Here are three surefire facts you need to consider about in-memory databases, along with one hard question those facts should lead you to ask.
First, databases that take advantage of in-memory processing really do deliver the fastest data-retrieval speeds available today, which is enticing to companies struggling with high-scale online transactions or timely forecasting and planning.
Second, though disk-based storage is still the enterprise standard, the price of RAM has been declining steadily, so memory-intensive architectures will eventually replace slow, mechanical spinning disks.
Third, a vendor war is breaking out to convert companies to these in-memory systems. That war pits SAP — application giant but database newbie — against database incumbents IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, which have big in-memory plans of their own.
Which leads to the question for would-be customers: So what if you can run a query or process transactions 10 times, 20 times, even 100 times faster than before? What will that difference do for your business? The answer will determine whether in-memory databases are a specialty tool for only a few unique use cases, or a platform upon which all of your enterprise IT runs.
Pioneer companies are finding compelling use cases. In-memory capabilities have let the online gaming company Bwin.party go from supporting 12,000 bets per second to supporting up to 150,000. That’s money in the bank. For the retail services company Edgenet, in-memory technology has brought near-real-time insight into product availability for customers of AutoZone, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. That translates into fewer wasted trips and higher customer satisfaction.