Friday, April 04, 2008

Database 2.0

Database requirements for websites have become simpler and simpler. Finding a product of a certain type or the invoices for an account is very straightforward and is in fact hierarchical and does not require dynamic relationships. It is an ironic twist that the hierarchical databases of yesteryear like IMS are more suited to today's applications than relational databases.

The main feature of a relational database is relationships - "joining" data across different tables of data. But no one in their right mind does complicated joins of data on a production web database because it is so slow, even when using features like views. MySQL, which has completely dominated the web database market for years, only recently has accomplished feature parity to commercial databases like Oracle.

When people need to do complicated data queries, they copy the data from the production databases to what used to be called a "data warehouse" but is now in fact just another database and run reports off of that database instead of the production database.

Both Amazon EC2 and Facebook Platfrom, which are attracting legions of next-generation developers have recently added simplified database offerings that are essentially hierarchical databases. These databases will meet the needs of most web applications and widgets respectively and do nothing else. Amazon's database is even called "SimpleDB" - for web apps, simple does the trick.

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