The Rise of the Columnar Database

Michael Vizard
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Nine Best Practices for Efficient Database Archiving

As a platform for storing data, the columnar database has been around for a while. But as a class of databases, it has been long overshadowed by relational databases, largely because transaction-based applications tend to perform better using the row-level architecture found in relational databases.

But with the recent rise of business intelligence and analytic applications, column-based databases are enjoying something of a Renaissance period. In fact, Dan DeLoach, CEO of Infobright, a provider of a columnar database, goes so far as to say that while relational databases dominate when it comes to transactions, columnar databases will soon be equally dominant when it comes to analytic applications.

Infobright today released version 4.0 of its namesake database, which adds the ability to distribute load processing to remote servers - a rough query function that lets end users more easily investigate the results of potential queries - and connectors to the open-source Hadoop data management framework.

DeLoach says there is a natural affinity between Hadoop and columnar databases such as Infobright because together they provide a low-cost approach to analyzing massive amounts of data. According to DeLoach, he envisions IT organizations storing large amounts of data in Hadoop that would be transferred to Infobright to be analyzed, as opposed to trying to master an interface such as MapReduce. Infobright can handle large amounts of data, also known as Big Data, because everything in the database is partitioned into 64k packs of data, which Infobright then wraps a layer of metadata around, said DeLoach.

There are, of course, no shortages of options when it comes to columnar databases. But what's even more interesting is that there is more diversity in the database world than any time in recent memory. That's a good thing in that it means IT organizations are more inclined to find the right database for the right task. The real challenge is going to be finding database administrators (DBAs) who are skilled in all these diverse architectures. After all, it's unlikely that most organizations are going to want to hire dedicated specialists to manage every type of database the organization needs. That may put more pressure on existing DBAs, while at the same time creating new opportunities for others looking to break into a DBA field that is getting more complex with each passing day.

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