October 1, 2015

Change and what it means in today's IT

We live very interesting times in enterprise technology. Sometimes I look back and try to remember what was the piece of technology that changed the most, and I know that most of my fellow colleagues do the same.
Several candidates for the most shape shifting technologies could rise from an imaginary big list of inventions, but I bet that none of them would include database technology. There's simply so much to choose from:

- High speed bandwidth networks that allow us to consume everything from "clouds"
- Flash storage
- Hand-held mobile devices so sophisticated and powerful that would but to shame super computers from last decade
- Electric cars, drones, 4K, candy crush :)

The list could extend for several hundreds of items. And again, very few would mention: database technology. Nevertheless, it's one of the few technical areas that you can explain to your grandmother! Everyone knows that data is stored digitally in databases, and some even think that databases are like Orwellian Big Brothers that know more about the citizen than his/her better half.
But if you talk to a database engineering team, they would tell you that these are the single most sophisticated pieces of software technology that were ever wrote. Again some people might disagree and refer other magnificent pieces of brilliantly written software in areas like biomedicine, education, engineering or in the entertainment industry.

The point I'm trying to convey is the sea of difference between the public perception and the hidden reality of key enterprise technologies that power the digital age. Some of these people who fail to acknowledge the advances in database technology are even graduated in IT related disciplines but probably under heavy influence of web development mantras. This means that the database was perceived as just a hidden layer that pops out and pushes in data like it's no big deal. The bigger the size of data, the bigger the hardware database server needs to be and that's about it. Some Web gurus will go on and about on application caches, distributed computing, and other data acceleration mechanisms only with the ultimate goal of having optimal response times. That's what web development was all about.

Fast forward to today and no one cares about the technologies behind the cloud. Each person owns at least one PC and one mobile device and the expectations are higher than ever. Usability is not enough. It has to be amazing. It has to look smart. It has to act cool, be sharp, be free, etc. Welcome to the world of apps. Some people even say "software is dead", but the fact is that software has never been so alive, so complex, so hard to integrate and so fast changing. Software is the real shape shifting animal and the database is the queen of all enterprise software.
So next time think twice before you say: 'Databases have not evolved in the last 20 years' or 'Databases are boring'. It simply couldn't be further away from the truth.

Next on this blog: kitchen appliances that haven't evolved in the last 20 years.

Have a great day.

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