Embedded Database Systems

Embedded Database Systems Overview

What are Embedded Database Systems?

Embedded database systems are database management systems (DBMS) built or integrated into an application, effectively hiding or minimizing interaction with the database by an application's end users. Structurally, embedded databases may be relational databases, or non-relational / noSQL databases.


Embedded databases have two primary benefits. They can dramatically reduce latency and network I/O load from network calls between the application and the database. They also provide a better end-user experience, both from the reduced latency and quicker access to data, as well as never knowingly engaging with the database itself, since the database is functionally invisible to the users themselves.


Embedded Databases vs. External Databases


Embedded databases differ from external databases in a key way. Embedded databases are internal to the application itself and are functionally inseparable from the broader app. In contrast, external databases exist separate from any given application, and can be accessed by external users and applications. Embedded databases are comparatively lightweight next to most other external databases. They frequently include just the core database engine and critical functionalities to serve the specific use case of the application and its end-users.


While embedded databases are often conflated in “in-memory databases,” they are not synonymous. Embedded databases can be in-memory, but they can also exist in a disk format. The differentiating criterion is that the database is in the same address space as the application itself- the physical location of the application and database are not exclusionary.


While there are a range of benefits to embedded databases in specific use cases, there are also some drawbacks to embedded databases. For instance, embedding the database in the application itself can limit the size of the database based on the characteristics of the app. More importantly, embedded databases can be more challenging to maintain, since it can’t be separated from the broader application and lacks the heavier features that would otherwise simplify maintenance for administrators and developers. This means that embedded databases may be less suitable for heavyweight use cases like business-critical data, and they can not serve as centralized databases that multiple applications or users can interface with directly.


Embedded Database Systems Comparison

When comparing different embedded databases, consider these factors:

  • Open Source vs. Vendor-Supported: There are a range of open source options for embeddable databases, which may cost less up front and be more customizable. However, “open source” does not mean “free”, as in-house support and costs may be higher than paying for a paid database. Vendor-supported databases may also offer more active vendor support, including dedicated implementation and customer support resources.

  • In-Memory vs. Disk Storage: Consider whether the database’s use case is preferable for in-memory or dedicated disk storage. In-memory storage, such as the device’s RAM, is functional for small, highly accessible databases. However, many larger deployments or databases with higher requirements for stability will benefit from dedicated disk storage for the embedded database.

  • Scalability: What kind of scalability metrics can the database ensure? Factors like concurrent or multi-threaded support and throughput capacity are helpful metrics to consider. These factors can quickly become limiting barriers if not scaled correctly.


Start an embedded database comparison here


Pricing Information Section

Pricing for embedded database systems will range depending on the scalability and features offered for the database, as well as what kind of vendor support is offered. There are also open-source embeddable databases, although buyers should consider recurring maintenance and overhead costs with either open-source or paid products.


Embedded Database Products

(1-25 of 28) Sorted by Most Reviews

SAP HANA

SAP HANA

Customer Verified
Top Rated
TRUE

SAP HANA is an application that uses in-memory database technology to process very large amounts of real-time data from relational databases, both SAP and non-SAP, in a very short time. The in-memory computing engine allows HANA to process data stored in RAM as opposed to reading…

MySQL

MySQL

Customer Verified
Top Rated

MySQL is a popular open-source relational and embedded database, now owned by Oracle.

Couchbase

Couchbase

Customer Verified
Top Rated

Couchbase provides a cloud database that offers the capabilities required for business-critical applications on a scalable and available platform. Couchbase is built on open standards, and aims to combine the best of NoSQL with the power and familiarity of SQL in order to simplify…

Key Features

  • Availability (78)
    89%
    8.9
  • Performance (79)
    86%
    8.6
  • Concurrency (77)
    84%
    8.4
SQLite

SQLite is an in-process library that implements a self-contained, serverless, zero-configuration, transactional SQL database engine. The code for SQLite is in the public domain and is thus free for use for any purpose, commercial or private. SQLite is one of the most widely deployed…

Neo4j

Neo4j is an open source embeddable graph database developed by Neo Technologies based in San Mateo, California with an office in Sweden.

SAP HANA Cloud

The vendor states users can improve data practices, make better decisions, and find new efficiencies with SAP HANA Cloud, a fully managed in-memory cloud database-as-a-service (DbaaS). Build data solutions with modern architectures and gain business-ready insights in real time. As…

IBM Informix

Informix is an embedded relational database offering from IBM.

InterSystems Caché

InterSystems Cache is a database management system (DBMS) and non-relational database.

H2 Database Engine

H2 Database Engine is an open source, embeddable database management system (RDMS) written in Java.

Oracle Berkeley DB

Oracle Berkeley DB is an embedded or non-relational database management option originally developed by Sleepycat Software.

Apache Derby

Apache Derby is an embedded relational database management system, originally developed by IBM and called IBM Cloudscape.

Progress OpenEdge

Progress OpenEdge is presented by the vendor as the fundamental application development environment that keeps businesses running, advantaged by constant innovation that enables users to leverage technology advancements to quickly deliver high-performing business applications that…

FirebirdSQL

FirebirdSQL is an open-source database which can be embedded.

Raima Database Manager (RDM)

The Raima Database Manager (RDM) from Raima Inc in Seattle, Washington is a relational database management system.

Oracle TimesTen

Oracle TimesTen In-Memory Database (TimesTen) delivers real time application performance by changing the assumptions around where data resides at runtime. By managing data in memory, and optimizing data structures and access algorithms, database operations execute achieve gains in…

OrientDB

OrientDB is an open-source NoSQL embeddable graph database developed by UK company Orient Technologies which was acquired by CallidusCloud in 2017, who in turn was acquired by SAP in 2018. OrientDB is now an SAP company.

InterBase

InterBase from Embarcadero Technologies, a division of IDERA, is an embeddable relational database system.

solidDB

solidDB is an in-memory embeddable relational database owned formerly by IBM but divested and now owned by Unicom Systems of Unicom Global.

Polyhedra

Polyhedra from Swedish company ENEA Software is a lightweight, in-memory embeddable database system.

Actian PSQL

Actian PSQL

0 reviews

PSQL from Actian (since Pervasive's acquisition by Actian) is an embedded database offering.

db4o (discontinued)

db4o (database for objects) is an embeddable open source object database supported by Actian. However, Actian no longer promotes db4o's commercial version to new customers.

VistaDB

VistaDB is an embedded database for .NET applications from Gibralter Software in Maryland.

eXtremeDB

McObject in Federal Way, Washington offers eXtremeDB, an in-memory embedded relational database for IoT connected devices and time series analyses.

Empress Embedded Database

Canadian company Empress Software offers an embedded database.

ITTIA DB SQL Embedded Database

ITTIA headquartered in Bellevue offers their database for embedded systems and IoT, the ITTIA DB SQL embedded database featuring simplified data management and modular architecture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “embedded database” mean?

An embedded database is one that is deeply lodged into, and functionally indistinguishable from, the application that it serves.

What’s the use of an embedded database?

An embedded database is used when certain data, especially non-business critical data, needs to be accessed with minimal latency, or a high-speed end-user experience is a primary goal for the database.

Who uses embedded databases?

Embedded databases are frequently used by mobile app developers, but can also be leveraged by some enterprise application developers as well.

Are embedded databases different from in-memory databases?

Yes, although the two can overlap. An embedded database is inseparable from the application it resides in, while in-memory databases exist on the device’s memory, such as RAM, rather than an external disk storage. An embedded database can also simultaneously be an in-memory database.