In this article, Vikram Vaswani discusses the ways in which SQL plays an important role in the computer market today, and what may be in store for this database language in the future. This excerpt comes from chapter 26 of MySQL: The Complete Reference, by Vikram Vaswani (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222477-0, 2004).
Predicting the path of the database market and SQL over the next five to ten years is a risky proposition. The computer market is in the midst of a major transition into an Internet-driven era. The early stages of that era, dominated by the World Wide Web and user/browser interaction, are giving way to a ubiquitous Internet used to deliver all communication services, information services, and e-business interaction. The emergence of the PC and its creation of the client/server era of the 1980s and 1990s illustrates how shifts in the underlying computer systems market can produce major changes in data management architectures. It’s likely that the Internet will have at least as large, if not a larger, impact on the data management architectures of the next ten years. Nonetheless, several trends appear to be safe predictions for the future evolution of database management. They are discussed in the final sections of this chapter.
As more and more applications are used on an enterprisewide basis or beyond, the ability of a single, centralized database to support dozens of major applications and thousands of concurrent users will continue to erode. Instead, major corporate databases will become more and more distributed, with dedicated databases supporting the major applications and functional areas of the corporation. To meet the higher service levels required of enterprisewide or Internet-based applications, data must be distributed; but to ensure the integrity of business decisions and operations, the operation of these distributed databases must be tightly coordinated.
Another strain on centralized database architectures will be the continuing growth of mobile personal computers and other mobile information appliance devices. These devices are, by their nature, more useful if they can become an integral part of a distributed network. However, by their nature, they are also occasionally connected— they work in a sometimes-disconnected, sometimes-connected mode, using either wired or wireless networks. The databases at the heart of mobile applications must be able to operate in this occasionally connected environment.
These trends will drive heavy demand for data distribution, database integration, data synchronization, data caching, data staging, and distributed database technology. A one-size-fits-all model of distributed data and transaction is inadequate for the highly distributed, anywhere/anytime environment that will emerge. Instead, some transactions will require absolute synchronization with a centralized master database, while others will demand support for long-duration transactions where synchronization may take hours or days. Developing ways to create and operate these distributed environments, without having them become a database administrator’s nightmare, will be a major challenge for DBMS vendors in the next decade, and a major source of revenues for the vendors that provide practical, relatively easy-to-use solutions.
Massive Data Warehousing
The last few years have demonstrated that companies that use database technology aggressively and treat their data as a valuable corporate asset can gain tremendous competitive advantage. The competitive success of WalMart, for example, is widely attributed to its use of information technology (led by database technology) to track its inventory and sales on a daily basis, based on cash register transaction data. This allowed the company to minimize its inventory levels and closely manage its supplier relationships. Data mining techniques have allowed companies to discover unexpected trends and relationships based on their accumulated data—including the legendary discovery by one retailer that late-night sales of diapers were highly correlated with sales of beer.
It seems clear that companies will continue to accumulate as much information as they can on their customers, sales, inventories, prices, and other business factors. The Internet creates enormous new opportunities for this kind of information-gathering. Literally every customer or prospective customer’s interaction with a company’s web site, click-by-click, provides potential clues to the customer’s wants, needs and behavior. That type of click-by-click information can easily generate tens of gigabytes of data or more per day on a busy web site. The databases to manage these massive quantities of data will need to support multilevel storage systems. They will need to rapidly import vast quantities of new data, and rapidly peel off large data subsets for analysis. Despite the high failure rate of data warehousing projects, the large potential payoffs in reduced operating costs and more on-target marketing and sales activities will continue to drive data warehousing growth.
Beyond the collection and warehousing of data, pressure will build to perform business analyses in real time. IS consulting groups are writing about the zero-latency enterprise or the real-time enterprise to describe an architecture in which customer interactions translate directly into changes in business plans with zero or very little delay. To meet this challenge, database systems will continue to take advantage of processor speed advances and multiprocessing technologies.
Remember: this is chapter 26 of MySQL: The Complete Reference, by Vikram Vaswani (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, ISBN 0-07-222477-0, 2004). Vikram is the founder of Melonfire, and has had numerous articles featured on Dev Shed. Buy this book now.