Database Management

Event Streaming Databases (More of a Kafka’s Story)

Event streaming architectures are architectures in which data are generated by different sources, and then processed, stored, analyzed, and acted upon in real-time by the different applications tapped into the data streams. An event streaming database is then a database that assures that its data are continuously up-to-date, providing specific functionality like management of connectors, materialized views and running queries on data-in-motion (rather than on static data).

Reading about this type of technologies one can easily start fantasizing about the Web as a database in which intelligent agents can process streams of data in real-time, in which knowledge is derived and propagated over the networks in an infinitely and ever-growing flow in which the limits are hardly perceptible, in which the agents act as a mind disconnected in the end from the human intent. One is stroke by the fusing elements of realism and the fantastic aspects, more like in a Kafka’s story in which the metamorphosis of the technologies and social aspects can easily lead to absurd implications.

The link to Kafka was somehow suggested by Apache Kafka, an open-source distributed event streaming platform, which seems to lead the trends within this new-developing market. Kafka provides database functionality and guarantees the ACID (atomicity, concurrency, isolation, durability) properties of transactions while tapping into data streams.

Data streaming is an appealing concept though it has some important challenges like data overload or over-flooding, the complexity derived from building specific (business) and integrity rules for processing the data, respectively for keeping data consistency and truth within the ever-growing and ever-changing flows.

Data overload or over-flooding occurs when applications are not able to keep the pace with the volume of data or events fired with each change. Imagine the raindrops falling on a wide surface in which each millimeter or micrometer has its own rules for handling the raindrops and this at large scale. The raindrops must infiltrate into the surface to be processed and find their way to the beneath water flows, aggregating up to streams that could nurture seas or even oceans. Same metaphor can be applied to the data events, in which the data pervade applications accumulating in streams processed by engines to derive value. However heavy rains can easily lead to floods in which water aggregates at the surface.

Business applications rely on predefined paths in which the flow of data is tidily linked to specific actions found themselves in processual sequences that reflect the material or cash flow. Any variation in the data flow from expectations will lead to inefficiencies and ultimately to chaos. Some benefit might be derived from data integrations between the business applications, however applications must be designed for this purpose and handle extreme behaviors like over-flooding.

Data streams are maybe ideal for social media networks in which one broadcasts data through the networks and any consumer that can tap to the network can further use the respective data. We can see however the problems of nowadays social media – data, better said information, flow through the networks being changed as fit for purposes that can easily diverge from the initial intent. Moreover, information gets denatured, misused, overused to the degree that it overloads the networks, being more and more difficult to distinguish between reliable and non-reliable information. If common sense helps in the process of handling such information, not the same can be said about machines or applications.

It will be challenging to deal with the vastness, vagueness, uncertainty, inconsistency, and deceit of the networks of the future, however data streaming more likely will have a future as long it can address such issues by design.

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IT professional/blogger with more than 19 years experience in IT - Software Engineering, BI & Analytics, Data, Project, Quality, Database & Knowledge Management