Google tests cloud-based database

'Fusion Tables' is designed to avoid relational database limitations

Google has released an early version of a new type of database, with an approach to data management that will be ground-breaking says an analyst who has studied the technology behind it.

Two weeks ago 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'dresulting in multiple versions that get out of sync very quickly," reads the Google announcement. This development has been largely overlooked, probably because the news of it was released 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, claims Stephen 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. Google has been developing the technology since acquiring Transformic, a pioneer of the concept in 2005, Arnold says.

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

Data spaces envisions a system that creates an index providing 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 says.

"So now we have an n-cube, a four-dimensional space, and in that space we can now do new kinds of queries that create new kinds of products and new market opportunities," says 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 says. "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 realise there is much missing, and we look forward to hearing your feedback," Google's blog post reads.

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