Feeds

Backlash starts against 'sexy' databases

Blame your code, not the RDBMS

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The relational database - a mainstay of enterprise computing for 25 years - has been under siege. New approaches to data storage are threatening the RDBMS and precipitating what database guru Mike Stonebraker and others described recently as a "group grope" to find a new database engine.

This week, though, could mark the beginning of the backlash, with people defending the RDBMS against fashionable, quick-and-dirty products such as Amazon's SimpleDB, Apache's CouchDB, NextDB and Google's App Engine Datastore.

The catalyst appears to be a debate over popular blogging platform and LAMP flagship Wordpress flogging the database twenty times every time you refresh a page, even when there have been no changes to the elements on a page. Coder and Coding Horror blogger Jeff Atwood posited simply: "Doesn't that strike you as a bad idea? Maybe even, dare I say it, sloppy programming?"

Open source developer Jonathan Holland pulled up WordPress for installing a caching plug rather than fixing the problem at hand.

Holland, who said he understands the shortcomings of a relational database but also knows its strengths, concluded: "The bottom line is don't tell me RDMBS can't scale if you can't write a decent query or design a normalized database schema."

Elsewhere, evangelists have been taken to task for hype, by "fawning" and posting comments "verging on satire" in their support of the new wave - specifically, SimpleDB. Todd Hoff praised SimpleDB for eliminating much of the complexity of traditional RDBMS systems by dispensing with tiresome technicalities such as data schema and normalization. He said such things are unnecessary for many web applications.

Defending RDBMS, computer science student Ryan Park listed 10 reasons for avoiding SimpleDB, CouchDB and Google DataStore. Among them: data integrity is not guaranteed, complicated reports and ad hoc queries will require a lot more coding, and relational databases are scalable even with massive data sets.

"Mr. Hoff's supposed advantages are actually serious disadvantages to the paradigm. Before designing your architecture around a database engine like SimpleDB, it's important to consider the reasons not to do so," Park wrote.

He also added a useful reality check to supporters of SimpleDB by pointing out the poster children of Web 2.0 are founded on RDBMS: Facebook and LiveJournal are on MySQL, MySpace on Microsoft's SQL Server, and Salesforce.com uses Oracle.

Backing Park was software architect and technology writer Dennis Forbes, who drew a distinction between "web toys" and big "specialized databases" run by the likes of Amazon. "Until the day you build your own specialized database, an RDBMS is often a suitable choice," Forbes wrote in comments to Park.

It wouldn't be a tech debate, though, without the usual allegations of fanboydom, and so there were counter claims of too much RDBMS love. And such commentators will likely be unsurprised to learn that RDBMS vendor IBM also believes in the continued relevance of RDBMS, saying it has a place in web applications

The RDBMS is certainly facing new challenges, in terms of scale and provisioning.

Pioneers Stonebraker and David DeWitt themselves have argued in favor of replacing RDBMS - apparently putting themselves in the same camp as folks on the front like Holland, who accept RDBMS has limitations but who also recognize that "bad" coding can also create performance and scalability problems.

Such people, though, are taking a wait-and-see instead of an all-or-noting approach, favoring practicality and evolution over revolution.®

Additional reporting by Gavin Clarke

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.