Real v. Imitation In-memory Database Systems

How to tell the difference between real and imitation in-memory database systems, and why it matters.


In-memory database systems (IMDSs) have changed the software landscape, enabling “smarter” real-time applications and sparking mergers and acquisitions involving the largest technology companies. But IMDSs’ popularity has sparked a flurry of products falsely claiming to be in-memory database systems. Understanding the distinction is critical to determining the performance, cost and ultimately the success or failure of a solution. For instance, real in-memory database systems have specific optimization strategies at the base of the system code This white paper examines specific products, seeking to answer the question, “is it really an in-memory database system?”


Declining RAM cost, emergence of data-hungry real-time systems, and other factors drove the growth of in-memory database systems (IMDSs) over the past decade. This technology offers the features of traditional (file system-based) database management systems (DBMSs)—including transactions, multi-user concurrency control, and high level data definition and querying languages—but with a key difference: in-memory databases store records in main memory, eliminating disk storage and related overhead. This enables IMDSs to offer faster performance as well as a more streamlined design and smaller code size.

In-memory databases have changed the software landscape in several ways. Whole categories of applications that previously could not benefit from database systems are now able to do so. IMDSs’ growing popularity has sparked mergers and acquisitions involving the largest technology companies. However, one troubling recent trend, which should matter to anyone considering using the technology, is a flurry of products falsely claiming to be in-memory database systems. This report examines a handful of these imitators and explains why they fail to deliver on IMDSs’ promise. The goal is to better educate potential users.

Please use the following link to trigger a download of the complete white paper, Will the Real IMDS Please Stand Up?

Other resources about real in-memory database systems

Visit our page with common in-memory database questions & answers.

Review other white papers from the database system experts at McObject.

Learn more about the eXtremeDB in-memory and persistent database.

Articles about in-memory data management from the experts at McObject: