Embedded Database Systems
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.
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.
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