Beware of NoSQL standards in Oracle's clothing

Oracle is reportedly trying to lure NoSQL startups into a standards body, perhaps to slow down the pace of change

I think that technical standards could help grow the NoSQL market. But somehow, I don't think that's what Oracle has in mind. According to a report by The Register's Jack Clark, normally a reliable source, "insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity, say relational database expert Oracle is trying to form a body dedicated to NoSQL databases, and is seeking participation from NoSQL startups."

Typically, large vendors use standards bodies slow the pace of change. I remember, for example, when JBoss was pushing for JPA and EJB3 to be standardized, a larger vendor dragged its feet while making acquisitions to compete in that space. With NoSQL databases, my guess is that Oracle wants to add barriers to entry and slow things down as much as possible.

[ Andrew C. Oliver answers the question on everyone's mind: Which freaking database should I use? | The time for NoSQL standards is now | Get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]

Hitting rock bottom through standards bodies

You may imagine standards bodies as happy places where geeks work hand in hand to make sure there's a nice, compatible interface for their respective products to be plugged into. You might like to think they'd do that out of enlightened self-interest to grow the marketplace -- plus, the real money is in the extensions and complimentary add-ons. Alas, this is typically far from the truth.

In reality, big vendors use standards to halt their larger customers from adopting new technology or create weird new-old hybrids to keep the old ways alive. There are many companies that, once they see a standardization effort, will wait for the BigCo-supported standard to be adopted before they upgrade their tech stack. Since such adoption tends to be slow anyhow, this is an effective delaying tactic. Meanwhile, the big vendor works to control the standards body.

Ideally, if you're a big vendor trying to slow the pace of the market, you want a nice international standards body. The bigger and more distributed the better -- and more corruptible. If anything actually gets done, drag your feet like the dickens. Best areas for that are "compatibility" with other standards or "security" (because anyone who argues that you're being silly doesn't care about security and thus is dangerous).

The things you own end up owning you

Oracle has a huge business problem when it comes to NoSQL and big data. It is the Novellization (as in Novell Corp.) problem that other industry titans like Microsoft are facing. Any move it makes toward modernization undercuts its existing highly profitable near-monopoly.

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