Sunday, 19 May 2013

NoSQL and the technology adoption lifecycle


Last week I went to a talk titled "Considerations for using NoSQL technology on your next IT project" by Akmal Chaudhri. NoSQL is a vast field and the headline was rather vague so I was not sure what to expect. 

In the end I was really glad I went. Akmal is a great speaker with decades of experience in IT. He really helped put things in the NoSql space into perspective by comparing the "revolution" of object oriented data stores in the early 90s and the trend with XML based databases in the early 2000s with today's hype of NoSQL data bases. It is interesting to compare past trends or hypes which haven't quite taken off  with the current NoSQL landscape.

In the early 90s and 2000s Object-oriented and XML based databases seemed to be the next big thing and analysts predicted a strong growth for these technologies. In reality their adaptation became never widespread and their market share remained in the single digits. 

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

The technology adoption life-cycle classifies the technology adoption into 5 stages and can be visualized in Roger's bell curve.

  • Innovators - Techies like Google and Amazon. They innovate based on a deep need.
  • Early adopters - Visionaries who like to try out new technologies and are generally curious. These are the opinion leaders.
  • Early majority - Pragmatists who are not really interested in new technologies per se. They are looking for the best tool to get the job done as fast as possible.
  • Late Majority - Conservatives who try to preserve the status quo and stick with known technologies because they are perceived to be safer even if it means more work.
  • Laggards - Skeptics

Crossing the chasm

What really rang through for me was the picture of crossing the chasm. Crossing the chasm is a book by Geoffrey Moore "that focuses on the specifics of marketing high tech products during the early start up period..." [wiki]

The chasm lies between the early adopters and the early majority (see picture above). It demonstrates that it is quite difficult for new products / technologies to make the jump from the visionaries to a much wider adoption of the pragmatics who are not really interested in new technologies but just want to get the job done. A lot of products which once were new and exciting lie deep down in the chasm.


It is not clear if NoSQL really is the next big thing. There is a lot of hype around this new technology and NoSQL has yet to prove that it can jump over the chasm. From what I can see around me, NoSQL is in a state where the pragmatists are experimenting with the new technologies and developing proof of concepts to see if NoSQL has the ability to make their life easier. 

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