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On graph databases, semantic data handling and WS-I

By Jack Vaughan

Let’s face it, sometimes what’s new is old, and – by the same token – what’s old is new.  Some recent stories belie that fact.

Let’s start with James Denman’s article on graph databases.  Although it has precursors, the graph data base is a relatively new type of store. It is a niche part of the “NoSQL” movement that has been driven by the success of massively scalable Google, Amazon and Facebook applications. My first reaction to NoSQL was negative, as I’d had a chance way back to cover the early object-oriented databases. These were often touted as “RDB killers.” But they never managed to unseat SQL. It took a while, delving into the NoSQL story to find that, yes, enough has changed to make the SQL alternative worth a look see by architects. Keep in mind, though, that “NoSQL” does not mean “NoSQL” – it means “Not Only SQL.”

XML arose at a time when organizations were only beginning to try to deal with unstructured data. Who knew that interest in ‘random’ text and snippets of data would come to hold sway over interest in the conventional columns and tables that defined data in those days? Unstructured, semantically rich data is now the most interesting to new age data miners, and, as you know, they ‘don’t need no XML’ to parse their way through it. DoD intelligence cullers and the like have been at this quite awhile, as writer Colleen Frye’s recent piece on SOA and semantics discusses.  Need for such capabilities have spread far beyond national security. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

It may be a footnote –  like the passing of a forgotten Hollywood film star of yore – but it is worth noting. The Web Services – Interoperability group shut down this month and handed future work over to the W3C. In its day, WS-I pushed Web services forward with the promise that big vendors would work together to make sure that their tightly coupled solutions had a genuine way of talking to outsiders via XML in a loosely coupled way.  They only succeeded up to a point, and opened the door for SOA.  Like only a few Hollywood stars in decline, they knew it was time to move on.

Yes, sometimes what’s new is old, and vice versa. But it is not recommended to take a jaundiced attitude here. One thing does not last always, especially in the technology sector.

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