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What Is NewSQL?

Author: Patrick Gates | 3 min read | October 15, 2013

NewSQL is a new database access language being touted as superior to SQL. So, what is a NewSQL database and what makes it different from SQL?

Many database professionals consider SQL, the object-based database language, outdated and too complex. NewSQL databases purport to have the same performance as NoSQL systems and provide administrators with Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability, or ACID performance guarantees.

NewSQL was a phrase coined by Matthew Aslett, an analyst with the 451 Group, to describe those product offerings that use the relational data model and primarily have a SQL interface.

Aslett wrote:

“‘NewSQL’ is our shorthand for the various new scalable/high performance SQL database vendors. We have previously referred to these products as ‘ScalableSQL’ to differentiate them from the incumbent relational database products. Since this implies horizontal scalability, which is not necessarily a feature of all the products, we adopted the term ‘NewSQL.’ […] And to clarify, like NoSQL, NewSQL is not to be taken too literally: the new thing about the NewSQL vendors is the vendor, not the SQL.”

NewSQL was designed to preserve SQL while addressing existing issues with traditional online transaction processing systems, specifically, their scalability and performance. It does bear some similarities, some advocates say, to NoSQL. Some solutions are software-only, while others may be embedded in an appliance with both commercial and open-source offerings available.

Chirag Mehta observed:

“NewSQL’s focus appears to be on gaining performance and scalability for OLTP workload by supporting SQL as well as custom programming models and eliminating cumbersome error-prone management tasks such as manual sharding without breaking the bank. It’s a good first step in the direction of a scalable distributed database that supports SQL. It doesn’t say anything about mixed OLTP and OLAP workload which is one of the biggest challenges for the organizations who want to embrace Big Data. […] I am hoping that NewSQL will be inclusive of OLAP and keep SQL their first priority. The industry is finally on to something and some of these start-ups are set out to disrupt in a big way.”

NewSQL is purportedly best for those enterprises interested in migrating existing applications to Big Data platforms, developing new applications on highly scalable online transaction processing systems, and wishing to use their existing knowledge of online transaction processing, according to Prasanna Venkatesh and Nirmala S.

Perhaps most importantly, those advocating a shift to NewSQL expect its system performance to exceed that of conventional online transaction processing relational database management systems. They estimate these systems should operate 50 times faster.

In the end, “NewSQL” is a means to categorize an emerging group of similar products, says Aslett. This is not a case of NewSQL vs. NoSQL, since the lines between NoSQL and NewSQL databases “are blurring to the point where we expect the terms NoSQL and NewSQL will become irrelevant as the focus turns to specific use cases.”

What are your thoughts on NewSQL vs. NoSQL? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

Image by Marcus W.

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