"Software is a very fashion-conscious industry," said Andrew Mendelsohn, executive vice president for Oracle Database Server Technologies. "Things often go from popular to unpopular and back to popular again."
Many of today's startups are "bringing back the same old stuff with a little polish or spin on it," he said. "It's a new generation of kids coming out of school and reinventing things."
SQL is "the only language that lets business analysts ask questions and get answers -- they don't have to be programmers," Mendelsohn said. "The big market will always be relational."
Rather than a need for a different kind of database, it's more a shift in business model that's driving change in the industry, Mendelsohn said.
"The cloud is where everybody is going, and it's going to disrupt these little guys," he said. "The big guys are all on the cloud already, so where is there room for these little guys?
"Are they going to go on Amazon's cloud and compete with Amazon?" he added. "That's going to be hard."
Oracle has "the broadest spectrum of cloud services," Mendelsohn said. "We're feeling good about where we're positioned today."
Rick Greenwald, a research director with Gartner, is inclined to take a similar view.
"The newer alternatives are not as fully functional and robust as traditional RDBMSes," Greenwald said. "Some use cases can be addressed with the new contenders, but not all, and not with one technology."
Looking ahead, Greenwald expects traditional RDBMS vendors to feel increasing price pressure, and to add new functionality to their products. "Some will freely bring new contenders into their overall ecosystem of data management," he said.
As for the new guys, a few will survive, he predicted, but "many will either be acquired or run out of funding."
Today's new technologies don't represent the end of traditional RDBMSes, "which are rapidly evolving themselves," agreed IDC's Olofson. "The RDBMS is needed for well-defined data -- there's always going to be a role for that."
But there will also be a role for some of the newer contenders, he said, particularly as the Internet of Things and emerging technologies such as Non-Volatile Dual In-line Memory Module (NVDIMM) take hold.
There will be numerous problems requiring numerous solutions, Olofson added. "There's plenty of interesting stuff to go around."
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