What is a database? Once upon a time, it was simple. The database was a modern Bob Cratchit putting data in tables made up of very straight columns filled with one row per entry. Long, endless rectangles of information stretching on into the future.
The relational database has been the bedrock of modern computing. The vast majority of websites are just a bunch of CSS lipstick painted on top of SQL. Everything that makes us special is just another row in the big table of life.
The love affair with the big matrix of bits is slowly fading as developers are realizing that not everything fits into a simple table. And because developers are smart and obsessive about finding solutions for every need, they’ve started creating new and better places to store the information. The last few years have brought an explosion in other mechanisms for squirreling away our data.
Are these wonderful new options still databases? Does the data have to fit into some big matrix to be a database? Some like to use the word “data store” to differentiate the modern mechanisms because the word “database” is too tightly linked in our minds to the old tabular structure. We’ll leave that up to the philosophers. Data goes in and answers come out.
Here are eight ways that the database is being reinvented in new shapes and forms.