NewSQL: the Cake You Can Eat

written by Ryan Betts on April 7, 2014 with no comments

Formula for startup success: extract the lessons of the past and mix in present reality and macro-trends. That’s NewSQL in a nutshell.

NewSQL is growing in popularity because it preserves the value accumulated over the last 30 years of database development and deploys that capability on modern architectures and configurations.

But SQL is dead, right?

Not even close. When Facebook announced Presto a few months ago, I poked some fun at NoSQL. I was tweeted back, “Hive’s been doing SQL on Hadoop since, what, 2008?” (I was kinda snarky and deserved the tone in return.) But – absolutely! The most successful NoSQL platform out there, Hadoop, has been doing SQL since 2008.

Good database designers understand that all database business value derives from making data interactive. And SQL is the lingua franca for interacting with data. Decades of research, advancement, specification, ecosystem, integration, tooling and user training have nurtured SQL into a rich and powerful language for interacting with data. SQL is a cornerstone of a $30B industry. Architects and users alike are unwilling to discard that wealth of experience and capability.

That doesn’t mean they love their legacy systems.

The NoSQL movement was instrumental in teaching the marketplace that distributed, fault-tolerant, cloud-deployable, clustered database services are feasible and desirable. Early adopters seeking scale at all costs were willing to sacrifice interaction for scale – often they had no choice. The early majority is not willing to make this sacrifice. The database market is ripe for disruption by technologies that offer new functions: the ability to scale to ingest fast data streams, offer real time analytics and real-time decisions in cloud-friendly, mission-critical configurations. Or the ability to run historical analytics in 1/100 the time on less expensive hardware than the legacy players. But there’s no value in redefining the language of fluency: SQL.

NewSQL systems offer the best of both worlds: deploy SQL semantics and query capability on modern, distributed, fault-tolerant, cloud-deployable clustered architectures. New SQL combines the richness and flexibility of SQL for data interaction with the scale necessary in today’s fast data, big data world.

NoSQL vendors are recognizing the value of SQL or are public about their need to “mature their systems.” Legacy vendors face a tougher challenge. While they support a well-known query interface, they need to evolve to a more flexible, higher performance architecture in concert with their existing product lines.