SQLServerCentral Editorial

What is Big Data?


This industry is full of some very smart people. We tend to get some very strong opinions, and some rather snarky comments at times about the way the technologies that we use are presented. Karen Lopez (@datachick | blog) recently made headlines with her comments on big data.

"What the heck kind of definition is that?" she asked when looking at the Wikipedia definition of Big Data. If "big data" is data that is "awkward to work with" then I know lots of people that have had to deal with big data anytime they had to work with outer joins.

While I'm not sure big data is well defined, I do know that there are large data sets which can overwhelm relational databases, both in scale and the speed at which the data is collected. Microsoft added StreamInsight to SQL Server to help deal with the speed problem, but I'm not sure that relational databases can handle the size issues at the same time. Some large computing and analysis problems don't lend themselves well to relational soluttions and other technologies are needed.

I do agree with Karen that big data, whatever that means to you, is not really in conflict with relational databases like SQL Server. There are lots of data sets that work well inside of a relational database, especially when you have built a solid data model and referential integrity. Many problems with relational databases come about because of poor code added to the platform, not a problem with relational platforms in general.

Relational database systems are not "obsolete", despite what some vendors of other databases think. I have complete confidence that SQL Server as a relational platform will be used for years to come.

Steve Jones

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