FoundationDB Adds SQL To Its NoSQL Appeal - InformationWeek

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9/10/2014
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FoundationDB Adds SQL To Its NoSQL Appeal

FoundationDB adds SQL Layer product to its key-value store, blending NoSQL scalability and flexibility with NewSQL transactional performance.

16 NoSQL, NewSQL Databases To Watch
16 NoSQL, NewSQL Databases To Watch
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

NoSQL? NewSQL? Whatever. FoundationDB says it can do it all, announcing on Wednesday a SQL engine add-on to its core key value store, the latter touted as a universal storage engine that can power a variety of distributed database models.

FoundationDB says its underlying key value store offers the performance, multi-node scalability, and fault tolerance of a NoSQL database management system (DBMS), while also having the ACID-compliant transactional performance of a relational DBMS. With the general release of SQL Layer, the SQL engine that was previously in beta, FoundationDB says it offers the best of both worlds.

"It's a NoSQL-style key value store in almost all respects -- automatically moving data from node to node, automatically dealing with node failures and creating replica copies, scaling up and scaling down quickly, and running on-premises or in the cloud -- but the big difference is that we have transactional integrity," said Dave Rosenthal, FoundationDB's CEO, in a phone interview.

[Want more on database choices? Read NoSQL, NewSQL, or RDBMS: How To Choose. ]

FoundationDB would otherwise compete with the likes of Cassandra, HBase, and Riak, but Rosenthal says the product's transactional performance is a differentiator. Now that SQL Layer is available, the company also will compete with NewSQL vendors such as Clustrix and VoltDB, but Rosenthal points out that those vendors can't offer NoSQL flexibility and adaptability to multiple data models.

The SQL Layer engine is aimed at online transaction processing (OLTP) uses such as high-scale websites and e-commerce workloads. Toward that end, FoundationDB has partnered to bundle SQL Layer with the Spree Commerce open source e-commerce platform to offer a pre-configured, one-button deployment on the GoGrid cloud.

NoSQL and NewSQL aren't the only tricks FoundationDB has planned. Graph database and document database engines are also in the works. The idea is delivering the proverbial polyglot persistence layer, with many types of data processing supported on top of a single data store. The add-on components will all be open source, according to Rosenthal. Customers pay for FoundationDB's commercial key value store based on capacity.

"When you build the key value store, you run what we call worker processes, and our normal price point is $150 per worker process, per month," Rosenthal said. "Each worker process uses one core, and most people start with a four-machine cluster with one worker process on each core." Cores can be on high-powered servers, low-powered servers, or virtual instances, he added.

SQL Layer is based on technology gained in FoundationDB's 2013 acquisition of Akiban. From a development perspective, SQL Layer is compatible with many popular object relational mappers including ActiveRecord (Ruby/Rails), Django (Python), Hibernate (Java), SQLALchemy (Python), Doctrine (PHP), and EntityFramework (.NET).

FoundationDB was founded in 2009 and has raised roughly $40 million in venture capital, including a $17 million round last November. The FoundationDB product is in production use by more than 300 companies, but that includes uses of the company's free community edition. Rosenthal declined to disclose the number of customers paying for the supported, six-node-plus commercial software.

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Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio

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David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/10/2014 | 10:22:51 AM
Tradeoffs?
You'd think there would have to be a tradeoff in here somewhere? Do you lose something in performance with the SQL or transactional features are enabled? Will be interesting to see what the users of this tech have to say after a few months' experience.
Doug Henschen
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Doug Henschen,
User Rank: Moderator
9/10/2014 | 10:39:51 AM
Re: Tradeoffs?
The ACID-compliant transactional performance is intrinsic to the underlying data store, which in this case is a key value store. So I don't think OLTP (transactional) performance would be an issue. What I would question is just how versatile, extensive and SQL-compliant SQL Layer might be in its capabilities. For example, FoundationDB said it's entirely focused on OLTP use cases, NOT analytical (OLAP) use cases. So if you're application is high-scale query and analysis, this probably isn't the product for you. But then, you don't usually look to the NoSQL camp when you're addressing analytical needs. You usually go there to find a foundation for modern Web-scale and mobile apps. 
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