Adventures of a wannabe geek!

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Review of NoSql Day at Dundee University

I am currently sitting in the hotel reception ready to leave for the airport after a cracking weekend in Dundee for the 1st NoSql developers conference.

I am quite new the the NoSql space and really though it would be way over my head. But the speakers helped me to really understand what the movement is and what its about. The conference had a few different NoSql databases for speaking about. They included Cassandra, Hadoop with HBase, CouchDB, RavenDb and VoltDb.

First up, before any of the actual implementations on NoSql, was Gary Short of DevExpress to speak on “Is NoSql the future of data storage?”. This was a very interesting talk for me. It taught me a lot about what NoSql databases actually are, all the different types of NoSql databases are, real word examples of where NoSql implementations are in place. Twitters example of a NoSql database, FlockDb was broken down to show what it has to deal with and what it effective does. I’m going to have to make a blog post on the back of this session alone.

Next up was Dundee university’s own Andy Cobley to speak on Cassandra. This session was an introduction to Cassandra and where it sits on CAP theorem. The session them became a bit advanced for a NoSql n00b such as myself as it went into replication, topology and consistency levels of NoSql. I know facebook used to use Cassandra so it must be very good at what it does, but I wasn’t overly keen on it, mostly due to the fact of how to interface to Cassandra. I’m sure the interfacing will continue to evolve, but as Facebook no longer use the technology, I question its longevity??

There was a proposed session on Windows Azure by Marcus Tillet, sadly Marcus wasn’t able to make it due to problems at Birmingham airport. All the other slots were moved forward so Jonathan Forbes took the stage with Hadoop and HBase. Now it really pains me to say it, but this was more of a sales pitch for the product rather than showing an actual example of implementation. There was a very very short demo but by that stage I really felt disjointed from the speaker. Maybe if i re-read Jonathan’s slides then I may be a bit more connected to the product.

CouchDb was next presented by Simon Wells of University of Dundee. Now Simon admitted he hadn’t actually been using CouchDb at an enterprise level but from his demonstration and knowledge of the product I wouldn’t have known that. He deserved a big amount of credit for that. Ok so the presentation talked about what CouchDb is and the history of its existence. An example of how to use the product from both Curl and Futon. Finally I was getting a demo of a product that I could see myself using.

RavenDb was then presented by Rob Ashton. This was a product I had seen before and I was impressed with it then. Since that last time, Rob had changed the presenting of the product and it was absolutely fantastic. I really connected with the product. This was a presentation with a lot of actual coding and better yet, since Raven is built on C#, I actually followed it a lot more than I did with that of Cassandra demo. In my eyes, this product is a real winner and it will really help me in things I plan to do.

Last spot was Mark Whitehorn speaking on VoltDb. Not it seemed to me that there was not really a lot of speaking about Voltdb. That I really didnt mind about because Mark really tied the entire show together with his presentation. He really made me understand what the NoSql movement is doing and help understand the problems of RBDMS that it tries to overcome. He was a fantastic speaker and the entire room was engrossed. Even the event twitter feed went silent for his talk (and that was going mad all day with some real good banter).

I really enjoyed the weekend as it gave me a chance to meet some people who I have been speaking to on twitter for quite a while and it was great to put a face to a name. I am looking forward to seeing them all at DDD9.

My huge thanks go to Andy Cobley and all those involved in organising the event. There is a real interest in this subject from the community it seems and I’m sure a bigger version towards London would be much busier.