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Looking at different database types

Hybrid database management systems are discussed much more these days, but what exactly are they?

If you’ve been paying attention to your IT staff or technical team members, you’ll be quite familiar with the acronyms IMDB and DBMS. These two acronyms are the two types of database management system that are combined to form the hybrid database. Here’s a brief explanation.

 

In-memory database system

An in-memory database system (IMDB) primarily relies on the main memory for storage of data resources. They provide fast and flexible processing capability in the form of random-access memory (RAM) drives which remove much of the search time from the process of executing a query. This means they are ideal for usage where response time is a critical feature, such as telecommunications or mobile advertising.

 

Disk-based systems

In contrast, the disk-based database system (DBMS) provides the benefits of a secondary mass storage facility. This is usually in the form of a hard disk drive accessed via a central processing unit (CPU) that can take milliseconds per byte to retrieve information as opposed to nanoseconds in random-access memory (RAM). This doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re searching through megabytes of information, the time lag will become very noticeable indeed. If the DBMS is reliant on moveable disks such as CD or DVD drives, then access times can be even more protracted.

 

Hybrid database

So with these two in mind, the basis of the hybrid database becomes clear: it responds to the need to combine the speed of the IMDB with the storage capacity of the DBMS.

The hybrid database (HDB) has been developed to use both on-disk and in-memory storage according to which is most appropriate for a given task. They’re particularly appropriate where a system needs high performance but without using much space, as can be provided from an in-memory database. However, they also make use of the resilience and low cost of a disk-based system.

In brief, the HDB makes use of hard disks for long-term data storage whilst providing a flexible memory-based facility for rapid access dynamic data.

 

Benefits of hybrid databases

Up until now, it’s usually been possible to select a preferred option between IMDB and DBMS in order to manage your data resources, but these days it’s becoming much trickier. The reason for this is that an increasing number of organisations are recognising the benefits of big data and as they continue to pile it into on-disk storage systems, access times become ever more drawn out. This is compounded by the popularity of cloud storage, which, as a remote storage location, naturally involves much slower transmission times.

With this considered, the hybrid database brings a range of benefits to the developer. The most obvious of these is flexibility, allowing them to more effectively strike a balance between performance and cost.

Performance, in terms of rapid data access, which is traditionally the strength of the IMDB, is enhanced by having an in-memory capability within the system. This allows users to sort, store and retrieve data from memory much more quickly than doing so from the disk, making the processing speed rise and staff stress levels fall.

Unfortunately, memory chips can’t compete in terms of storage density with a hard disk. So this brings in the other aspect of the hybrid database. The availability of a hard disk, which costs a lot less than extra memory, means that it allows large amounts of data to be stored on-disk whilst still giving options for reduced costs and maintaining the speed of memory-based processing capability of the IMDB.

With the growth in the popularity of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system meaning that most businesses are gradually growing and accumulating ever-larger data resources, the demand for much greater storage capacity is growing. This combined with the urgent business need of maintaining the ability to access the full range of data resources in a time-sensitive fashion means it’s beginning to make it look as if the hybrid approach is a concept whose time has now well and truly arrived.

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