- If you haven't seen the post titled "A few things you should know about Burton Group and this blog", please skim it for context-setting, before reading further in this post
- This post is the first in a series I referenced in the initial post for this blog, when I mentioned data management-related topics the DMS team thinks will be most influential over the next few years. The list is neither exhaustive nor rank-ordered, and we (the DMS team) will get around to the rest of the initial post series set -- on XQuery, data modeling, open source DBMS, and the simultaneous commoditization, democratization, and specialization of business intelligence -- over the next week or two.
So -- about database management systems (DBMSs). Many people assume the evolution of DBMSs peaked about a dozen years ago, coinciding with the rush to web apps. Before then, DBMSs were often serving as the full application server stack, handling database, transaction, identity/authentication/access control, and even application logic needs. It was a pretty fun and lucrative time to be a database designer on, say Oracle Database or Sybase SQL Server, circa 1993.
Web app servers often displaced DBMSs at the center of application platform stack priorities, however, as organizations rushed to integrate disparate back-end systems (often running on multiple types of DBMSs) into web apps. DBMSs were often relegated to basic storage tier services, and application logic, integrity constraints, and even transactions sometimes migrated to the mid-tier.
In another important dimension, DBMS vendors have not always been the most lovable suppliers over the last couple decades, e.g., with unpopular (oligopoly-centric) pricing/licensing programs that helped to create mainstream market opportunities for open source DBMS vendors and projects.
The rapid growth of XML content/data management over the last decade has presented another challenge to business-as-usual in the DBMS market, as the XML database model cannot be completely accommodated in the relational database model ("shredding" XML documents into relational database tables, for instance, is an apt image, as it can entail metadata loss).
Even DBMS market pioneers such as Michael Stonebraker have been asserting, over the last couple years, that the "one-size-fits-all" DBMS era is history, and that specialized data management systems (for streaming data, columnar data domains such as analytics, and XML, for example) will increasingly displace traditional relational DBMSs. A couple of Stonebraker's most recent companies, StreamBase Systems and Vertica, are leading examples of the latest wave of specialized data management vendors, as is XML content platform Mark Logic (there are compelling open source projects in these domains as well, e.g., the eXist-db open source XML database system).
Is it the end of the road for RDBMSs as we've known them for the last ~25 years? Time to sell your SQL books on eBay, before they become worthless? To sign up for a distance-learning XML management course, in order to invest in your future career potential? Perhaps some of the "legacy" database models, such as hierarchical and object-oriented DBMSs, will finally start to gain (regain, for hierarchical) meaningful market momentum, with the market shift to XML for content and data? Is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison at risk of being bumped off the short list of the richest people on the planet (he's already down to #14 on this year's Forbes "The World's Billionaires" list...)?
(In the interest of keeping these posts to a reasonable length, I'll continue on this topic in a second post.)
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