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How Google’s cloud is ushering in a new era of SQL databases

In 2005 when Google was a $6.1 billion business, the database that underpinned the company’s primary cash cow – it’s AdWords online advertising platform that accounted for more than 95% of its revenue – was not keeping up with the growth of the company.

Typically when a traditional database needs to scale, a process called sharding is used. It breaks data into multiple smaller databases to distribute load. More than a decade ago, the database powering AdWords was getting so large that one reshard took multiple years. A new database was needed. So Google built one.

This week Google has made the database it built to handle AdWords available to the general public as a product named Spanner. It comes during the nascent stages of a wave of new databases hitting the market that are similar to traditional, relational SQL databases, but they’re much better at scaling to massive sizes. This new class has been appropriately dubbed NewSQL. And experts who track the database market believe they could one day give the giants of the database world, from Oralce, IBM and Microsoft, a run for their money.

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