The significance of Oracle NoSQL

We have previously speculated at The 451 Group about Oracle’s potential to respond to the growing adoption of NoSQL databases, noting that the company had a number of options at its disposal, including Berkeley DB and projects like HandlerSocket.

While some may wonder about the potential impact of Oracle NoSQL (based indeed on Berkeley DB) on the existing NoSQL vendors, I believe the launch says something very significant about NoSQL itself: specifically that its adoption is driven by more than the nature of the query language.

To get a sense of why Oracle NoSQL is significant, think about the way Oracle has traditionally responded to alternative approaches that threaten the relational model and its dominance thereof. Oracle’s approach has traditionally been to subsume the alternative approach, at least in part, into Oracle Database, nullifying the competitive threat.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison explained the approach himself on a recent call with investors:

“We think that data should be integrated with a single database technology. That’s always been our strategy for Oracle. And it started as a relational database then we added objects, then we added text and then we’ve added a variety of other things like video and audio to the Oracle Database. We think that should be unified and that’s how we’re approaching the problem.”

As we recently covered (451 clients only), Oracle is in the process of replicating this strategy with MySQL, adding support for the ability to directly access MySQL’s InnoDB and MySQL’s Cluster’s NDB storage engines using the memcached API.

This ability to perform non-SQL querying of the database is part of the agility benefit of NoSQL, and if the term NoSQL were to be taken literally would perhaps be enough to discourage would-be NoSQL adopters from turning away from MySQL.

As our NoSQL, NewSQL and Beyond report highlighted, however, agility is just one of six key trends we see driving adoption of NoSQL databases. Scalability, performance, relaxed consistency, intricacy and necessity will not be solved by the ability to query MySQL or MySQL Cluster using the memcached API.

The launch of Oracle NoSQL is therefore a clear indication that there are trends at work here that cannot be solved by adding non-SQL querying to existing relational databases.

There is another significant factor here, which is the fact that Oracle has chose to name the product NoSQL. In one simple naming move the company has effectively disarmed the NoSQL ‘movement’.

We have previously noted that existing NoSQL vendors were turning away from the term in favor of emphasizing their individual strengths. How many of them are going to want to self-identify with an Oracle product? I’m not convinced any of them believe the brand is worth fighting for.

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#1 Christian Hasker on 10.03.11 at 2:38 pm

I think the other interesting thing of note is that Oracle is not letting noSQL gain too much traction before entering the market. Unlike in the past, where they let MySQL gain a traction, or RedHat with Linux, they are not about to let the emerging players get too much of a foothold. Doesn’t seem like we’ll see any acquisitions by Oracle of the Hadoop or noSQL players.

#2 Chris Anderson on 10.03.11 at 3:31 pm

I’m obviously a bit biased (Couchbase co-founder here) but I don’t see this having any impact on the “more interesting” NoSQL solutions: mostly CouchDB and Redis. Both of these technologies have carved out niches that are not just scale plays – CouchDB for sync and mobile, Redis for low latency structured queues.

If I were one of the NoSQL’s that is primarily a scale solution, I’d be worried. Couchbase scales, but it’s got more than one trick up its sleeve, and I don’t see Oracle competing with our truly killer features anytime soon.

#3 Matthew Aslett on 10.03.11 at 3:58 pm

Yes I agree – impact is more on the term ‘NoSQL’ than the NoSQL players and their technology

#4 Mat Keep on 10.04.11 at 11:58 am

Hi Matt
declaring my interest, I’m part of the MySQL Cluster team
MySQL Cluster offers more than just non-SQL querying of the data:
– auto-sharding on commodity hardware
– online schema updates
– integrated replication, failover, live scaling, etc
– real time

While maintaining the ability to run cross-shard queries and preserving ACID compliance

The new Development Release of Cluster 7.2 was released yesterday, so worth taking a look:

#5 Oracle NoSQL, Hadoop and the Cloud: something borrowed, something new? | BigDataOnCloud + FreeDB2 on 10.04.11 at 3:33 pm

[…] ourselves with the news of the iPhone 5 for now. Matthew Aslett from the The 451 Group has penned a blog post in which he suggests that with the NoSQL announcement oracle may have moved away from their […]

#6 Leon Katsnelson on 10.04.11 at 3:46 pm

Great post. I guess I don’t see much of a difference from the past behavior though. Oracle keeps talking about NoSQL and Hadoop as it these were ETL processes to get data in to Oracle databases. I have not seem them acknowledge that data can actually exist anywhere but Oracle database. I blogged on this and the Oracle Hadoop Appliance announcement Bottom line, it is once more Oracle doing a fine job of protecting their database franchise.

#7 Matthew Aslett on 10.04.11 at 5:04 pm

Hi Leon,

Thanks for the comment – good point. I loved this recent quote from Larry: “After Hadoop finishes filtering the data, the place you want to put that data is in Oracle Database.”

On the plus side, at least they didn’t just announce in-database MapReduce-style UDFs and claim that was the same as Hadoop, which someone more cynical might have expected.

#8 Srini V. Srinivasan on 10.08.11 at 1:00 pm

Hi Matt, Great article. I am co-founder, cto of Citrusleaf.

It is interesting that Oracle has also realized the need for a commercial, well supported NoSQL solution. As the first commercial, real-time, Non-Stop NoSQL database, Citrusleaf has already been widely deployed in many mission-critical scenarios. I see the Oracle announcement as strong validation of the need for commercial NoSQL products. Having multiple well-supported commercial products like Citrusleaf and Oracle NoSQL will be very good for customers and should result in faster adoption of new OLTP in Enterprises.