Alternative Database Technology for the Cloud: There is No Silver Bullet

Cloud computing is dramatically increasing the pace of IT innovation, which has been accelerated by open source software.  Rather than solving the same problems as others behind closed doors, the open source model allows you to collaborate with and benefit from other people that have the same needs as you.  We have built the Rackspace Cloud on many well-known software projects like Linux, as well as smaller projects to meet specific needs.  We also give back to the community through contributions to a number of projects including the recently released OpenStack.

With this rapid evolution of both hardware and software, the expectations we place on our databases have changed significantly.  Web applications have a different set of needs from a database than an enterprise client-server application, and alternative database technologies have sprung up to meet this need.  This doesn’t mean your web application should automatically use one of the new database technologies, but it certainly means you shouldn’t keep using the same database you have for the last twenty years without considering your options.  The hardware we run our applications on today is also dramatically different – your smartphone has a faster processor and more memory than a server did when many databases were originally authored.  Data sets are now measured in terabytes and petabytes for many applications.

If you’re still running an application with a smaller data set measured in the 10s or maybe even the 100s of gigabytes, you should probably run database software that is easy to configure, maintain, and that has a rich ecosystem of tools around it. On the other hand, if you have a big data problem it is time to analyze some of the new solutions available as open source projects.  The attached presentation provides a high level overview of a few database alternatives, but many more also exist.  It also links to the write-up about Mozilla’s Test Pilot project, where they talk about the process they used to select a database that met their needs.

Please make sure you spend the time doing the analysis, as that time spent will be inversely proportionate to the amount of time you’ll spend re-working a decision made in haste – measure twice, cut once.

Bret Piatt is Senior Director, Corporate Strategy and Development for Rackspace. He previously served as the General Manager of Apps@Rackspace, where he was responsible for all aspects of our email, collaboration, and backup businesses. Prior to his current role, Bret spent 5 years on the Rackspace Corporate Development & Strategy team identifying and pursuing new growth opportunities for the company's core business through M&A, strategic partnerships and incubation efforts. Bret played a crucial role in the formation of OpenStack, the open source cloud software community, as well as in building the Cloud Tools ecosystem for the Rackspace Cloud. Previously, Bret was on the Product Management teams for both Rackspace and AT&T, where he was responsible for security and compliance product lines. His technical experience comes from his time at AT&T/SBC, where he designed carrier scale monitoring and management systems, optimized networks for enterprise customers and performed lab testing on new products from potential suppliers and partners. Bret has more than 15 years experience working for service providers on leading edge projects and technologies from the beginning of VPN services to the currently emerging public cloud computing market. He is a also frequent speaker on cloud computing and big data technology at major industry events.


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