We Don’t Need Farms Any More, We Have Grocery Stores Now

This morning’s tech journals are carrying reports that the U.S. federal government’s chief CIO Vivek Kundra has warned U.S. federal agencies to prepare for a “data deluge” as Web 2.0 applications ramp up in usage.

But this quote got my attention: at the July 21 Open Government and Innovations Conference, Kundra reportedly stated that “‘[t]his notion of thinking about data in a structured, relational database is dead” [1]. He added “”Some of the most valuable information is going to live in video, blogs and audio, and it is going to be unstructured inherently.”

It’s true that a certain portion of multimedia is inherently unstructured. But it’s not true that the relational database is “dead”, hardly. Aren’t all of those videos, blogs, and audio stored in Web 2.0 applications that themselves are all built on a relational database management platform?

Isn’t this sort of like saying “we don’t need farms any more, we have grocery stores now” – ? Well, where does the grocery store get its food from?

Where does the Web 2.0 application store its information? How are the videos, audio recordings, and blog entries – tracked, timestamped, and identified in terms of authorship, category, popularity, rating, relevance, keyword, etc.? How are user accounts managed? How is IP traffic tracked? How is billing controlled? How is data presented to an interface? Searched? Tracked? Protected? Backed up? How is all of the information about them organized and presented?

Answer: a relational database.


Federal Computer Week, July 22, 2009, “Kundra to agencies: Get ready for deluge