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10/7/2013
02:26 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Why NoSQL Databases Are Gaining Fans

MongoDB, DataStax and Couchbase all have recently scored huge venture capital infusions. Here's why NoSQL is the new darling of the big data movement.

Where MongoDB's calling card has been agility and ease of development, DataStax and Couchbase tout scalability first and foremost. DataStax provides commercial support and implementation consulting for Apache Cassandra, a wide-column NoSQL database initially developed by Facebook and contributed to open source. DataStax's list of Web-scale customers includes Facebook-owned Instagram, which deployed the database last year to help support its 150 million-plus monthly users.

Cassandra is also being embraced by more conventional enterprises, according to DataStax, which claims to have more than 20 Fortune 100 customers (though I can't seem to find them on the company's customer list). Skeptics have said that large companies are typically deploying one of every kind of promising new technology, but that hasn't kept DataStax from touting a new era of database wars.

"We're dealing with enterprises that have done their mission-critical work on Oracle for years, and suddenly they're starting to pick different technologies," DataStax CEO Billy Bosworth told InformationWeek earlier this year.

The scale of applications and nature of applications is changing, asserts Bosworth. Relational databases are fine for internal-facing applications with a few hundred or a few thousand users, but scalability and always-on performance are musts when you're dealing with customer-facing Web applications. Cassandra offers scalability and high availability because it's built for clustered deployments distributed across multiple data centers. Distributed nodes take over for failed nodes within any single cluster, and replicas of the database in any one data center can take over if an entire cluster or data center goes offline.

Couchbase is a key-value database, but last year it introduced JSON (Java Script Object Notation) document-handling capabilities to try to blend the best of both worlds: the scalability and resilience of Cassandra with the ease-of-development and document-handling properties of MongoDB. Marquis customers at Couchbase include LinkedIN, McGraw Hill and Concur.

Given their Web roots, Cassandra, Couchbase and MongoDB have certainly taken more business away from MySQL than any commercially licensed database, but the recent infusions of capital show that there's big money riding on broad enterprise adoption of NoSQL.

As we explain, there are only certain applications for which NoSQL makes sense, but these products are helping many companies pioneer a whole new world of applications that were never before possible to build or easily sustain. You might choose a NoSQL product because it's more scalable, more flexible, more affordable or all of the above. It all depends on the specific type of NoSQL product you're considering and your precise application needs.

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D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/11/2013 | 8:21:15 PM
re: Why NoSQL Databases Are Gaining Fans
I've seen those "DataStax Takes on Oracle" and "MongoDB Takes on Oracle" headlines, but that view is off base. The story above and our related "When NoSQL Makes Sense" http://ubm.io/1auk7tF cover story make the point that NoSQL has its place (several places, in fact, across several NoSQL products/types), but the technology WILL NOT displace relational databases. That said, I don't agree with Moarsausce123 that it's just a fad. Even if the leaders of today don't have staying power, they will change the course of the database market.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
10/9/2013 | 11:35:32 AM
re: Why NoSQL Databases Are Gaining Fans
Maybe...but there is still a lot of structured data to be dealt with where NoSQL doesn't help or is even more a distraction. Besides that, calls come up these days asking for the NoSQL databases to allow for schema and transactions and triggers and sprocs and what have not...all the good stuff that traditional database engines provide. There is a place for NoSQL databases, but currently it is more like a fad. Doing NoSQL in 90 days looks cool and gives brief bragging rights. It is the same as with SharePoint. Not too long ago every static site was moved to SharePoint until folks figured out that they need a big admin staff and get no benefits compared to an Apache web server that they can whip up in ten minutes. Other examples: replace Flash with Silverlight, replace CSV with XML and then deal with the larger overhead, move everything to VMs and the cloud without spending anything on network infrastructure to carry the massive load...
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
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10/8/2013 | 11:09:44 PM
re: Why NoSQL Databases Are Gaining Fans
Can any of this be seen as a desire to get away from Oracle?
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2013 | 5:13:26 PM
re: Why NoSQL Databases Are Gaining Fans
Seems like it would be smart for these communities to aggressively launch efforts to educate data analysts and developers to use their product. The big limiter for use in typical enterprises is expertise.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2013 | 5:07:30 PM
re: Why NoSQL Databases Are Gaining Fans
There are dozens of NoSQL (and NewSQL) databases. Why does one flourish while another fails? It's hard to pin it down, but the open source model has been more successful, generally speaking, than commercial approaches in the alternative database and big data arenas. And the bigger the community, the bigger the VC money.
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