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NewSQL, Megajumbos & Airport Infrastructure

Bob Warfield questions assumptions of rapid market disruption in his response to Fred Wilson’s speculations.

He makes the case that true disruption takes many years, and certainly VC investments take many years to return value to the investor.  In reading this the word that comes to mind is Ecosystem.

Let us suppose that Boeing had decided to respond to the competitive threat of the Airbus 380 by building a 1,000-seat airliner (the 380 seats nearly 900 in it’s all-economy configuration).  Leaving aside the issue of market demand for a plane like that Boeing would be faced with some Ecosystem challenges.  Airports would have to change their jetway configurations, upgrade their gate waiting areas, expand the distance between gates to accommodate the wingspan, lengthen the runways, and rethink passenger flow patterns through the terminal building, parking areas and so on.  It is immediately apparent that building a Megajumbo business would have been limited by the behavioral, cultural, infrastructure and process changes required.  As it happens Boeing chose to leave Airbus with that set of challenges and to build the Dreamliner (7E7/787) instead, a plane that is roughly the size of the 767 but faster, more economical and much more technologically advanced.  The Dreamliner plugs right into existing airport facilities, and in-general works well with the current ecosystem.  The Dreamliner is set to go into service soon and it will be interesting to see how the story develops.

But the point is made, and it relates to Bob Warfield’s commentary.  Innovation that fits with the way things are currently done but provides radically more value is innovation that disrupts quickly; conversely innovation that requires the world to change in order to capture the new value is both slower to take hold and more at risk of being beaten to the punch.  In some cases the principle is obvious: A car that doesn’t run on current road systems, a train built  for a different rail gauge, a microwave oven that requires non-standard electric power, etc.  In other cases it needs to be stated more explicitly. You would have to agree with Bob if his point is that changing the ecosystem is a long process.

As relates to database systems there is little doubt about what the ecosystem looks like.  Millions of database administrators understand SQL and transactions.  Millions of programmers write and understand SQL and transactions.  Thousands of tools support SQL and transactions. Zillions of applications are based on SQL and transactions.  Gazillions of business processes support SQL and transactions.   And we can go on.  If you draw a pie chart of databases the SQL segment is just about the whole pizza.  So the point is that the product people would adopt easily, the product that would rapidly disrupt, and the product that would gather an unstoppable momentum is the product that doesn’t require you to move away from SQL and it’s related ecosystem.  If you can address 21st century database needs without requiring a root-canal operation on every organizations data center, information model, business process and skills base then you have defined the low-friction way forward for 21st century data management.

So that is why NewSQL is important.  NewSQL solves the problem without a change in Ecosystem.  I have no idea how well Boeing’s Dreamliner will do, and obviously it is targeting a different market segment, but I do know that the Airbus A380 sales person need not even call people that are not ready to rebuild their airports.

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