Emerging Technologies

Database technologies do not exist in isolation: Database architectures are heavily influenced both by the evolution of software applications, and by advances in computing hardware and operating system design. In this column we’ll keep track of the major emerging technologies that influence the software and hardware landscape and on the databases of the future.

For most of the last few decades, AI has over-promised and under-delivered. However, behind the scenes, very significant advances in deep learning technologies have had a revolutionary impact within important but narrow domains. In 2022 these technologies became generally usable with the release of ChatGPT-3.

Posted December 14, 2023

The mainstream media detractors of blockchains and cryp­tocurrency articulate multiple criticisms of the technol­ogy, but the one with perhaps the greatest legitimate grounds is the environmental impact created by the original incarnations of Bitcoin and Ethereum. In the original Bitcoin white paper, Satoshi Nakamura out­lined the Proof of Work (PoW) algorithm. PoW is the core inno­vation within the Bitcoin blockchain that creates the immutable record of cryptocurrency transactions and supports "trustless" transactions between two parties with­out the need for third-party involvement.

Posted October 12, 2023

In the 1992 movie Sneakers, hackers discover a device that can break the encryption of virtually any computer system. At the time of release, the idea seemed far-fetched. But today, because of quantum computers, we may soon have a similar device. Quantum theory is now approaching its 100th anniversary, with the central tenants of the theory having been well-established by the mid-1920s. Together with general relativity, quantum theory is one of the foundational theories of modern science. Our modern world would not be possible without quantum theory: It's central to the design of semiconductors, lasers, MRIs, and even LEDs.

Posted August 10, 2023

In the seminal novel 1984, George Orwell imagines a dystopian future in which governments routinely rewrite historical records as a means of control: "He who controls the past controls the future." While few Western governments have yet to engage in the wholesale creation of false history, the practice is too common in totalitarian governments. And with AI-generated fakes being increasingly hard to differentiate from the real thing, the ability to create alternate historical records has never been easier.

Posted June 08, 2023

The biggest technology news of the year so far has undoubtedly been the release of the OpenAI ChatGPT technology. ChatGPT is a chat-bot style AI that can generate amazingly knowledgeable and human-like conversations. ChatGPT can also generate essay-type answers to exam questions, write halfway decent song lyrics, or even generate computer code. I was going to explain how ChatGPT works, but instead, I'll let ChatGPT tell you.

Posted April 13, 2023

Sometime during the pandemic, I stopped carrying a wallet when leaving the house. Almost all shops supported—often insisted on—touchless payments, so there was no need to carry around paper money, and since my phone was fully able to perform touchless payments, my phone became all I needed to navigate the commercial world. I'm sure most of you have had a similar experience.

Posted February 09, 2023

Modern applications have increasingly leveraged Kubernetes as the "OS of the cloud" because of its ability to abstract the underlying cloud platform and coordinate the activities of multiple docker containers. Kubernetes does indeed radically simplify the deployment and administration of multi-service distributed applications. However, it has a significant learning curve, and maintaining a largescale Kubernetes cluster can be daunting.

Posted December 08, 2022

PostgreSQL arguably has been somewhat overlooked by database commentators. PostgreSQL doesn't have the mas­sive marketing machine of Oracle or Microsoft, and it lacks the "new kid on the block" appeal of MongoDB or CockroachDB. However, PostgreSQL continues to increase in importance in terms of deployments and mindshare. This year, PostgreSQL overtook MongoDB as the "most loved" and "most wanted" database platform. Developer enthusiasm is probably the strongest leading indicator of future deployments since developers, more than anyone else, get to decide what tech­nologies are used in an application.

Posted October 06, 2022

The cryptocurrency ecosystem strikes as being in a perpetual state of boom and bust, though the long-term trend is an increasing valuation for crypto assets. Within the crypto space, NFTs are particularly bubbly. Individual NFTs have sold for as much as $67 million, while total NFT sales reached $40 billion in 2021.

Posted August 11, 2022

The SQL language served as a universal language for data­base manipulation from the mid-1980s until NoSQL data­bases started gaining strength about 12 years ago. However, after a short period in the wilderness, SQL is back and possibly more vital than ever.

Posted June 02, 2022

MongoDB's recent enhancements are definitely of the perfective variety—broadly improving on the initial implementations of new features of 5.0. However, they go a long way toward enhancing the capabilities of 5.0 and creating a significant advantage for users of the MongoDB Atlas cloud.

Posted May 04, 2022

Although IPFS—the so-called Interplanetary File System— has far less name recognition than blockchain, it represents one of the essential technologies underlying the current boom in NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

Posted April 07, 2022

The old Chinese expression "May you live in interesting times" has never been more applicable in my lifetime than in 2020 and 2021. The global pandemic combined periods of great anxiety with long stretches of mind-numbing lockdown boredom. But it certainly kept our attention!

Posted February 08, 2022

Since the emergence of cloud computing more than a decade ago, many have been waiting for a completely cloud-based, elastic database that could expand (and even contract) its footprint dynamically and would eliminate the significant opera­tional effort of maintaining a production database system.

Posted December 08, 2021

If you pay attention to the annual "StackOverflow Devel­oper Survey"—and, as a DBTA reader, you probably should—you might be interested in how developers use and rate the various database platforms. Usage responses are unsur­prising; MySQL, SQLite, SQL Server, and PostgreSQL all show up as the most widely used databases. But when you look at the most "loved" databases, the results are actually somewhat sur­prising—Redis consistently shows up as the most loved data­base platform by developers

Posted October 05, 2021

In the last 5 years, we've seen a blurring of the distinction between many of the upstart databases and the traditional SQL databases. NoSQL databases such as MongoDB have added features typically associated with relational databases—trans­actions, SQL connectors, and the like—while the SQL databases have introduced support for JSON document models. We can see that databases such as PostgreSQL and MongoDB are increasingly converg­ing on a common set of features. However, one category of NoSQL databases seems to be bucking the conver­gence trend: graph databases.

Posted August 02, 2021

Whatever you think about NFTs, the increase in load on the Ethereum network has created another scalability crisis. Ethereum transaction fees are going through the roof, and delays on the network are increasing. If Ethereum is going to compete successfully against up-and-coming alternative chains such as Hedera Hashgraph, something has to be done to improve the throughput of the network. Luckily, we are on the verge of several big paradigm shifts in Ethereum with ETH 2.0, which may pave the way for greater throughput.

Posted June 10, 2021

There's still life in the data lake concept, as evidenced by the growing success of Dremio. Dremio describes itself as "the cloud data lake" platform. It provides a cloud-based engine that layers over cloud object storage such as Amazon S3, Azure's Data Lake Storage, or even legacy Hadoop systems.Why would Dremio succeed where Hadoop ulti­mately failed?

Posted April 06, 2021

If you want to find out what will be mainstream tomorrow, look at what developers are using today. Developers typically embrace new technologies years before they hit the data center. As technology continues to power competitive advantage, developers are increasingly in the driver's seat when it comes to enterprise technology strategy.

Posted February 10, 2021

Over the past 10 years we've seen a proliferation of non-re­lational database systems, usually based around a distributed, fault-tolerant architecture with flexible consistency models—databases such as DynamoDB, Cassandra, and Hadoop. However, in recent years, a new set of cloud-native, SQL-enabled databases have established significant traction.

Posted December 10, 2020

For the past few years, database vendors have been busily enhancing their cloud offerings and consolidating the innovations that arose more than 10 years ago from the big data and NoSQL movements. While both NoSQL and big data were enormously influential for database technology, it remains true that the vast majority of databases are running on architectures that are positively ancient in computer science terms.

Posted October 08, 2020

In the early days of the internet, a famous New Yorker cartoon noted, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." The cartoon was making the point that the internet allowed for truly anonymous interactions in a manner we had not seen before. The anonymity of the internet is as much a feature as a bug. The internet was initially designed to be censorship-resistant, and anonymity—by eliminating the possibility of punishing speech—reduced the potential for censorship.

Posted August 11, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided most of us with more disruption and change in a few months than we have experienced in decades. The short-term effects of lockdown, health tragedies, and severe economic downturn are all too apparent. But we all know that there will be a post-COVID world, and it makes sense to try and predict what role technology will play in that recovery.

Posted June 10, 2020

In the HBO series "Silicon Valley," Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks attempted to return power to the people by creating a peer-to-peer "new internet" in which data and communications are distributed across all the devices on the network with no central point of control. In the real world, several technology companies are trying to do the same thing, and blockchain is the critical enabling technology. Elastos is one of these next-generation blockchain projects. 

Posted April 08, 2020

The decade just ended has truly been revolutionary. Technological forces have combined to revolutionize almost every aspect of our daily lives and trans­form our society—and not always for the better. But although the components of a revolution were in place in 2010, the transformations that would result from the integration of cloud, mobile, and social were far from obvious.

Posted February 10, 2020

Researchers at Google recently announced they had achieved "quantum supremacy" by performing a non-trivial computation on a quantum computer that decisively outperformed a "classical" computer performing the same task. Although IBM disputed some details of the achievement, this announcement will probably stand as a milestone in the development of quantum computing technology. In minutes Google's quantum computer performed the calculation that would have taken most traditional computers thousands of years.

Posted December 01, 2019

Regardless of its long-term prospects, Hadoop remains a pivotal technology in the history of databases. Hadoop was one of the key technologies that broke the stranglehold of relational databases, and it forced a shift in the way in which we think about and store data.

Posted October 01, 2019

After almost a generation of relative stability, database technology has been rocked over the past decade by two megatrends—the end of the one-size-fits-all RDBMS model and the rise of cloud computing.

Posted August 07, 2019

The blockchain technology market is generally believed to be about $2 billion in 2019 and growing at an annual rate in excess of 50%—with projections for the market to exceed $10 billion by the end of 2025. Almost all of that new spending will be cloud-oriented; very few organizations consider running their own blockchain hardware. Therefore, it's not surprising to see cloud vendors actively promoting blockchain solutions.

Posted June 10, 2019

The implications of CAP Theorem, more than anything else, led to the schism in modern database management systems. With the rise of global applications with extremely high uptime requirements, it became unthinkable to sacrifice availability for perfect consistency.  Almost in unison, the leading Web 2.0 companies such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook introduced new database services that were only "eventually" consistent but globally and highly available. Google has tried to resolve this database schism with its Spanner SQL database.

Posted April 09, 2019

Virtually all analyst firms, industry experts, and technology authorities still believe that blockchain is a key innovation in computer science and expect blockchain to have a massive impact across multiple industries over the next 10 years. The same authorities also agree that the ultimate success of blockchain technology depends on significant advancements to overcome the limitations inherent in the current implementations. In particular, the environmental impact of the public blockchain is too high, and the throughput of the public blockchain is too low.

Posted February 08, 2019

GraphQL has emerged as the favorite alternative to REST for modern web API design. GraphQL was first used internally at Facebook before being open sourced in 2015. GraphQL is described as a data query and manipulation language which at first glance might suggest more in common with SQL than with REST. However, in reality both GraphQL and REST are applicable across a very similar range of web API scenarios.

Posted December 04, 2018

We've all seen the movie about the kidnap victim whose family asks for a "proof of life." The proof is typically a photograph of the victim posed with a current newspaper. Blockchain technology is now allowing us to provide similar proofs for the existence of digital assets. The immutable nature of the blockchain—the fact that it is impossible to overwrite time-stamped blockchain ledger entries—allows us to create "proof of existence" entries for digital assets.

Posted October 10, 2018

We all know that self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles are coming. Prototypes of self-driving vehicles can be seen around Silicon Valley, and self-driving features are commercially available in Teslas and other brands. However, there are significant "smart car" features on the way that will affect both human- and self-driven vehicles.

Posted August 08, 2018

It may seem strange to see MongoDB expanding the very features of the relational databases that it originally rejected. In the last few releases, we've seen implementation of joins, strict schemas, and now ACID transactions. However, what this indicates is that MongoDB is increasingly contending for serious enterprise database workloads: MongoDB is expanding the scope of its ambitions.

Posted June 01, 2018

The serverless computing architecture—sometimes called function as a service or FaaS—hides not just the underlying virtual machine, but also the application server itself. The cloud simply agrees to execute your code on demand or in response to an event.

Posted April 12, 2018

The Bitcoin bubble is a mixed bag for blockchain and cryptocurrency enthusiasts. While the incredible increase in Bitcoin's valuation has resulted in a huge windfall for early adopters and enhanced the recognition of blockchain technology, it has also highlighted the volatility of Bitcoin as a currency and the limitations of the underlying blockchain network.

Posted February 01, 2018

Of all modern languages, JavaScript has one of the most fascinating backstories. During the early days of the web, Netscape hired Brendan Eich to create a prototype "glue language" that could be used in conjunction with HTML to increase the interactivity of webpages. The prototype was thrown together in just 10 days and named JavaScript. However, JavaScript owes very little to Java—it is often said that JavaScript is to Java as hamburger is to ham.

Posted December 01, 2017

Virtual reality (VR)—the use of computers to create a complete simulation of a human reality—has been an active concept since the early days of digital computing and a popular theme in science fiction for many decades. The idea became part of mainstream consciousness with the release of The Matrix in 1999, in which the protagonist turned out to be living in a simulation indistinguishable from the real thing.

Posted October 18, 2017

The emergence of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology may prove to be almost as significant an innovation as the internet itself. Blockchain offers a mechanism for the mediation of any transactions that previously would have required trusted third parties, while cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin may eventually become a significant alternative to traditional "fiat" (e.g., government-backed) currencies. These technologies could eventually revolutionize the global banking infrastructure which has underpinned global commerce for centuries.

Posted August 09, 2017

Although Java and JavaScript are the most popular all around programming languages today, the C programming language remains the language of choice for high performance computing after almost 45 years of mainstream use. However, where runtime performance considerations are paramount, Go and Rust are emerging as valid successors to C.

Posted June 01, 2017

There's a wide and growing acceptance that containers are replacing operating systems as the deployment target for application components. While application modules were previously designed to be installed upon a specific version of an operating system on a particular hardware platform, they are now increasingly being designed to run within a virtualized representation of an operating system—most frequently within a Docker container.

Posted April 07, 2017

Imagine you are standing by a railway track near a lever that switches between two sets of tracks. A runaway rail trolley is heading toward the fork in the tracks, and five people are trapped on the currently activated line. You could switch the trolley to the alternative track, but there is a single person trapped there as well. Do you switch the trolley? The artificial intelligence community is increasingly wrestling with similar moral conundrums implicit in the ever-more pervasive algorithms that underlie much of our technological infrastructure.

Posted February 08, 2017