Best of both worlds?

Can NuoDB make relational databases cool again?

Chris Mayer

The high performance distributed NewSQL database has notched up its second big release since January. Will its new migration tool take a dent out of Oracle?

With the rise of the NoSQL database in the last decade, the number of people wanting to dabble with nonrelational datastores is undeniably increasing. Yet moving across from the familiar SQL surroundings of a relational database can often be a traumatic process, due to the starkly different models. Many organisations will ignore the lure of NoSQL entirely, opting for the safety of strong transactions instead.

Consequently, another set of databases are gaining prominence. The nauseatingly-coined NewSQL database crowd aim to be the best of both worlds, providing the scalability benefits NoSQL databases claim but with the tried and trusted ACID and SQL query capabilities of a relational counterpart.

NuoDB is one such example of this modern architectural rethink. Founded by Barry Morris and Jim Starkey two years ago, the company went GA with their “zero downtime” cloud-based system in January. This week, the self-proclaimed NewSQL leader clocked up their second update of the fledgling distributed database, complete with support for new drivers and frameworks. The Starlings 1.2 release also introduces SQL-based syntax, which includes “a pluggable language model” that can support Java, .NET and JavaScript.

The standout new arrival however is the preview of Tungsten Replicator, NuoDB’s high-performance data replication engine for MySQL, that includes global transaction IDs to support failover and sharding. The open source project supports a live replication of a MySQL databases to NuoDB, and the two running side-by-side.

Speaking to Application Development Trends, NuoDB co-founder Barry Morris said he believes “the NoSQL guys threw the baby out with the bathwater.”

“Just because traditional SQL databases don’t scale, that doesn’t mean that SQL doesn’t scale. It means that the old designs don’t scale.”

In July, NuoDB went on a charm offensive towards organisations still reliant on SQL, with the unveiling of a beta migration program. The open source tool allows companies to part with their traditional database system (MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2, PostgreSQL and Oracle RDBMS) for NuoDB with minimum fuss. Plenty of NoSQL companies, DataStax and 10gen for example, have realised the importance of that providing a relatively pain-free transition between the monolithic structures of old to the flashy modern alternative.

NuoDB could well be onto a winner by providing a halfway house for scaling out, but is in equal danger of being lost in the noise created by NoSQL solutions such MongoDB and Cassandra. Morris told the Register last month that NuoDB had worked with “20-to-30” customers looking to move away. While this figure shouldn’t be written off, there needs to be a large increase if NuoDB and others really want to see Oracle’s empire crumble.

NuoDB comes in three flavours – an free open source project, a commercial pay-as-you-scale version and an Amazon Web Services ‘Cloud’ Edition.

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