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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Towards One Database to Rule Them All

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The data processing landscape is characterized by islands of funtionality.

Apache Tinkerpop co-founder Marko Rodriguez is working on a virtual machine for cluster computing.

Credit: Computing (U.K.)

Every few weeks, or so it seems, a new database is added to an ever-growing and increasingly diverse list.

In addition to the familiar relational databases there are analytical, transactional, in-memory, NoSQL, NewSQL, time series, event streaming, graph, distributed, wide-column, key-value and document stores. Some databases straddle several of these categories, while others are finely tuned to serve a small set of use cases or a specific domain.

The explosion in database technologies, which began about ten years ago with the advent of NoSQL, has been accompanied by a rise in the number of query languages and interfaces, each specific to a certain class of database.

Processing engines are proliferating too, particularly given the popularity of real-time streaming as a way of moving data rapidly in and out of datastores, filtering, querying and aggregating data and managing low-level operations.

So, developers and data engineers are spoiled for choice - which is not necessarily a good thing.

In short, the at-scale data processing environment has become an archipelago of small islands of functionality, navigating between which is not for the faint-hearted, or at least not for those inexperienced in integration. In an environment characterised by rapid change, it's easy to see how this cornucopia of choice can also be a recipe for complexity.

But when complexity rears its many ugly heads, those dedicated to simplification and unity are not far behind.


From Computing (U.K.)
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