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.
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.