NoSQL Reviews

And so the NoSQL bloodletting begins…

I discuss the most likely survivors from the NoSQL movement…

It all started so well. A myriad of products to answer data management needs over any structure or query plan you could possibly want. A rich ecosystem of databases to choose from has sprung up from the NoSQL community since 2005.

Of course, The Market being what it is, only a few will ever rise to become the big stars. Many companies form around new technology, but the market will select one or two to survive.

Even in the Open Source community the same forces are true. Rather than the market, it’s the size of the communities and those willing to contribute to their favourite product, making development sustainable.

Look at Java Servlet Containers for example. In the paid for space you have IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS), and Oracle WebLogic. In the Open source ring – name ones still about? Tomcat and Jetty, right? Tomcat vastly outstrips the other options in terms of community size and adoption.

I’ve been saying since my book State of NoSQL 2016 that 2017 would be the year of contraction in the market place for NoSQL, where we will see a lot of consolidation and some companies go bust, and communities shrink.

It’s started to happen. A couple of years ago IBM bought Cloudant to dip its toes in to NoSQL. Apple bought FoundationDB to run some of its own services. No huge surprise there – just people buying tech for their own purposes.

Microsoft CosmosDB may well be the catalyst that rapidly closes down a lot of NoSQL database companies.

Now though, you’re seeing companies fold or shrink. Most recently, Basho the commercial company behind Riak, appears to be shrinking away as made clear by this The Register investigation.

Similarly, RethinkDB‘s commercial arm folded, with the open source database now managed by The Linux Foundation.

At the same time we’re seeing large vendors enter the market place. Microsoft is by far the biggest, with their stalking horse DocumentDB released in the fall of 2015. Before that their Tables service also provided a solution.

Now expanded and touted as a ‘hybrid’ NoSQL database, and renamed to CosmosDB, Microsoft are pushing an easy to use, click and go, ‘good enough’ service to rival other NoSQL vendors. Chief of those to be worried should be MongoDB – who CosmosDB’s APIs are deliberately compatible with to provide a friction free move to Azure CosmosDB.

I believe Microsoft have, rightly, determined that those who own the feature rich database layers will also own the apps, as every cloud platform provides runtimes for every app language or platform you care about above the data level. Making it easy to use, and providing developer friendly and cost effective mid tier and data tier services will lure these apps to your Cloud platform.

Basically Microsoft’s CosmosDB is to NoSQL what SharePoint was to the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) companies. Remember them? I do, I worked for FileNet! There were a dozen of ECM vendors around when SharePoint arrived. Now there are only a couple of ECM vendors with large install bases – Documentum (of EMC fame), and IBM FileNet. SharePoint was ‘good enough’ for a lot of businesses.

Microsoft CosmosDB may well be the catalyst that rapidly closes down a lot of NoSQL database companies.

Do I just avoid NoSQL?

No! For the love of all that is holy, no! You’d be shooting yourself in the innovation foot.

Despite what RDBMS aficionados/naysayers may say, NoSQL ain’t going anywhere. It’s flexible schema, rich data structures, horizontal scalability on commodity servers, and developer friendly APIs will ensure their survival.

NoSQL database companies will still survive, just in fewer numbers.

This is no bad thing, as the money being spent on NoSQL coalesce’s around a smaller number of vendors, the investment in those products should increase. This may, finally, lead to better tools and application platforms being built on them, which in turn will lead to greater adoption.

To learn more about which NoSQL technologies may be applicable to you, read the low-cost ebook, State of NoSQL 2016.

NoSQL needs a Salesforce-level vendor to run its apps solely on a NoSQL platform in order to have a major investment breakthrough. A NoSQL killer app, if you will. That day will come soon.

This is most likely to happen in the intersection of Document Stores and Graph Stores, which appears to be an ever more popular combination both in terms of community development effort, and Enterprise customer spending.

The most likely survivors

But who are the most likely survivors?

For Open Source options, I think you can cross off anyone licensed under the AGPL, as companies with products licensed under that license seem to, for whatever reason, have trouble attracting community developers to work on the core platform, and struggle to get large Enterprises to deploy it. Aerospike is the only likely company to buck this trend, thanks to their unique Flash architecture and targeting of very specific markets.

I suspect people not adopting AGPL’ed products more widely is mainly due to licensing cost – as you have to license AGPL products to use them on money making production apps. Imagine if Tomcat had done that with their open source licensing??? I doubt we’d have a vibrant availability of Tomcat app hosting on every cloud platform out there.

Once the commercial arm of an AGPL’ed company shuts down I doubt it’ll survive as a pure Open Source database. Those companies have made investments and purchases that means the ‘Enterprise’ version of the products have uncertain patent and licensing issues.

These Enterprise features (backups, security, HA/DR support, management tools) are the pieces of the NoSQL database software products not originally covered by the AGPL. Who will pay the legal costs to investigate the legal issues prior to publishing as pure open source? I doubt anyone will, hence they won’t survive as pure open source once the commercial arms shut down.

Those commercial NoSQL companies most likely to survive aren’t the ones with many small applications in hundreds of large Enterprises, but those with fewer customers but larger and more reliable revenue streams in Enterprise grade, mission-critical, applications.

Additionally, for commercial players the most likely to survive are not those with current large install bases, but those who are succeeding in winning over large Enterprises for large, and crucially, mission-critical ‘Enterprise’ deployments.

This is purely for one reason – large Enterprises will spend large amounts of Money to ensure their large profit making applications are running smoothly.

Those who make cloud deployment ridiculously easy, as Microsoft is doing with CosmosDB, will also do very well. A choice of cloud platforms though would be good to see. The modern day ‘good datacentre citizen’ needs to work with the customers’ preferred cloud vendor seamlessly, whoever that may be.

The most likely Open Source databases to survive are ones with vibrant communities, with Apache 2 or BSD licensing terms, and who are open to third party individuals contributing patches regularly. As opposed to just putting code on GitHub and getting around to the odd bug request… eventually… but not accepting third party pull requests.

Also those with annual revenues above USD 60mil are most likely to survive too. There are precious few of these. Crucially, this money needs to come in a large part from large Enterprises if it is to be reliable, and growable over the long term. No $20k licenses-are-the-norm vendor can survive in the very long term, no matter how many licenses they squeeze out of companies.

The most likely survivors chart

So below are those I think will most likely survive. Let’s check back in 12-18 months and see how well I’ve done!

  • Key-value stores
    • Redis (data structure support, lightweight, cloud hosting from rediscloud)
    • Aerospike – read my latest review (Flash. Ah-aaaargh! Lots of adoption in Fin Serv.)
  • Column stores
    • Accumulo (purely because of its use in Defence)
    • DataStax Enterprise’s Cassandra (They also have the Titan graph store – but crucially I don’t count this as ‘hybrid’ as it’s a service layered over Cassandra as its storage layer, only.)
    • Hypertable (Commercial adoption)
    • Amazon DynamoDB (I doubt Amazon will drop this, ever)
  • Document stores
    • No pure-play vendor will survive due to the emergence of Hybrid, and Microsoft’s push in to this space. This may take until 2020 to shake out. (I expect MongoDB and CouchDB to shrink in the long term because of this)
  • Graph/Triple stores
    • Neo4j (Although I’m not sure this will survive after 2025 if it remains a pure play Graph database)
    • No other pure-play will survive due to the emergence of Hybrid
  • Hybrid
    • ArangoDB – read my latest review (hybrid Document / graph store, emerging giant killer, open source option)
    • MarkLogic Server (hybrid Document / triple store, lots of large Enterprise deals)
    • Microsoft Azure’s CosmosDB (good enough, cloud hosted, cheap and easy to adopt, bound to be extended to graph over time)

I realise the above list will displease many, but it was always bound to. Someone has to lose out.

Based on what I know about the inner workings of the companies, communities, and their current annual revenues, the above seems the most likely outcome to me.

Of course I’m predicting the future, so anything could happen. If IBM bought MongoDB, that would be interesting. Especially if they bought Allegrograph from Franz too! Such dreams are less likely though.

Please do make your own predictions in the comments section too.

To find out more information on the databases listed above, where they are used, and their pros and cons, I recommend reading the low-cost ebook State of NoSQL 2016. You can also read my NoSQL product reviews. For a more in-depth analysis in 400 pages, read NoSQL for Dummies.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.