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Data Management Systems: The Next Stage of Database Evolution?

I read the latest post over at The Database Column recently, and the early paragraphs about economies of scale got me thinking.

With their broad range of products, the consolidators -- IBM, Oracle, and SAP -- can now offer their customers the simplicity of one-stop shopping, single contracts, quantity discounts, and a single point of support.

This explains (or maybe rationalizes, if you're cynical like me) why the acquisitions were made from a business perspective. But from a broader, more functional perspective, it left me wondering: is this type of consolidation the first big step away from databases, BI, ETL, etc. as independent technologies and toward holistic, tailored, data management systems rather than database management systems?

A data management system, as I see it, would provide everything necessary to capture, store, organize, utilize, monitor, audit, analyze, etc. data rather than just storing it. This will allow people to focus on running their business and maximizing the value of their data, rather than worrying about DBAs, report creators, application developers, etc. The database will only be a component of a much larger whole, accessible to the integrators but never really accessed directly by the customer.

In this context you can think of databases like automobile engines. When you buy a car you get the engine, and though you care about what what kind of engine it has, you don't really have access to it nor do you really want to touch it anyway. When engine work is necessary, you call a mechanic. The same will ultimately be true of databases, I think; you'll want to know some of the basic characteristics of database that is inside your data management system, but you won't expect to work on it yourself.

Heh. Maybe row-stores are to gasoline engines as column-stores are to diesel engines. I wonder what the analog for electric cars would be...

IBM, Oracle and SAP can now offer entire product suites covering ETL, data storage, BI, etc. So they could certainly build data management systems rather than database management systems. But the same is true for other database vendors too; one of the first things every new database company does is partner with some type of BI vendor. And than an ETL vendor or three. And then vendors in different verticals to provide ways for people to use their new database. The end goal is always to provide a comprehensive system that addresses the data needs of a given company, industry, vertical, etc. Just building a database and selling it to people doesn't cut it anymore. So to some degree, this is already happening, just in a piecemeal fashion rather than as a planned concept.

That, then, is where I think all these acquisitions are ultimately headed. BI will subsume databases, I think. ETL too, for that matter. Before long we'll be talking about data appliances rather than database appliances.

Unfortunately, I think that good mechanics will still be hard to find.

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