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The premature return to SQL

Here’s what Jack Clark’s wrote recently for The Register about what is now an obvious trend across the NoSQL databases market:

The tech world is turning back toward SQL, bringing to a close a possibly misspent half-decade in which startups courted developers with promises of infinite scalability and the finest imitation-Google tools available, and companies found themselves exposed to unstable data and poor guarantees.

This pisses me off. A lot.

It’s not because I hate SQL as a language. Even if it’s full of quirks, limitations, and flavors.

It’s also not because so many are still confusing SQL with relational databases.

It’s not even because I’m some sort of masochist technology fanboy that likes seeing others be unproductive.

There are two simple reasons that make me feel angry about this premature return and oversized investment into SQL.

First is that the innovation in the area of data processing is stopping too early in an attempt to capture financial returns. I’m not an absurd guy that doesn’t understand that businesses cannot survive without money. Nor research and innovation can happen without businesses and implicitly money.

But some sort of naivety makes me believe that this turn away from experimentation is happening too early. The data space is big enough to allow the new guys to continue to research, experiment, try, fail and succeed. It’s probably not big enough to show hockey stick growth though.

Just take a second a think what we got during this misspent half-decade: Redis, Cassandra, Riak, a multi-parallel fully programmatic way to process data, Cascading, Pig, Cypher, ReQL and many more tools, languages, and APIs for processing data.

Many of them haven’t reached maturity and thus might not feel as friendly or productive as SQL. Many of them haven’t yet had the chance to show everything they’ve imagined. But they’ve already opened new doors into data. They made us think again about the value of data, they gave us back the excitement and rewarding feeling of digging deeper into data.

The other reason I’m sadden by this trend is that it is happening now mostly due to the peer pressure coming from the largest database vendors. The costs they imposed over time on users has a secondary, not immediately obvious implication. In order to protect their investments, users are now going to these big vendors asking about the new shiny technologies. These new technologies that some have already recognized that cannot be ignored. What they usually get is either a raise of shoulders or a pragmatic answer: “write us a bigger check and we’ll make it happen”. Enraged, they go to the young companies demanding SQL and threatening to not use and pay (the little) price to support these new tools. This whole trend is due to misdirected peer pressure.

I want to leave you with the following thought: what would have happened if the Wright brothers or people like Howard Hughes would have just gone back to steamboats? Would we ask for SQL today?

Original title and link: The premature return to SQL (NoSQL database©myNoSQL)