choice when Facebook began and its commitment to MySQL has grown over the years. The company is now probably one of the world’s experts in scaling and managing MySQL – to the extent that Facebook engineer Domas Mituzas argues that the operational overhead in handling sharding and availability of MySQL has become a constant cost.
Under those circumstances it would take something significant for a company like Facebook to even consider migrating to a MySQL alternative. Database migration projects are costly and complex and extremely rare – even at non-Facebook scale.
And it is not as if the company hasn’t experimented with other database technologies – having created Apache Cassandra and adopted Apache HBase for its Messages update.
This is exactly the polyglot persistence strategy we are seeing from NoSQL and NewSQL adopters: retaining MySQL (or another SQL database) where is makes sense to do so, while adding NoSQL and perhaps NewSQL for new projects and applications for which it is appropriate.
One other point to note, however, is that adopting a NewSQL technology might not require migrating away from MySQL. While the NewSQL category includes new database products such as VoltDB, it also includes alternative MySQL storage engines and database load balancing and clustering products such as ScaleBase and ScalArc, which are specifically designed to improve the scalability of MySQL (with other SQL databases to come) in order to avoid migration to an alternative database.
Adoption of these technologies does not require the complete abandonment of ‘standard MySQL’ any more than the adoption of NoSQL for non-ACID application requirements does, and it certainly doesn’t require the abandonment of NoSQL.
April 20th, 2011 — Data management
As we noted last week, necessity is one of the six key factors that are driving the adoption of alternative data management technologies identified in our latest long format report, NoSQL, NewSQL and Beyond.
Necessity is particularly relevant when looking at the history of the NoSQL databases. While it is easy for the incumbent database vendor to dismiss the various NoSQL projects as development playthings, it is clear that the vast majority of NoSQL projects were developed by companies and individuals in response to the fact that the existing database products and vendors were not suitable to meet their requirements with regards to the other five factors: scalability, performance, relaxed consistency, agility and intricacy.
The genesis of much – although by no means all – of the momentum behind the NoSQL database movement can be attributed to two research papers: Google’s BigTable: A Distributed Storage System for Structured Data, presented at the Seventh Symposium on Operating System Design and Implementation, in November 2006, and Amazon’s Dynamo: Amazon’s Highly Available Key-Value Store, presented at the 21st ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, in October 2007.
The importance of these two projects is highlighted by The NoSQL Family Tree, a graphic representation of the relationships between (most of) the various major NoSQL projects:
Not only were the existing database products and vendors were not suitable to meet their requirements, but Google and Amazon, as well as the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, PowerSet and Zvents, could not rely on the incumbent vendors to develop anything suitable, given the vendors’ desire to protect their existing technologies and installed bases.
Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO, has explained that as far as Amazon was concerned, the database layer required to support the company’s various Web services was too critical to be trusted to anyone else – Amazon had to develop Dynamo itself.
Vogels also pointed out, however, that this situation is suboptimal. The fact that Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Amazon have had to develop and support their own database infrastructure is not a healthy sign. In a perfect world, they would all have better things to do than focus on developing and managing database platforms.
That explains why the companies have also all chosen to share their projects. Google and Amazon did so through the publication of research papers, which enabled the likes of Powerset, Facebook, Zvents and Linkedin to create their own implementations.
These implementations were then shared through the publication of source code, which has enabled the likes of Yahoo, Digg and Twitter to collaborate with each other and additional companies on their ongoing development.
Additionally, the NoSQL movement also boasts a significant number of developer-led projects initiated by individuals – in the tradition of open source – to scratch their own technology itches.
Examples include Apache CouchDB, originally created by the now-CTO of Couchbase, Damien Katz, to be an unstructured object store to support an RSS feed aggregator; and Redis, which was created by Salvatore Sanfilippo to support his real-time website analytics service.
We would also note that even some of the major vendor-led projects, such as Couchbase and 10gen, have been heavily influenced by non-vendor experience. 10gen was founded by former Doubleclick executives to create the software they felt was needed at the digital advertising firm, while online gaming firm Zynga was heavily involved in the development of the original Membase Server memcached-based key-value store (now Elastic Couchbase).
In this context it is interesting to note, therefore, that while the majority of NoSQL databases are open source, the NewSQL providers have largely chosen to avoid open source licensing, with VoltDB being the notable exception.
These NewSQL technologies are no less a child of necessity than NoSQL, although it is a vendor’s necessity to fill a gap in the market, rather than a user’s necessity to fill a gap in its own infrastructure. It will be intriguing to see whether the various other NewSQL vendors will turn to open source licensing in order to grow adoption and benefit from collaborative development.
NoSQL, NewSQL and Beyond is available now from both the Information Management and Open Source practices (non-clients can apply for trial access). I will also be presenting the findings at the forthcoming Open Source Business Conference.
March 24th, 2011 — Data management
The MySQL developer website is currently running a poll to gauge the adoption of NoSQL database projects by MySQL developers.
The results are interesting, particularly in relation to our research report on the emergence and adoption of NoSQL and NewSQL databases, which I am completing this week.
Our research has shown that one of the drivers of NoSQL has been performance, and in particular the failure of MySQL to provide predictable performance at scale. We do see NoSQL being deployed for applications that previously ran on MySQL, or for which MySQL would previously have been the natural choice.
For example, while Facebook continues to run its core applications on MySQL running the InnoDB storage engine and memcached it also created what became Apache Cassandra to power its inbox search, and selected Apache HBase for its Messages application, which was updated in late 2010 to combine chat, email, and SMS, having found that MySQL was unable to deliver the performance required for large data sets.
Similarly, content discovery service StumbleUpon adopted HBase following problems with MySQL failover, Digg replaced its MySQL cluster with Apache Cassandra, and Wordnik replaced MySQL with MongoDB.
Clearly, however, not every MySQL application is suitable for a NoSQL database. Just because almost 80% of the MySQL survey respondents are adopting NoSQL database, does not mean they are replacing MySQL with NoSQL.
Like Facebook, many major NoSQL users also continue to use MySQL, including Twitter which back-tracked on a planned migration of its core status table to Apache Cassandra in 2010. It continues to use MySQL, but is adopting Cassandra for newer projects.
The adoption of multiple database products depending on the nature of the application is another of the six major drivers for NoSQL and NewSQL adoption highlighted by our research.
The theory of polyglot persistence has developed based on the fact that different data storage models have their own strengths and the acceptance that while the relational model is suitable for a large proportion of data storage requirements, there are times when a document, graph, or object database might be more suitable, or even a distributed file system.
Facebook and Twitter are prime examples of polyglot persistence in action, and the survey of MySQL developers shows that the practice is widespread. At the time of writing 205 people have responded to the survey, providing 421 responses.
If we exclude the 42 that indicate they are not using a NoSQL database, that means that the remaining 163 people are using 379 NoSQL databases, which equates to 2.33 databases per respondent, not including their existing use of MySQL or other traditional or NewSQL databases.
I’ll provide more details of the research report, including the other four adoption drivers, once the report is published. The report contains analysis of the drivers behind the development and adoption of NoSQL and NewSQL databases, as well as the evolving role of data grid technologies, as well as the associated use cases. It will be available soon for clients of our Information Management and CAOS practices.
April 21st, 2010 — Data management
The NoSQL EU event in London this week was a great event with interesting perspectives from both vendors – Basho, Neo Technology, 10gen, Riptano – and also users – The Guardian, the BBC, Amazon, Twitter. In particular I was interested in learning from the latter about how and why they ended up using alternatives to the traditional relational database model.
Some of the reasons for using NoSQL have been well-documented: Amazon CTO Werner Vogels talked about how the traditional database offerings were unable to meet the scalability Amazon.com requires. Filling a functionality void also explains why Facebook created Cassandra, Google created BigTable, and Twitter created FlockDB (etc etc). As Werner said, “We couldn’t bet the company on other companies building the answer for us.”
As Werner also explained, however, the motivation for creating Dynamo was also about enabling choice and ensuring that Amazon was not trying to force the relational database to do something it was not designed to do. “Choosing the right tool for the job” was a recurring theme at NoSQL EU.
Given the NoSQL name it is easy to assume that this means that the relational database is by default “the wrong tool”. However, the most important element in that statement is arguably not “tool”, but “job” and The Guardian discussed how it was using non-relational data tools to create new applications that complement its ongoing investment in the Oracle database.
For example, the Guardian’s application to manage the progress of crowdsourcing the investigation of MP’s expenses is based on Redis, while the Zeitgeist trending news application runs on Google’s AppEngine, as did its live poll during the recent leader’s election debate. Datablog, meanwhile, relies on Google Spreadsheets to serve up usable and downloadable data – we’ll ignore for a moment whether Google Spreadsheets is a NoSQL database
Long-term The Guardian is looking towards the adoption of a schema-free database to sit alongside its Oracle database and is investigating CouchDB. The overarching theme, as Matthew Wall and Simon Willison explained, is that the relational database is now just a component in the overall data management story, alongside data caching, data stores, search engines etc.
On the subject of choosing the right tool for the job, Basho’s engineering manager Brian Fink pointed out that using NoSQL technology alongside relational SQL database technology may actually improve the performance of the SQL database since storing data in a relational database that does not need SQL features slows down access to data that does need SQL features.
Another perspective on this came from Werner Vogels who noted that unlike database administrators/ systems architects, users don’t care about where data resides or what model it uses – as long as they get the service they require. Werner explained that the Amazon.com homepage is a combination of 200-300 different services, with multiple data systems. Users do not think about data sources in isolation, they care about the amalgamated service.
This was also a theme that cropped up in the presentation by Enda Farrell, software architect at the BBC, who noted that the BBC’s homepage is a PHP application integrated with multiple data sources at multiple data centers, and also Twitter‘s analytics lead Kevin Weil, who described Twitter’s use of Hadoop, Pig, HBase, Cassandra and FlockDB.
While the company is using HBase for low-latency analytic applications such as people search and moving to Cassandra from MySQL for its online applications, it uses its recently open-sourced FlockDB graph database to serve up data on followers and correlate the intersection of followers to (for example) ensure that Tweets between two people are only sent to the followers of both. (As something of an aside, Twitter is using Hadoop to store the 7TB of of data its generates a day from Tweets, and Pig for non-real time analytics).
Kevin noted that the company is also working with Digg to build real-time analytics for Cassandra and will be releasing the results as open source, and also discussed how Twitter has made use of open source technologies created by others such as Facebook (both Cassandra and the Scribe log data aggregation server.
One of the issues that has arisen from the fact that organizations such as Amazon and Facebook have had to create their own data management technologies is the proliferation of NoSQL databases and a certain amount of wheel re-invention.
Werner explained that SmugMug creator Don Macaskill ended up being a MySQL expert not because he necessarily wanted to be, but because he needed to be because he had to be to keep his applications running.
“He doesn’t want to have to become an expert in Cassandra,” noted Werner. “What he wants is to have someone run it for him and take care of that.” Presumably Riptano, the new Cassandra vendor formed by Jonathan Ellis – project chair for the Cassandra database – will take care of that, but in the meantime Werner raised another long-term alternative.
“We shouldn’t all be doing this,” he said, adding that Dynamo is not as popular within Amazon Web Services as it once was as it is a product, that requires configuration and management, rather than a service, and Amazon employees “have better things to do.”
Which raises the question – don’t Twitter, Facebook, the BBC, the Guardian et al have better things to do than developing and maintaining database architecture? In a perfect world, yes. But in a perfect world they’d all have strongly consistent, scalable distributed database systems/services that are suited to their various applications.
Interestingly, describing S3 as “a better key/value store than Dynamo”, Werner noted that SimpleDB and S3 are “a good start to provide that service”.
March 22nd, 2010 — Data management
Gear6′s Mark Atwood is less than impressed with my recent statement: “Memcached is not a key value store. It is a cache. Hence the name.”
Mark has responded with a post in which he explains how memcached can be used as a key value store with the assistance of “persistent memcached” from Gear6, or by combining memcached with something like Tokyo Cabinet.
As much as I agree with Mark that other technologies can be used to turn memcached into a key value store I can’t help thinking his post actually proves my point: that memcached itself is not a key value store.
Either way it brings me to the next post in the NoSQL series (see also The 451 Group’s recent Spotlight report), looking at what the existing technology providers are likely to do in response.
I spent last week in San Francisco at the Open Source Business Conference where David Recordon, head of open source initiatives at Facebook, outlined how the company makes use of various open source projects, including memcached and MySQL, to scale its infrastructure.
It was an interesting presentation, although the thing that stood out for me was that Recordon didn’t once mention Cassandra, the open source key value store created by Facebook, despite being asked directly about the company’s plans for what was rather quaintly referred to as “non-relational databases”.
In fact, this recent post from Recordon puts Cassandra in context: “we use it for Inbox search, but the majority of development is now being led by Digg, Rackspace, and Twitter”. It is technologies like MySQL and memcached that Facebook is scaling to provide its core horsepower.
The death of memcached, as they say, has been greatly exaggerated.
That said, it is clear that to some extent the rise of NoSQL can be explained by CAP Theorem and the inability of the MySQL database to scale consistently. Sharding is a popular method of increasing the scalability of the MySQL database to serve the requirements of high-traffic websites, but it’s manually intensive. The memcached distributed memory object-caching system can also be used to improve performance, but does not provide persistence.
An alternative to throwing out investments in MySQL and memcached in favor of NoSQL is to improve the MySQL/memcached combination, however. A number of vendors, including Gear6 and NorthScale, are developing and delivering technologies that add persistence to memcached (see recent 451 Group coverage on Gear6 and NorthScale), while appliance providers such as Schooner Information Technology (451 coverage) and Virident Systems (451 coverage) have taken an appliance-based approach to adding persistence.
Another approach would be to improve the performance of MySQL itself. ScaleDB (451 coverage) has a shared-disk storage engine for MySQL that promises to improve its scalability. We have also recently come across GenieDB, (451 coverage) which is promising a massively distributed data storage engine for MySQL. Additionally, Tokutek’s TokuDB MySQL storage engine is based on Fractal Tree indexing technology that reduces data-insertion times, improving the performance of MySQL for both read and write applications, for example.
As we noted in our recent assessment of Tokutek, while TokuDB is effectively an operational database technology, it does blur the line between operations and analytics since the company claims it delivers a performance improvement sufficient to run ad hoc queries against live data.
Beyond MySQL, while we expect the database incumbents to feel the impact of NoSQL in certain use cases, the lack of consistency (in the CAP Theorem sense) inevitably enables quick dismissal of their wider applicability. Additionally, we expect to see the data management vendors take steps to improve performance and scalability. One method is through the use of in-memory databases to improve performance for repeatedly accessed data, another is through the use of in-memory data grid caching technologies, which are designed to solve both performance and scalability issues.
Although these technologies do not provide the scalability required by Facebook, Amazon, et al., the question is, how many applications need that level of scalability? Returning again to CAP Theorem, if we assume that most applications do not require the levels of partition tolerance seen at Google, expect the incumbents to argue that what they lack in partition tolerance they can make up for in consistency and availability.
Somewhat inevitably, the requirements mandated by NoSQL advocates will be watered down for enterprise adoption. At that level, it may arguably be easier for incumbent vendors to sacrifice a little consistency and availability for partition tolerance than it will be for NoSQL projects to add consistency and availability.
Much will depend on the workload in question, which is something that is being hidden by debates that assume a confrontational relationship between SQL and NoSQL databases. As the example of Facebook suggests, there is room for both MySQL/memcached and NoSQL