Surprise! The company most responsible for NoSQL is that relational behemoth Oracle Corporation itself by virtue of its purchase of Sleepycat Software in 2006.

In the beginning, there was Berkeley DB:

“Berkeley DB originated at the University of California, Berkeley as part of BSD, Berkeley’s version of the Unix operating system. After 4.3BSD (1986), the BSD developers attempted to remove or replace all code originating in the original AT&T Unix from which BSD was derived. In doing so, they needed to rewrite the Unix database package. Seltzer and Yigit created a new database, unencumbered by an AT&T patents: an on-disk hash table that outperformed the existing dbm libraries. Berkeley DB itself was first released in 1991 and later included with 4.4BSD. In 1996 Netscape requested that the authors of Berkeley DB improve and extend the library, then at version 1.86, to suit Netscape’s requirements for an LDAP server and for use in the Netscape browser. That request led to the creation of Sleepycat Software.” (

In 2005, Sleepycat Software claimed 200 million deployments of Berkeley DB ( Sleepycat Software was acquired by Oracle Corporation in 2006.

Then along came Dynamo in 2007. As Andy Mendelsohn explained at YesSQL Summit 2016:

“Before the SQL databases came out in the 80s, there were ‘NoSQL’ databases. OK, so people think that NoSQL is something new. NoSQL is actually pre-historic; it goes back to the beginning of time of information management. When the first computer was written, somebody came up with this idea, let’s have an index, a B-tree, basically, and let’s have an API to it and those were the original key-value stores. There were things like—on the mainframe—there’s ISAM and VSAM. Informix eventually had this product called C-ISAM. Berkeley DB came out. … All Amazon did is, they were using Berkeley DB in their e-commerce system and they said ‘You know wouldn’t it be great if we had N of these B-trees not just one and let’s add a hash distribution layer in front of Berkeley DB’ and that’s where DynamoDB came from. And that’s the direct ancestor of all the more recent NoSQL systems, so it’s basically just a hashing layer on top of a B-tree. This is trivial technology and that’s why there are about 40 or 50 companies that have NoSQL databases—including Oracle.” (

In an interview that preceded the release of Oracle NoSQL Database, Dave Segleau—the director of product management for Berkeley DB—said:

“We were NoSQL before NoSQL was cool. For years, we apologized to people about the fact that we didn’t have a SQL API; we were just the key-value API. And that’s all people wanted. And then, lo and behold, NoSQL became super-popular, right? Berkeley DB is a component in several NoSQL solutions. If you go out and read the NoSQL literature, there’s a couple of lead projects that kind of define the space. One of them is Amazon’s Dynamo project and another one is LinkedIn’s Voldemort project. Berkeley DB is the storage engine inside both of those NoSQL solutions. There’s a third project offered by a company called GenieDB that adds replication and resource management on top of MySQL; that solution also uses Berkeley DB to manage the data store and where the data is located. So we see NoSQL as kind of the growth of “Oh, OK, here is a storage problem—a scalable, distributed storage problem—that really requires fast read and writes with transactions, recoverability, and a set of services,” and so far what we’ve seen is in this NoSQL marketplace, people are building those services on top of Berkeley DB. It’s the ultimate proof of concept. And, quite frankly, we’re interested in this space and we’re going to looking into what services can we add to Berkeley DB to make it not just a component but possibly a solution in this space as well. So, stay tuned.” (

From the NoSQL perspective, the only thing that was missing from Berkeley DB was sharding. In an interview that followed the release of Oracle NoSQL Database, Dave said:

“We went down the path of building Oracle NoSQL Database because of explicit request from some of our largest Oracle Berkeley DB installations that wanted to move away from maintaining homegrown sharding implementations and very much wanted an out of box technology that can replicate the robustness of what they had built ‘out of box.’” (

There you have it. The company most responsible for NoSQL is Oracle Corporation itself.