Note: For big data, you need a database dedicated to managing that data. For a big website, you need dedicated hosting to make sure you’re always online and delivering content quickly to customers.

With products like SQLFire, TenTimes for Exalogic, and HANA, the face and market of transactional databases is changing.

Thanks to virtualization technology, huge databases (we’re talking gigabytes and terabytes in size) can be managed in memory, without having to go back and forth between hard drive and RAM. Because of this new development, players like SAP are becoming legitimate contenders with Oracle, maybe even one day surpassing Oracle. Companies like VMware are able to contend in the database marketplace, particularly with products like SQLFire. Working in tandem with big-data storage systems like Hadoop, customers are able to see the big wide world of databases without SQL Server and Oracle, and are free to wonder if they really needed those big names in the first place.

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The nature of hardware and networks today is that users expect instantaneous results. Being able to manage big databases in memory is going to change many things about many activities and industries. VMware’s director of cloud and application services David McJannet was interviewed by ReadWriteWeb and said, “Having millions of people connecting to an application that’s underpinned by a spinning disk, it’s just not going to return information fast enough. You see it when people are scanning with a barcode reader or with their cell phone. They scan something, and then they wait three, four, five seconds for the answer to come back. That experience is not acceptable for most new applications, where people expect near-instant response regardless of where they are.”

In-memory database systems is a growing market with products like VMware’s SLQFire, SAP’s HANA, and Oracle’s TimesTen for Exalogic. Initially, all of these services were marketed as transactional databases for storage, retrieval, and updating records. Now though, they’re being passed off for other purposes. For example, TimesTen is marketed more and more as a cache for Exalogic, as an extension of the service instead of a replacement of it. Also, SAP is pushing HANA as an analytics system for online analytical processing applications, instead of a transaction processor.

VMware is in a great position in the pack right now, with SQLFire. Because the company doesn’t have a legacy database platform, it can simply market SQLFire as a faster transactional processing system than anything else on the market today. Also, SQLFire can be pitched as a standalone, not as an add-on product or an extension. In a bold statement, McJannet stated that “disk is the new tape. It’s considered to be a permanent mechanism, but not really appropriate for the main day-to-day interaction with data.” McJannet also laid out current trends, like the move to big data and the emphasis on fast data (i.e. the shift to do more work in-memory).

Finally, McJannet also emphasized the need for flexible data structures. He cites the onset of loose data constructs like NoSQL and MongoDB. Hadoop is mainly useful for analytics. Big name transactional databases today force developers to interact with data with languages like Java or Python or Clojure. Prior to today’s databases, developers could get away with only using SQL or an SQL-like language to interact with data.

Note: Some people prefer SQL, but some prefer the flexibility of a SQL-like language. Likewise, some people prefer Unix, but some prefer a Unix-like language. Choose cloud hosting with NetHosting to work with your preferred Unix-like language.

McJannet says, “To me, SQLFire just looks like a database. I can put data into it, pull data out of it, and submit queries using standard SQL. When I am building my overall application, it acts and is a database.” Of course, after the data is retrieved, it needs something like Java with the Spring framework. Storing the results of those post-retrieval interactions could be done with SQLFire.

To learn more about databases, big data, and what big companies are doing with both, check out our blog post about the new project from the Wikimedia Foundation called Wikidata, a database that will be usable and editable by the general public.