Neither fish nor fowl: the rise of multi-model databases

One of the most complicated aspects of putting together our database landscape map was dealing with the growing number of (particularly NoSQL) databases that refuse to be pigeon-holed in any of the primary databases categories.

I have begun to refer to these as “multi-model databases” in recognition of the fact that they are able to take on the characteristics of multiple databases. In truth though there are probably two different groups of products that could be considered “multi-model”:

True multi-model databases that have been designed specifically to serve multiple data models and use-cases

Examples include:
FoundationDB, which is being designed to support ACID and NoSQL, but more to the point in this instance, multiple layers including key-value, document, and object layers

Aerospike, which is planning to combine SQL, key value, and document and graph database technologies in a single database by bringing together its Citrusleaf NoSQL database with the acquired AlchemyDB NewSQL project

OrientDB, which is, at heart, a document database, but can also be used as a graph database; as an object database, making use of the Java persistence API; and as a hybrid database, taking advantage of multiple models to serve different application requirements

ArangoDB, which promises to deliver the benefits of key value and document and graph stores in a single database

Other products that could be considered true multi-model databases are:
Couchbase Server 2.0, which can be used as both a document store and a key value store, as well as a distributed cache

Riak, which is a key-value store, although it can be used as a document store since the value can be a JSON document

NuoDB, which will provide compatibility with other databases by taking on multiple ‘personalities’ – an Oracle personality via PL/SQL compatibility is in the development roadmap, as is a document store personality via JSON support.

General-purpose databases with multi-model options
What’s the difference between multi-model databases and existing general-purpose databases that have optional capabilities for serving multiple models? My book book it’s about being designed for purpose, but I’m sure that will be a debating point for the future. In the mean-time, examples include:

Oracle MySQL 5.6, which can support both SQL-based access and key-value access via the Memcached API.

Oracle MySQL Cluster 7.2, which similarly supports concurrent NoSQL and SQL access to the database.

IBM DB2 10, which extends DB2’s hybrid relational and XML engine to enable the storage and management of graph triples, as well as support for the SPARQL 1.0 query language.

Akiban Server, which has the ability to treat groups of tables as objects and access them as JSON documents via SQL.

PostgreSQL h-store, which can be used for storing key-value pairs within a PostgreSQL data field, thereby enabling schema-less queries against data stored in PostgreSQL

We are also aware of other NewSQL database that plan to adopt support for popular NoSQL data models, while IBM has also talked about plans to integrate key value store NoSQL access capabilities with DB2 and Informix database software.

Other products that could be considered multi-model options include:
Oracle Spatial and Graph, an option for Oracle Database 11g.

One of the drivers of NoSQL database adoption has been polyglot persistence – using multiple databases depending on the specific requirements of individual applications. Multi-model databases contradict this trend, to some extent, so it will be interesting to see whether they begin to gain traction.

While we see the wisdom of selecting the best database for the job, we also recognise that it could sometimes be a matter of choosing the best data model for the job, while relying on a single storage back-end.

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1 comment so far ↓

#1 Lukas on 02.22.13 at 5:41 am

I think JCR implementations like Jackrabbit and ModeShape should also be mentioned here. They are essentially hierarchical document stores with native support for versioning, full text search (with an SQL-like syntax), ACLs, references etc.