Watch out, Oracle: Google tests cloud-based database

An analyst called the technology behind it revolutionary

Google has released an early version of a new type of database whose approach to data management will be revolutionary, according to an analyst who has studied the technology behind it.

On Tuesday, Google quietly announced in its research team blog a new online database called Fusion Tables designed to sidestep the limitations of conventional relational databases.

Specifically, Fusion Tables has been built to simplify a number of operations that are notoriously difficult in relational databases, including the integration of data from multiple, heterogenous sources and the ability to collaborate on large data sets, according to Google.

"Without an easy way to offer all the collaborators access to the same server, data sets get copied, emailed and ftp'd -- resulting in multiple versions that get out of sync very quickly," reads the Google announcement, which has been largely overlooked, probably because it was made on the same day the company held a high-profile press event to launch its Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook.

Under the hood of Fusion Tables is data-spaces technology, which will make conventional databases go the way of the rotary phone, according to Stephen E. Arnold, a technology and financial analyst who is president of Arnold Information Technology.

Data spaces as a concept has been around since the early 1990s, and Google, realizing its potential, has been developing it since it acquired Transformic, a pioneer of the technology, in 2005, Arnold said.

Data-spaces technology seeks to solve the problem of the multiple data types and data formats that reside in organizations, which have to scrub the data and make it uniform, often at great cost and effort, in order to store and analyze it in conventional databases.

Data spaces envisions a system that creates an index that provides access to data in its disparate formats and types, solving what Arnold calls the "Tower of Babel" problem.

In the case of Fusion Tables, the technology should allow Google to add to the conventional two-dimensional database tables a third coordinate with elements like product reviews, blog posts, Twitter messages and the like, as well as a fourth dimension of real-time updates, he said.

"So now we have an n-cube, a four-dimensional space, and in that space we can now do new kinds of queries which create new kinds of products and new market opportunities," said Arnold, whose research about this topic includes a study done for IDC last August.

"If you're IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, your worst nightmare is now visible. Google is going to automatically construct data spaces and implement new types of queries," he said. "Those guys are going to be blindsided."

Fusion Tables is an early version of the product, as evidenced by its "Labs" label, which means Google considers it an experimental product. "As usual with first releases, we realize there is much missing, and we look forward to hearing your feedback," Google's blog post reads.

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