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The relational model is dead, SQL is dead, and I don’t feel so good myself

Page history last edited by Nathan T Suver 5 years ago


Paolo Atzeni , Christian S. Jensen , Giorgio Orsi , Sudha Ram , Letizia Tanca , Riccardo Torlone, The relational model is dead, SQL is dead, and I don't feel so good myself, ACM SIGMOD Record, v.42 n.2, May 2013 




ABSTRACT We report the opinions expressed by well-known database researchers on the future of the relational model and SQL during a panel at the International Workshop on Non-Conventional Data Access (NoCoDa 2012), held in Florence, Italy in October 2012 in conjunction with the 31st International Conference on Conceptual Modeling. The panelists include: Paolo Atzeni (Università Roma Tre, Italy), Umeshwar Dayal (HP Labs, USA), Christian S. Jensen (Aarhus University, Denmark), and Sudha Ram (University of Arizona, USA). Quotations from movies are used as a playful though effective way to convey the dramatic changes that database technology and research are currently undergoing. 




This article is the summary of panel discussion among experts on the future of the relational model at the International Workshop on Non-Conventional Data Access (NoCoDa 2012), held in Florence, Italy in October 2012.  It contains a brief history of relational databases and sql, noting that data schemes such as the object oriented database movement essentially fizzled out, replaced by the NoSql revolution. They present some arguments that sql is an outdated modality, for example, concepts such as GROUP BY are really just "reduce" functions that exist in other frameworks such as mapreduce.  The also note that the relational model is not a good fit for complex objects.  They bring up some interesting points, such as the inappropriateness of the ACID model for many real world applications, such as search engines and append-only data stores, or systems where performance is more important than consistency (still noting that ACID databases are absolutely essential for OLTP or banking systems).  This is an interesting counterpoint to the push towards making everything eventually consistent.   "A consequence of the choices made in some systems about weak forms of consistency is that the burden is passed to applications developers, when they need to ensure more sophisticated transaction properties."

In conclusion, they note that sql / relational is a proven technology that is still highly viable for many use cases.  "Rather, it is much easier to extend the current applications and systems with no radical changes. Indeed, to the extent applications involve standard administrative data and “new” data, relational technology may even be best suited.".  The two technology stacks (traditional RDBMS and NoSql) are not mutually exclusive, and can coexist in a way that makes sense.


Building on the approach:

This article was mainly a discussion on the future of the sql/relational database paradigm, but they brought up some interesting, well thought out, pragmatic opinions on the future of sql.  The success of companies like amazon using eventual consistency models sometimes drives businesses to make redesign and refactor decisions that might not be a good fit for a given use case or problem (e.g. amazon did it, amazon is huge, amazon must be right, etc..).  In my opinion, this helps to validate the idea that it's OK to propose a refactor pattern that isn't as dramatic as a full move to microservices.


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