Thursday, March 20, 2008

The R-Word Chronicles, Vol. 5


Free is appealing in all economic climates, but especially in a cloudy one. So it’s predictable that free-ish IT options--no/low cost, no/low risk, no/low commitment--will be given greater attention in times like these. Open source, of course, but also SaaS (aka “cloud computing”).

Check out my latest Forrester blog post on the growing SaaS phenomenon called “cloud databases” (aka Database 2.0). I take a special look at Microsoft’s new SQL Server Data Services offering. I also discuss Panorama’s new gratis, lightweight, BI/OLAP-engine add-on to Google’s hosted apps, and speculate on the possibility of Google leveraging its GoogleBase “cloud database” into a full-blown Data Warehousing service in the cloud. See Boris Evelson’s post, “Free BI!,” for further details on the Panorama/Google announcement.

Neither of these Database 2.0 initiatives--nor those from startups such as Trackvia, DabbleDB, and Zoho--are ready for enterprise primetime OLTP and OLAP applications. As I note in the Forrester post, Microsoft’s initiative is just a beta, and only provides a subset of the functionality of SQL Server, whereas GoogleBase is simply a depository for data that companies would like crawled/indexed by Google’s search engine.

The cloud database space is just beginning to form larger droplets that may some day irrigate the planet below. Enterprises in a budget crunch may choose to use these database services on a pay-as-you-go basis, though they’re far from a no-cost, no-risk proposition. It’s not clear whether any of the Database 2.0 startups will survive, nor whether Microsoft and Google are prepared to go further with their initiatives. Also, Oracle, IBM, and other database vendors have not indicated whether they plan to offer similar services.

The smart money says they will, but, once again, that’s not a sure bet. Users all over creation are feeling far too much risk right now. There are far too many bleeding economic indicators in everybody’s dashboards.