MarkLogic on Monday announced the availability of version 6 of its eponymous database. This previously XQuery-based scalable NoSQL database now includes support for Java, JSON and REST. MarkLogic 6 also adds new analytics capabilities, business intelligence integrations and in-database MapReduce.

Gary Lang, executive vice president of products at MarkLogic, said that the decision to add these new APIs was made due to the difficulty of finding developers proficient with XQuery. “If the key to really using MarkLogic is that you have to find an XQuery programmer, that’s a very high bar to reach. You go down the list of popular languages, and XQuery isn’t on any of them,” he said.

Indeed, in the Tiobe Software index of language popularity, XQuery does not appear at all, while other database-specific languages like PL/SQL and Transact-SQL are in the Top 20.

But that doesn’t mean MarkLogic is giving up on XQuery. Said Lang, “We don’t want to ask customers to learn something idiosyncratic like that. It’ll always be there because that’s what we’re built on, but what we’re able to expose with the REST APIs has access to most of the capabilities. Like Oracle, you have access to most capabilities through JDBC [and other connectors], but when you want to do something powerful, you write PL/SQL.”

Market heating up
MarkLogic’s introduction of new capabilities comes at a time when the business of NoSQL is finally becoming just that: a business. The top four NoSQL firms have each raised well over $10 million in funding, with 10gen raising over seven times that amount. It all adds up to a market where the hot new companies are all hoping to follow in Oracle’s footsteps, if not be acquired by it outright.

Bob Wiederhold, president of Couchbase, said, “I think you’re going to see increased competition among the players because as each of us are continuing to fill out the feature sets of our products, they are naturally going to overlap more and more with one another. With us moving into the document database market, we will compete more with MongoDB. Cassandra has had a good cross-data center replication ability, and we’re competing with them there now.”

And while the elephant in the room is and will remain Oracle, Wiederhold said that acquisition by Oracle is not the only goal in this emerging marketplace.

“Do all roads lead to Oracle? Not necessarily,” he said. “Obviously Oracle, Microsoft and IBM are all inquisitive companies. More and more, large customers are going to adopt NoSQL in a big way. That doesn’t mean relational is going to go away. We think relational absolutely has its set of strengths and weaknesses. It makes perfect sense for some use cases. But if you’re a database company, in the future you’re going to need to offer something broader than just relational technology.”

The NoSQL revolution seems to be churning out a new database every month, if not every week. While Cassandra, Couchbase, MarkLogic and MongoDB all push for name recognition and market share, other outsiders with non-relational databases have glommed onto the term as a way to bring new customers to their databases.

But resizing the name to fit only some of the databases now referred to as NoSQL doesn’t mean that every company only needs one database. 10gen CEO Dwight Merriman said that “the database market is US$300 billion, and it’s growing. This space is not a niche. One size fits all is over. You’ll have a couple of tools in your toolbox, but you’re not going to have 12. Maybe you need a time series for that one project, but for your tool set, you’ll have a small set of databases: a relational, a warehouse and a NoSQL.”

As such, the competition between key value stores has been heating up. Couchbase, for example, will release version 2.0 of its database this fall. This new version will include the promised integrations between the Memcached-inspired Membase and the document-oriented CouchDB.

Wiederhold said that this transition from key value store to something more capable has been in the works for some time. “Our strategy has always been to start out by being a key value database, and then expand to being a document database,” he said.

“We certainly think that many NoSQL technologies are going to have a place because they support certain use cases very well, but we think a document-oriented database is going to have the broadest community and is of interest to the biggest companies.”

Because all of the NoSQL companies are pushing forward and adding features quickly, the table stakes for the NoSQL game have increased steadily over time. Things like cross-data center replication and automatic dynamic scalability are becoming standard features in enterprise-grade NoSQL offerings.

In fact, most of the major road maps for Cassandra, Couchbase, MarkLogic and MongoDB are overlapping. If one database has cross-data center replication, you can bet the other three are working on that same capability. Each of these NoSQLs has strengths and weaknesses, and as direct competitors, they also know the strengths and weaknesses of each other.

Jonathan Ellis, CTO and cofounder of Cassandra service and support company DataStax, said that Cassandra targets the high end of the NoSQL spectrum. As such, the graphical tools for administrating Cassandra are still evolving, while the command-line tools are already powerful and mature. “For Cassandra, we’re happy with where we are on the core storage engine and transparent compression,” he said.