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Monday, April 30, 2012

Future File Format: .database

File format wars are way over. The clear winner - now - is databases. Not any particular database, just databases in general.

Why? Because "big data" is now king and to make any analytic use of the quantity of data out there, it needs to be mined in a raw format where the user creates the relationships and presentations in a format that makes the most sense. This isn't the end of documents and spreadsheets - yet - but the excess information to format and structure a static file simply to 'host' data is counterproductive to the real task - the analysis and presentation of the data.

I've used this example before, but the very page you're reading isn't a statically formatted HTML page, but rather built on-demand from a template and a database which contains the text you're reading. The layout of the page is determined by the template and can easily be changed independently from the data that the page presents. In software development, this is called model–view–controller (MVC) concept. MVC separates the tasks of data operation, data presentation and user interaction in a way that is modular and logical.

To leverage big data, you need a database to hold the data - maybe you need relational hierarchies like SQL or maybe you need sheer scale for unstructured information slices implying Hadoop. Other options exist also, but the key is storage of the data is not done in a "file" format, but a database "format". Generating "content" from the data is the creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations and that can (or will) be done dynamically on-demand. This echoes my previous post about enterprise social platforms doing away with static file formats.

The more I read about big data, the more I see a push to software services, the more I see the traditional operating system become fragmented between local and cloud / processing and storage, the more I believe "database" is the file format of the future.

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