James Governor's Monkchips

JSON/Relational Duality and developer-led tech adoption. Thoughts on Oracle and industry database directions.

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RedMonk is all about developers. We help our clients and the industry at large to understand the decisions that engineers are making, and why. As industry analysts we sometimes provide quotes for press releases. Here is an example:

“Developers are the most important constituency in tech decision making today. Therefore, getting tools into their hands with a minimum of friction is more important than ever,” said James Governor, co-founder of RedMonk. “Oracle Database 23c Free–Developer Release is designed to remove obstacles to developer access, allowing developers to define the ecosystem without requiring permission. This is a radical departure for Oracle.”

The influence of developers on technology decision making is greater than ever, platform engineering and consolidation/simplification plays notwithstanding. We have moved on from the historical top down purchasing led adoption of technology into one where engineers and practitioners are much more influential in those choices. This latest release is the first time Oracle has given developers, rather than enterprise IT buyers, the bits first. Its normal modus operandi would be to send out its salespeople to sell the full database release to enterprise first, then sometime later provide a free, subsetted version for developers later.

The model here however is to take all of the new bits, all of the new functionality, get it in the hands of developers first and let them make the market. For example it might be — a Spring Developer needs to understand how the database is going to work with the applications they’re building. Framework support is so important in developer ecosystems.

How significant was the decision to lead with the developer edition? In the end it had to be approved by Larry Ellison, CRO of Oracle himself, which tells you everything you need to know. Can you imagine being the executive tasked with giving that presentation to Ellison?

The adoption model is fundamentally different, and Oracle had to take this approach because the database market has changed so much. On the relational side, Postgres is increasingly the default choice for web and cloud developers. Then there are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and hyperscaler cloud hosted services for database, object and document storage. And of course there is MongoDB, which propelled itself to enterprise adoption consideration and adoption with a bottom up, developer led motion, being the bucket of bits of choice for JSON storage, because of its ease of use. So plenty of challenges. Plenty of challengers.

JSON support is crucial for winning modern app workloads. Oracle has offered it for a while now, with a document database and in the Oracle core itself. With 23c Oracle is trying to up its credentials in this area, with common management models for both document/hierarchical and schema oriented SQL applications. Oracle is now talking about JSON Relational Duality.

Using Duality Views, data is still stored in relational tables in a highly efficient normalized format but is accessed by apps in the form of JSON documents. Developers can thus think in terms of JSON documents for data access while using the highly efficient relational model for data storage, without having to compromise simplicity or efficiency. In addition to this, Duality Views hide all the complexities of database level concurrency control from the user, providing document level serializability.

Developers can choose document APIs, for example the Oracle Database API for MongoDB, and Oracle REST Data Services (ORDS), or they can use SQL/JSON functions.

A classic Oracle play of embracing an industry shift with scale, performance and maintainability as differentiators.

Stephen has written a fair bit about a return to the general purpose database. That’s what we’re seeing here. Oracle is not alone in trying to come up with the right term for a platform that suits both these workloads. Oracle uses “JSON Relational duality”, while FaunaDB, for example, runs with “document-relational”.

The question for Oracle is will a free database that supports both document and relational models, with high performance and maintainability, turn the dial for new developer adoption? Watch the video of my interview with Gerald Venzl, senior principal product manager for Oracle Database, and let us know what you think.

This RedMonk Conversation was sponsored by Oracle.
RedMonk clients mentioned in this post include AWS, Fauna and MongoDB.

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