Say Goodbye, Your Database Is Going Away

by drjim on November 11, 2009

Image Credit What Will Your IT Department Do Without Its Databases?

What Will Your IT Department Do Without Its Databases?

You know that database that your company relies on? No, not that one, the other one that is really, really important? Yep, that one – it’s going away, are you ready? It turns out that the databases that we’re using today were not designed for what we are asking them to do. All sorts of things like trying to deal with lots and lots of unstructured data is killing them. Looks like it’s time to go find yourself a new database. Are you ready?

The CIO’s Other Job

When you become CIO you are very quickly going to discover that on top of all of the cost cutting, uptime boosting, and IT team building that you have to do, you have yet another job. This is the job of chief technology visionary. The rest of the company (non-IT parts) are going to be looking at you to be all knowing and predict the (technology) future.

This means that you are going to be constantly learning. You’ll have to keep your fingers in a whole bunch of different pots so that when your CEO boss comes to you and says “I just read something about cloud computing, what does this mean for us?” you’ll have a smart and snappy comeback.

The Deal With Databases

As an example of the type of information that you are going to have to be staying on top of, let’s take a moment and talk about databases. They are the workhorses of the modern IT department. We set them up, pound them with requests, and desperately try to keep their contents secure.

However, we are at a critical junction with databases right now and things are getting ready to change. Are you going to be ready to tell your management and peers why things have to change and how they are going to turn out? If not, then read on.

Back in May of 2008 out at the Claremont Resort in Berkeley, CA, Rakesh Agrawal and 26 other prominent database researchers got together to talk about this very issue. What came out of this meeting is what you need to know.

Causes…

Databases have to change. There are a number of reasons why they need to change and how they need to change. Here are some of the reasons that the brightest minds in the database world think that changes are coming:

  • Big Data: the datasets that we are working with have just become huge. What used to be an exception that was limited to government statisticians or astrophysicists, has now become almost commonplace and today’s databases were never designed to deal with this much data.
  • Big Money In Data Analysis: databases used to be something that ran quietly in the backoffice. However, nowadays databases are operating close to the front lines of business and are responsible for driving corporate profits. The arrival of business intelligence software has turned databases into real-time engines, a job that they were never designed for.
  • Unstructured Data: today’s databases like data that can be broken up into comma delimitated fields. However, a lot of the data that you find in a modern workplace is of the unstructured format: blogs, documents, web pages, etc. The databases that we are using were never designed to deal with data that is in this format.
  • The Arrival Of : Why Use The Cloud?” href=” http://www.theaccidentalsuccessfulcio.com/cloud-computing/cio-cloud-computing-101-why-use-the-cloud”>Cloud Computing: the very architecture of the corporate data center is starting to change. Will the database remain onsite or will it be hosted? How about the data that it is using – where will that be located? What kind of data latency and security issues will this cause?

… and Effects

“Great!” I can hear you saying, so things are going to change. How are they going to change – what will the future look like? The answer is … I don’t know. However, with the help of those smart database researchers we can predict what areas you are going to see the most change in (and thus are where you should be watching):

  • Database Engine changes: it’s got a Hemi! Well, maybe not but today’s database engines have been tuned for specific tasks (OLTP anyone?) and will basically need to be rebuilt from the ground up in order to deal with tomorrow’s data needs.
  • Programmer Productivity: no matter how fast your database engine runs, if it takes your database programmers forever to program it, then business will still be moving too slowly. Creating a way for your non-expert database programmers to create good code that can run in a multi-processor environment is going to be a must.
  • Data Harmony: in future databases both structured and unstructured data are going to have to learn to get along with each other. Structured data is not going away even as unstructured data continues to grow. Tomorrow’s databases are going to have to be able to deal ably with both at the same time.
  • The Mobile World: the need to be able to provide real-time services to a large collection of mobile users who will be generating lots of user created data will become a critical function that tomorrow’s databases will need to be able to provide. The need to participate in virtual worlds as a mobile user will only increase the amount of data that will need to be processed.

What All This Means For You

When you become CIO, you are going to instantly be thrust into a spotlight where the rest of the company is going to be looking to you to understand and translate all of the changes that are occurring in IT technology. This will be a new role and in order to do it, you are going to have to start spending time researching what is going to be happening next in IT.

Your database systems are going to be a big part of the IT technology change. The reason that database systems are going to have to change range from the arrival of massive datasets, real-time processing demands, the arrival of unstructured data, and the emergence of cloud computing.

As a CIO you are going to have to be able to determine what changes in the database field you are going to have to watch because they will determine how the databases that you’ll be using tomorrow will operate. The key areas that will require your attention will include database engine changes, programmer productivity, data harmony, and support for mobile applications.

Spending your limited time watching these specific areas will provide you with the key insights that you will need in order to predict the future of database technology. Once you start doing this, you will have become the technology visionary that your firm wants in their CIO.

What function do you hope to add to your databases in the future?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So this story should probably be filed in the “it should have never happened” drawer: Microsoft has lost the information that T-Mobile users of the Sidekick mobile phone entrusted them to store for them. Wait a minute, isn’t this the grand and glorious 21st Century in which data loss like this is never supposed to happen any more? How did Microsoft’s CIO let the ball get dropped like this?

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