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New Gartner report introduces “Avant-Garde” RDBMS

Avant-Garde Database (abstract)

Recently, we’ve noticed growing recognition of the need for a database system that can handle the mission-critical workloads (requiring both SQL capabilities and ACID compliance) typically assigned to relational database management systems (RDBMSs), but can simultaneously support today’s cloud-based, on-demand economy.

Well apparently we weren’t the only ones to notice.

This week, Gartner released a new report, "When to Use New RDBMS Offerings in a Dynamic Data Environment." Written by analyst Adam Ronthal (@aronthal), the report notes that "emerging RDBMS vendors are pushing the boundaries of scalability, distributed processing, and hybrid on-premises and cloud deployments, offering new functionality and capabilities for information leaders."

It goes further to provide the following Strategic Planning Assumption:

"Through 2019, 70% of new projects requiring scale-out elasticity, distributed processing and hybrid cloud capabilities for relational applications, as well as multi-data-center transactional consistency, will prefer an emerging RDBMS over a traditional RDBMS."

That’s a pretty big and bold statement, so let’s take a look at what that really means. 

On the one hand, the industry has been dominated for decades by monolithic, relational database management systems (DBMSs). As the only game in town for years, such DBMSs excelled at maintaining transactional consistency and integrity, but since they operate as monolithic, single-server systems, they’re characterized by their high price point, hefty maintenance fees, and their inability to scale elastically, across data centers or in the cloud.

On the other side, we’ve seen an uprising of non-relational databases – broadly captured by the “NoSQL” terminology. Known for their ability to scale easily, NoSQL databases typically shine in developer-centric environments dealing with large volumes of non critical data that don’t need the rigor of real-time transactional consistency. Because of this focus on delivering a developer-friendly database, NoSQL databases often fail to provide enterprise-level administration capabilities, making them a nightmare to actually operate.

This dichotomy has resulted in a gaping hole for applications that need the rigor and reliability of a traditional relational database but also want the agility, elasticity, and global accessibility of that the cloud and container environments can provide. Enter what Gartner is terming the “avant-garde” relational database players (RDBMS).

From our perspective, it’s a relief to hear Gartner articulate the emergence of this category of vendors. Previously coined “NewSQL” by 451 Research, the new avant-garde RDBMS players represent more than just the evolution of the database industry; they are the manifestation of cloud migration for the entire industry.

As our customers turn increasingly to private, hybrid, or public clouds and/or containers to meet the needs of their growing, global – and increasingly mobile – customer base, they’ve repeatedly told us that they need a SQL database that can maintain transactional consistency and integrity at global scale while maintaining the enterprise management capabilities to which they’ve become accustomed. For them, that has meant operating a single, logical database across multiple geographies in an active-active configuration. No sharding. No unnecessary application complexity. No loss of data.

That’s not to say that an avant-garde RDBMS like NuoDB is the right solution for all your problems. Gartner specifically calls out three key use cases in which consideration of an avant-garde RDBMS may be valuable:

  • Active-Active RDBMS - "While there is no escaping the limitations of the CAP theorem on distributed clusters, there is a benefit to inherently built-in architectural design."
  • Flexible architectures with multimodel capabilities - "The ability to use the same system for relational, key-value, graph or other NoSQL data models is appealing on many levels."
  • Cloud implementations - "While there are benefits to running traditional RDBMSs in cloud environments, it may not always be the most efficient approach."

There will still be use cases where a traditional relational database like Oracle may remain the best option for your lone data center or where there is no need to provision capacity on demand.

Regardless, Gartner recommends that information leaders "add at least one new RDBMS vendor to your technology portfolio as a viable complementary alternative to the incumbent solution."

But as Gartner says, "The impact these vendors will have on the IT organizations - and the traditional megavendors - will be far reaching."

You can get a complimentary copy of the report here.


Barry MorrisBarry Morris is a co-founder and the executive chairman at NuoDB, where he chairs the Board of Directors and drives the external matters of NuoDB, including industry thought leadership, strategic partnerships, and business relationships as well as product and technology strategy. He also serves as an advisor to the CEO and senior leadership on all aspects of the business.

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