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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.

5 Big Wishes For Big Data Deployments
5 Big Wishes For Big Data Deployments
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Did you hear about MongoDB's $150 million venture capital haul announced last week? How about DataStax's $45 million round in July or Couchbase's $25 million infusion in August?

What all these young vendors have in common is that they're the backers of open-source NoSQL databases. As we explain in this week's digital issue cover story, "When NoSQL Makes Sense," these databases have it all over relational databases when it comes to scalability and flexibility. What's more, they promise faster, cheaper development than enterprise stalwarts IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Database. But as our headline suggests, NoSQL doesn't always make sense and will not take over the database market.

One of MongoDB's most prominent enterprise customers (along with Goldman Sachs) is MetLife, which recently launched a service- and research-oriented 360-degree view of customers called the MetLife Wall. MongoDB was used to combine crucial customer data from more than 70 legacy systems, but the database's document-oriented, schemaless design was the key to pulling the project off in just 90 days.

[ Here's how one startup plans to use big data to make hailing a taxi easier. Read Hailo Taxi App Taps NoSQL Analytics. ]

"When we built the Wall, we didn't spend $1 million and take months to do it; we spent $20,000 and built a prototype in two weeks," said MetLife Global Business CEO Gary Hoberman, speaking at last week's InformationWeek CIO Summit at Interop NY.

MetLife's latest use of MongoDB is a customer-facing mobile app called Infinity. Now available in the Apple and Andoid app stores, Infinity lets MetLife customers and potential customers upload critical documents, images, movies and other digital content that they can automatically share with designated people at some future date. It's a digital time capsule that could be used to send somebody a birthday greeting, to send yourself a future reminder of what you cared about when you were 30 or to send loved ones key documents and memories when you're gone -- a more obvious connection to the life insurance business.

One thing notable about the app is that it was dreamed up by IT, according to Hoberman. "We presented the idea to the business as a way to emotionally connect with customers," said Hoberman, who added that the MongoDB-based app is set to scale on Microsoft's Azure cloud.

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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.
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.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
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?
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...
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.
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