UPDATED 13:40 EDT / OCTOBER 03 2011

Oracle Tries to Hijack the NoSQL Movement with Big Data Appliance

This morning Oracle officially announced Oracle NoSQL, a product our editor Alex Williams broke the news about last week.  It turns out that Oracle NoSQL will be a separate product from Oracle Exalytics, the business analytics appliance CEO Larry Ellison announced last night.

During his keynote this morning, Oracle EVP of Product Development Thomas Kurian officially announced Oracle Big Data Appliance, the company’s new big data appliance. It will consist of Oracle NoSQL Database, Hadoop, Oracle Data Integrator, Oracle Tools for Hadoop and Oracle Leader for Hadoop all running on the Java Virtual Machine on Oracle Enterprise Linux. Here’s the diagram Kurian showed:

Oracle Big Data Appliance

Notice that the slide only says “Hadoop” – it doesn’t specify what distribution of Hadoop will be included or whether Oracle will be building its own.

Oracle NoSQL is a distributed key-value data store based on Berkley DB, an embeddable database that Oracle acquired in 2006. You can find out more in this PDF data sheet from Oracle.

A press release states that “Oracle Big Data Appliance is easily integrated with Oracle Database 11g, Oracle Exadata Database Machine, and Oracle Exalytics Business Intelligence Machine.” Also, according to the release, Oracle will include Oracle R Enterprise, a technology we reported last week, with the appliance.

And: “Oracle NoSQL Database, Oracle Data Integrator Application Adapter for Hadoop, Oracle Loader for Hadoop, and Oracle R Enterprise will be available both as standalone software products independent of the Oracle Big Data Appliance.”

There’s a big question right now as to what impact Big Data Appliance/Oracle NoSQL will have on the exiting NoSQL/big data market. I’d previously dismissed these new products as table stakes, but that was before it was clear that Oracle was pushing a Hadoop appliance and not just a Hadoop connector.

Software industry analyst and advisor Curt Monash speculates that it will have little impact.

However, Matt Aslet of the 451 Group notes that Oracle has essentially hijacked the NoSQL movement by naming its product “Oracle NoSQL.” Aslet writes:

We have previously noted that existing NoSQL vendors were turning away from the term in favor of emphasizing their individual strengths. How many of them are going to want to self-identify with an Oracle product? I’m not convinced any of them believe the brand is worth fighting for.

It’s an interesting dilemma. So far, the NoSQL vendors I’m hearing from are spinning this as a positive because Oracle is validating the NoSQL market. That’s true, but there’s some real brand hijacking going on here as well. One advantage other NoSQL vendors have is that the term has been in currency for a few years now. On the other hand, it’s always been poorly understood. It’s all going to come down to how much traction Oracle actually gains with its NoSQL and big data plays.

Services Angle

One of the big issues at play here is whether enterprises want expensive Oracle appliances, open core software running on commodity hardware or pay-as-you-go public cloud services. As Wikibon analyst Jeff Kelley notes, “Ellison knows Oracle needs to have some Hadoop/NoSQL offering, but the open source/commodity hardware/scale-out approach to Big Data is the antithesis of the Oracle way: closed source/Sun-only hardware/scale-up.”

Instead of choosing an established NoSQL database such as Apache Cassandra, Apache CouchDB, Apache HBase or MongoDB and contributing back to the community, Oracle opted for its own product with its own idiosyncratic license that prohibits the distrubition of software that embeds BerkleyDB without purchasing a license. That’s better than a fully closed source offering, but it’s a disappointment for the existing NoSQL and open source community. It’s also unclear how well the standalone version of Oracle NoSQL will run on non-Oracle hardware.

Meanwhile, Oracle is staying out of the public cloud for now, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see public cloud Oracle NoSQL offerings from other providers such as Amazon Web Services and Savvis, both of which offer Oracle Database services. Whether anyone will use them is another question.

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