Et Tu, Brutus? Oracle Database on the Way Out

January 10, 2017

i read “NoSQL to Undo Oracle’s Database Reign.” The author is a person who once worked at Oracle. Like Brutus, the author knows Julius Caesar. Sorry, I meant the jet loving, top dog at Oracle.

The tussle between Oracle and MarkLogic seems likely to continue in 2017. The write up explains that Oracle has become a lot like IBM. I learned:

Like IBM did in the past, Oracle and the other incumbents are adding features to old technologies in an attempt to meet today’s challenges — features such as in-memory, graph, JSON and XML support. None of them have changed their underlying architectures so their efforts will fall short, just as IBM’s did in the last generational shift of the database industry 35 years ago. What’s more, their widely publicized moves of shifting old technology to the cloud changes the deployment model but doesn’t help solve the modern data challenges their customers are facing. An outdated database technology on the cloud is still an outdated database.

The new champion of the data management world is MarkLogic, the outfit where Gary Bloom labors. MarkLogic, I concluded, is one of the “emergent winners.”

That’s good.

MarkLogic is an XML centric data management system. XML is ideal for slicing and dicing once the data have been converted to validated XML. For some folks, changing a legacy AS/400 Ironside output into XML might be interesting. But, it seems, that MarkLogic has cracked the data conversion, transformation, extraction, and loading processes. Anyone can do it. Perhaps not everyone because there are some proprietary tweaks to the open source methods required by the MarkLogic system. No problem, but volume, time, and cost constraints might be an issue for some use cases.

I noted this passage in the undated write up:

There is definitely shake out of the NoSQL vendors and MarkLogic is one of the emergent victors. As an enterprise-ready NoSQL database that handles multiple models natively and doesn’t care if you have two or hundreds of data silos, MarkLogic is becoming the database platform for those with complex data integration problems. In fact, some companies are skipping the relational generation altogether and going straight from the mainframe to NoSQL. Virginia’s Fairfax County recently migrated years of historical data from its 30-year-old mainframe system to MarkLogic’s NoSQL. Residents and employees can now more easily and quickly search all the data—including property records going back to the 1950s and both old and new data coming from multiple data silos.

MarkLogic, however, is no spring chicken. The company was founded in 2001, which works out to 16 years old. Oh, you might recall that the total equity funding is $173.23 million with the most recent round contributing $102 million in May 2015 if the Crunchbase data are on the money. Some of that $102 million came from Gary Bloom, the author of the write up. (No wonder he is optimistic about MarkLogic. Hope is better than fear that one might have to go look for another job.)

My view is that MarkLogic wants a big fight with Oracle. That adds some zip to what is one of the less magnetic types of software in a business world excited by Amazon,  Google, Facebook, Tesla, and Uber. Personally I find data management exciting, but I gravitate to the systems and methods articulated by Googler Ramanathan Guha. Your mileage may vary.

The challenge for MarkLogic is to generate sufficient sustainable revenue to achieve one of these outcomes:

  1. A sale of the company to a firm which believes in the XML tinted world of the XML rock stars. (Yes, there’s is an XML rock star video at this link.) Obviously a lucrative sale would make the folks watching their $173 million grow into a huge payday would find this exit worthy of a happy face emoji.
  2. A surge in the number of companies convinced that MarkLogic and not an open source, now license fee alternative writing checks for multi year licenses and six figure service deals. Rapid revenue growth and high margin services may not get the $172 million back, but life would be less stressful if those numbers soar.
  3. MarkLogic goes public fueled in part by a PR battle with Oracle.

Will systems like MarkLogic’s become the future of next generation operational and transaction systems? MarkLogic believes NoSQL is the future. Will Oracle wake up and buy MarkLogic? Will Google realize its error when it passed on a MarkLogic buy out? Will Amazon figure out that life will be better without the home brew approach to data management that Amazon has taken since it shifted from an Oracle type fixation? Will Facebook see MarkLogic as a solution to some of its open source data management hassles?

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we still remember the days when MarkLogic was explaining that it was an enterprise search system, an analytics system, and a content production system. A database can be many things. The one important characteristic, however, is that the data management system generate substantial revenue and juicy profits.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2017

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