A lot has been written about the interest in real-time data, but it turns out that many attendees to the recent Strata & Hadoop World conference in San Jose, CA, want an experience that is even faster than that.

At least that is the take of Dennis Duckworth, director of product marketing at VoltDB. Duckworth shared his thoughts with Information Management with what this really means and how vendors must respond.


Information Management: What are the most common themes that you heard among conference attendees and how do those themes align with what you expected?

Dennis Duckworth: The official theme of Strata was "Make Data Work". We had our own take on that theme, "Make *Fast* Data Work" and that seemed to resonate with the people we have spoken with.

We saw and heard a lot about "real-time" at the show. We've seen time becoming more of a critical factor -- it's great to get actionable insights from your data but you need to take action to drive business value from the data. That action often needs to take place almost immediately.

Real-time is becoming more, well, real-time. It used to be that when a customer or prospect asked you for real-time, what they really wanted was something faster than their apps and systems were performing at the time -- so maybe it meant that day (instead of overnight) or maybe within an hour (instead of 6 hours later). To many of the attendees we've spoken with and to our customers, real-time is getting faster and now often means within milliseconds of an event.

We had two demonstrations running, one showing our database being used in an IoT application (monitoring and taking action in a semiconductor fabrication plant) and another showing off our geospatial capabilities, both showing off our real-time capabilities. Both sparked interest among attendees.


IM: What are the most common challenges that organizations are facing with regard to data management and data analytics?

DD: Attendees have told us that they have to deal with more demanding users, both internal and external, which is driving the need for providing more valuable insights from data and more immediate action/reaction. And the actions need to be more "intelligent".

Users are much more sophisticated now and you need to offer them more value in your interactions in order to get more engagement. So per-user and per-event actions need to have more context (who is the user, what was our last interaction with the user, what the action last taken, where is the user, etc.), which is a challenge to their existing systems.

Getting applications to work faster and at larger scale without breaking anything that is working or giving up things that are needed or will be needed is also a big challenge.

We are also seeing higher expectations from solutions, which is a challenge for everyone. There is a growing set of applications that need strong transactional consistency in addition to high scalability, availability, and reliability. For those applications, NoSQL's eventual consistency just doesn't cut it.

We are seeing more and more companies who have tried NoSQL for key projects or applications and have given up because of the overwhelming programming complexity needed to make their applications work on a BASE platform. For companies with these types of applications, VoltDB's in-memory, distributed, SQL, fully ACID relational database is a great solution.


IM: What are the most surprising things that you heard from attendees?

DD: We continue to be amazed at how often we hear of companies giving up on ACID because they think they need to in order to get speed. They have bought into the NoSQL storyline that you have to give up on consistency in order to get high availability and fast performance.

We have even talked with financial institutions that spent months trying to build consistency into their applications because it was lacking in their chosen open source stack. That is one industry where fully ACID-compliant transactions are very useful, if not essential. We show them that VoltDB can give them all the speed and scalability they need without giving up full consistency (as in CAP consistency) or any of the ACID components (particularly isolation and durability).


IM: What does your company view as the top data issues or challenges in 2016?

DD: We see, and are trying to help customers address, the same challenges that the show attendees are facing -- doing more with their data, particularly their fast data -- taking faster and smarter actions, providing more value, supporting more users, at larger scale.

Simplification is also a great challenge more companies are facing. With all of the different open source components that are now available, customers are building their own stacks to get all the features, functions, and capabilities that they need and are thus forcing themselves to become DevOps specialists. When they stitch together three or four open source products, they need to create glue code between them all, they need to test all that glue code, as well as testing with the components for the different failure patterns (one component fails, two components fail, glue code fails, etc.).

Another big challenge is trying to retrofit new required capabilities into existing systems. Things like security and data governance and transactional consistency -- companies often do quick prototypes with open source and only figure out after the fact that capabilities like those are needed, and they have to spend lots of time, possibly hiring lots of expensive programming talent, to try to jam in the missing pieces.


IM: How do these themes and challenges relate to our company’s market strategy this year?

DD: The themes and challenges validate the strategy we have taken in the past and that we will continue this year. We saw that transactions are difficult to do right and fast at scale so VoltDB was designed and built from the ground up to be the fastest in-memory distributed SQL, fully ACID-compliant transactional database available. VoltDB continues to drive on providing business value by taking action, per-event or per-user, on Fast Data as the data streams in.

We are seeing more industries needing strong transactionality at larger scales with faster response times (particularly mobile, telco, IoT, financial services, ad tech, retail, etc.)

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