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How In-Memory Databases May Remake Your Database

In the last three years, these technologies have obliterated barricades

by Scott M. Fulton III - Virtualization, cheap memory, and private cloud technologies have coalesced to create the perfect storm for modern databases. In the last three years, these technologies have obliterated barricades for speed and capacity that once appeared insurmountable. So they’re being marketed as accelerators.

That might make you think you can insert your existing databases into these new engines, like Easy-Bake Ovens, and transform them into super-heroic stature overnight. No, it doesn’t work that way. Although people tend to think of databases as merely collections of data, they are sophisticated network structures whose architecture is based on the platform originally intended to support them. So, for the new breed of in-memory databases, the old methodologies are incompatible. To accelerate and grow your database for the new generation, you may need to rebuild it. Here is why it might not be such a bad idea in the end.

Here’s a question that sounds like it could have been asked by the stereotypical housewife in a 1960s cake mix commercial: Why are in-memory databases like SAP’s HANA, Oracle’s TimesTen, and VMware’s SQLFire so many orders of magnitude faster than conventional, relational database systems?

I’m not in the habit of asking stupid-sounding questions, at least I don’t think I am, but I asked this of several people whom you’d think would be in the know. I didn't do this because I enjoy rehashing the Goldwater era but because I wanted to test a little theory. One fellow provided me with the only analogy you may ever hear about database technology borrowed from The Ed Sullivan Show - specifically, the stage act wherein a guy simultaneously spins china plates on bamboo sticks. For those of you playing at home, his name was Erich Brenn. This fellow remarked that a conventional database balances petabytes of valuable data upon teetering arrays of spinning plates. Which would I think is faster and more reliable, he asked me, "a re‑eally big shoe-w" that’s about to shatter into a million fragments, or a solid-state microchip that securely houses electrons?

Thank you, database-marketing guy, for that patronizing response. But like all of the topics you’ll find me writing about, it’s never that simple. ...

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Alex Forbes is a B2B software marketing leader with experience in analyst relations, content marketing and product marketing. He follows the IoT, rapid application development, and cloud markets to help customers improve their digital transformation initiatives, customers' buyer journeys and experience from both an IT and business perspective.

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