Any new relational database vendor that would attempt to go head-to-head with the big boys in the world of RDBMS would have to be crazy. Fortunately for QD, and for database users everywhere, the company has found a niche that allows its Quick Response Database to co-exist in a world (even in the same data center) with Oracle, SQL Server and the other well-established players in the RDBMS space.
The Rutherford, NJ-based firm has the audacity to claim that its technology puts “the world’s fastest smallest secure compressed read-only accessible database on your laptop”, and many early customers tell us it is definitely smaller and faster than Microsoft SQL Server; one customer fed a SQL Server database that was more than 240GB in size with indexes into QRD, which compressed it down to just 36GB. “That means that you can take your 240GB SQL Server database, run it through QRD, and fit a read-only copy of the whole thing onto a laptop with less than a 100GB hard drive,” says Jack Olson, Chief Technical Architect for QD and a long-time industry guru in database management software.
QRD is certainly built on an unusual mix of features that combine into a unique database product. It combines secure data portability with compression, improved query response, easy administration and standards compliance to provide a product that empowers the end-user to run complex queries against his local copy of the corporate database without impacting the corporate database or violating security guidelines.
What QRD does
QRD takes the data from any ODBC-compliant database (Oracle, Sybase, SQL Server, etc.) and runs it through its compressor. Out comes an indexed copy of the original database that is roughly 10-20 percent the size of the original version. The compressor then makes read-only copies of the compressed database available for download to subscribed desktop and laptop PCs. The PC downloads can be automated so that no user interaction is required, and users automatically receive their updates when they are connected to the network. If some users prefer to manage their own downloads, that option is available as well.
QRD also provides a way to selectively download particular rows and columns of one or more tables contained within a database by introducing an optional set of SQL commands to filter the table download. This feature provides an easy way to manage the amount of data that gets downloaded, as well as the rows and columns that a particular user is permitted to see.
Once the PCs have downloaded their copy, they can disconnect from the corporate network and perform their queries locally. Users can query their local copy of the compressed database at any time of the day or night from any location, without requiring any network connectivity. Local query performance is generally between three and five times faster than queries run against the legacy database. QD reports that their testing reveals some queries that run 10 and 20 times faster, and the occasional query that runs a little less than three times faster.
The database copies that reside on users’ PCs are read-only by design. The copies are read-only to the PC on which they reside, but incremental updates can routinely be sent to the database from the loader. Because the database is read-only, users on their PCs cannot make changes. Doing so would introduce a tremendous amount of complexity and performance overhead. Just resolving the conflicts introduced by multiple users attempting to modify the same records of a database at the same time would create tremendous difficulty and complexity.
Security and performance concerns
Over the last several years, the press has been full of stories of various organizations, both public and private, whose employees have misplaced laptops or backup tapes containing personal data about their customers or employees. With that in mind, database administrators have the option to enable AES-256 encryption across the database. While it’s true that simple compression will provide enough obfuscation to keep all but the most determined hackers from reading your data, for truly secure applications, AES-256 encryption is the proper (and US government-blessed) approach and is included in the QRD solution.
QRD offers other security measures besides encryption. Databases are created with an expiration date. If that date passes without the PC’s owner reconnecting to the main database, the database will either lock out all access or self-destruct. A locked database can be unlocked with a code from the database administrator, but a self-destructed database must be downloaded anew from the database server. QRD ships with the default action set to lock the database after six months. Both of those settings can be easily changed.
But doesn’t compression add performance overhead? In most applications where compression is involved, data must be decompressed before any work can be done with it. QRD does not have this requirement; the QRD query engine actually queries compressed data in its compressed form. No broad decompression is required to run queries against the data.
Unlike many technologies, compression is not a black-and-white technique. Data can be compressed to many different degrees and levels. The greater the compression applied to a set of data, the longer it takes to compress or decompress it. QRD applies intelligence to its data compression; it does not compress the data down so far that searching or decompression performance is impacted. QD calls this balance between compression and performance ‘smart’ compression. “One of QD’s most valuable pieces of intellectual property is our ability to query compressed data without having to decompress it,” says Peter Krainik, QD’s Chief Marketing and Sales Officer. “Since QRD is able to directly query the compressed data without decompressing it, the only data that must be decompressed is the result set.”
Applications for QRD
The number of high-level executives queuing to heap praise upon QRD is growing daily. “Users today need instant access to their data, regardless of where they are,” says Bud Mathaisel, former CIO of Ford Motor Company and the Walt Disney Company. “The key phrase is ‘data on demand.’ Business travelers and sales people need immediate access to their corporate databases, even if they are on an airplane or in a hotel room with poor internet access. QRD provides data accessibility along with speedy access. It’s a combination that has proven to be elusive.”
There are many applications where QRD can be extremely useful. Consider, for example, healthcare insurance companies who must deal with more than $180 billion a year in fraud. Industry studies indicate that 10 percent of all claims are totally fraudulent and almost half contain at least some fraud. Unfortunately, the limitations in conventional RDBMS restrict fraud analysis to roughly one claim of every 10. The remaining 90 percent of all insurance claims are processed unchecked.
Time will tell (and the continued rollout will prove) whether this “too good to be true technology” delivers as early success indicates. It appears, however, that QD Technology’s Quick Response Database represents a big step forward in the evolution of relational databases and is worth keeping an eye on. The applications of QRD are broad; it can be used in almost any enterprise that has a large and busy transaction-oriented database such as applications in financial services, healthcare, consumer goods, government, public sector, data providers and marketing organizations, and could be the start of a new approach to database management and user productivity.
With QD Technology’s Peter Krainik.
What about querying?
Queries are submitted to QRD using standard SQL. QRD supports the SQL-92 standard as a baseline, and QD is adding additional support for later SQL revisions. Any SQL-based tool can be used to query QRD, including commercial SQL-based tools like Crystal Reports, SAS, and Cognos and freeware SQL tools such as WinSQL.
How large can the local copy be?
The only limit that QRD has on the size of the compressed, local database comes from the environment. As long as the database can fit on the PC with enough room for system files and other executables, QRD will work. QRD does not introduce any restrictions or limitations as to database size.
Are there any additional benefits?
One of the most interesting things that we have learned about QRD is that it brings along several additional benefits that are almost accidental. The first of these accidental benefits comes from having query-only users taking their business elsewhere. Since these users will be running their queries on their own PCs rather than on the legacy database server, the legacy server will have less traffic to contend with, and so will run faster.