Tag Archives: nosql

DBTA Webinar Review: Leveraging Big Data with Hadoop, NoSQL and RDBMS

A presentation last week, hosted by Database Trends and Applications (DBTA), was a great example of some interesting technical information presented poorly. As that sentence implies, this column is one about the marketing of business intelligence (BI), not about the technology – well, not much…

There were three presenters: Brian Bulkowski, CTO and Co-founder, Aerospike; Kevin Petrie, Senior Director and Technology Evangelist, Attunity; Reiner Kappenberger, Global Product Management, HPE Security – Data Security.


Brian was first at the podium. Aerospike is a company providing what they claim is a very high speed, scalable database, proudly advertising “NoSQL!” The problem they have is that they are one of many companies still confused about the difference between databases and SQL. A database is not the access method. What they’re really focused on in loosely structured data, the same way Hadoop and other newer databases are aimed. That doesn’t obviate the need to communicate via SQL.

He also said that the operational in-memory market is “owned by NoSQL.” However, there were no numbers. Standard RDBMS’s, columnar and NoSQL databases all are providing in-memory storage and processing. In fact, Information Management has a slide show of Gartner’s database analytics vendor report and you can see the breadth there. In addition, what I constantly hear (not statistically significant either…) is that Hadoop and other loosely-structured databases are still primarily for batch. However, as the slide show I just mentioned is in alphabetical order, and Aerospike is the first one you’ll see. Note again that I’m pointing out flaws in the marketing message, not the products. They could have a great in-memory solution, but that’s doesn’t mean NoSQL is the only NoSQL option.

The final key marketing issue is that he kept misusing “transactional.” He continued to talk about RDMS’s as transactional systems even while he talked about the power of Aerospike for better handling the transactions. In the later portion of his presentation, he was trying to say that RDBMS’s still had a place, but he was using the wrong term.


Attunity’s Kevin Petrie was second and his focus was on Attunity Replicate. The team of Aerospike and Attunity again shows the market isn’t yet mature enough to have ETL and databases come smoothly together. Kevin talked about their 35 sources and it seem that they are the front end in the marketing paring of the two companies. If you really need heterogeneous data sources and large database manipulation, you’ll need to look at the pair of companies.

My key issue with this section was one of enterprise priorities. Perhaps the one big, anonymous reference they both discussed drove the webinar, but it shouldn’t have owned the message. Mr. Petrie spent almost all his time talking about Hadoop, MongoDB and Kafka. Those are still bleeding edge tools while enterprise adoption requires a focus on integrating with standard and existing sources. Only at the end, his third anonymous case, did Kevin have a slide that mentioned RDBMS sources. If he wants to keep talking with people running experimental and leading edge tests of systems, that priority makes sense. If he wishes to talk to the larger enterprise market, he needs to turn things around.

The other issue was a slide that equated RDBMS, Data Warehouse and Hadoop as being on equal footing. There he shows a lack of business knowledge. The EDW, as an old TV would declare, is the one of these things that is not like the other. It has a very different purpose from the two database technologies and isn’t technology dependent.

HPE Security

Reiner Kappenberger gave a great presentation but it didn’t belong. It seems the smaller two firms were happy to get HP to help with the financing but they didn’t think about staying on message.

Let me make it very clear: Security is of critical importance. What Mr. Kappenberger had to say was very important for people to hear. However, it didn’t belong in this webinar. The topic didn’t fit and working to stuff three presenters into forty minutes is always tough. Another presentation where all three talked about how they work to ensure that the large volumes of data can be secure at multiple levels would have been great to hear – and I hope the three choose to create such a webinar.


This was two different webinars stuffed into one, blurring the message. In addition, Aerospike and Affinity either need to make sure they they’re not yet trying to address the mass market or they need to learn how to stop speaking to each other and other leading edge people and begin to better address the wider enterprise market.

The unnamed reference seemed to be a company that needed help with credit card transactions and fraud detection, and all three companies worked to provide a full solution. However, from a marketing standpoint I don’t think they did proper service to their project by this webinar.

Semantics and big data: Thought leadership done right

Dataversity hosted a webinar by Matt Allen, Product Marketing Manager at MarkLogic. Mr. Allen’s purpose was to explain to the audience the basic challenges involved in big data which can be addressed by semantic analysis. He did a good job. Too many people attempting the same spend too much time on their own product. Matt didn’t do so. Sure, when he did he had some of the same issues that many in our industry have, of over selling change; but the corporate references were minimal and the first half of the presentation was almost all basic theory and practice.

Semantics and Complexity

On a related tangent, one of the books I’m reading now is Stanley McChrystal’s “Team of Teams.” In it, he and his co-authors point to a distinction between complicated and complex. A manufacturing process can be complicated, it can have lots of steps but have a clearly delineated flow. Complex problems have many-to-many relations which aren’t set and can be very difficult to understand.

That ties clearly into the message put forward by MarkLogic. The massive amount of unstructured data is complex, with text rather than fields and which need ways of understanding potential meaning. The problems in free text are such things as:

  • Different words can define the same thing.
  • The same word can mean different things in different contexts.
  • Depending on the person, different aspects of information are needed for the same object.

One great example that can contain all for issues was given when Matt talked about the development process. At different steps in the process, from discovery, to different development stages to product launch, there’s a lot of complexity in meanings of terms not only in development organizations but between them and all the groups in the organization with whom they have to work.

Mr. Allen then moved from discussing that complexity to talking about semantic engines. MarkLogic’s NoSQL engine has a clear market focus on semantic logic, but during this section he did well to minimize the corporate pitch and only talked about triples.

No, not baseball. Triples are a syntactical tool to link subject (person), predicate (operates), object (machine). By building those relationship, objects can be linked in a less formal and more dynamic manner. MarkLogic’s data organization is based on triples. Matt showed examples of JSON, Turtle and XML representations of triples, very neatly sliding his company’s abilities into the theory presentation – a great example of how to mention your company while giving a thought leadership presentation without being heavy handed.

Semantics, Databases and the Company

The final part of the presentation was about the database structure needed to handle semantic analytics. This is where he overlapped the theory with a stronger corporate pitch.

Without referring to a source, Mr. Allen stated that relation databases (RDBMS’) can only handle 20% of today’s data. While it’s clear that a lot of the new information is better handled in Hadoop and less structured data sources, it’s a question of performance. I’d prefer to see a focus on that.

Another error often made by folks adopting new technologies was the statement that “Relational databases aren’t solving a lot of today’s problems. That’s why people are moving to other technologies.” No, they’re extending today’s technologies with less structured databases. The RDBMS isn’t going away, as it does have its purpose. The all or nothing message creates a barrier to enterprise adoption.

The final issue is the absolutist view of companies that think they have no competitor. Mark Allen mentioned that MarkLogic is the only enterprise database using triples. That might be literally true. I’m not sure, but so what? First, triples aren’t a new concept and object oriented databases have been managing triples for decades to do semantic analysis. Second, I recently blogged about Teradata Aster and that company’s semantic analytics. While they might not use the exact same technology, they’re certainly a competitor.


Mark Allen did a very good job exposing people to why semantic analysis matters for business and then covered some of the key concepts in the arena. For folks interested in the basics to understand how the concept can help them, watch the replay or talk with folks at MarkLogic.

The only hole in the presentation is that though the high level position setting was done well, the end where MarkLogic was discussed in detail had some of the same problems I’ve seen in other smaller, still technology driven companies.

If Mr. Allen simplifies the corporate message, the necessary addition at the end of the presentation will flow better. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the high level overview of semantic analysis was done very well, discussing not only the concepts but also a number of real world examples from different industries to bring those concepts alive for the audience. Well done.