Data management is a critical part of any business. Whether you’re a logistics manager in the shipping industry or an IT database administrator in charge of your organization’s workforce, you may have used traditional relational database management systems (RDBMS) to manage and store data without any hassle.
But modern-day workloads and fast-paced business processes involve huge amounts of data that traditional relational databases can’t handle. Consolidating and managing large amounts of data also takes time. That’s where NoSQL databases come in.
Invented in the 1990s, NoSQL(aka “not only SQL”) databases allow handling tasks such as high volume read and write operations efficiently. Additionally, NoSQL databases enable processing data at much higher speeds and avoid rigidity in terms of storing and organizing data.
In this buyers guide, you’ll learn about the core features, key considerations, and other important aspects needed when investing in NoSQL databases.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What are NoSQL databases?
NoSQL databases are non-relational databases that don’t rely on tables to store data. Unlike relational databases, NoSQL databases are quite flexible and come in a variety of types such as key value database, graph database, column based database, or document database.
Traditional relational databases have fixed schema and work with highly structured data. NoSQL databases, on the other hand, are flexible and can organize, assess, and store data in various ways. This is beneficial for businesses for whom catalog management and user personalization are important.
Additionally, NoSQL databases are horizontally scalable. Rather than relying on one server and adding more resources such as RAM, SSD, or CPU power on a single machine, data can be shared and multiple servers can be added to the database.
Cluster management in Redis (Source)
Common features of NoSQL databases
Given the different kinds of NoSQL databases that are available, here are some of the common features that serve as a baseline for understanding the functionality you should look out for.
Organize, store, and manipulate data in dynamic ways and have a well-defined, robust data storage mechanism that is durable, and provides transactional support.
Employ multiple servers to expand your database and scale your ability to work with huge volumes of data.
Enable users to write data into the database and read data from it with the ability to define and manipulate the data with API support.
Build a dashboard and data analytics stack to create meaningful data visualizations.
Store information and data without limiting to a specific up-front schema design.
What type of buyer are you?
Depending on the data structure and database management requirements, buyers for NoSQL databases belong to various industries. Let’s have a look at some of them.
- Retail: Digital retailers often use NoSQL databases to improve customer engagement and experience. NoSQL databases help them efficiently manage their product catalogs, keep records of customers and their purchases, and enhance the personalization.
- Marketing and customer service: Businesses that deal with marketing and customer service rely on NoSQL databases for social media research and sentiment analysis. Due to the huge volume of data that is available on social media platforms, a NoSQL DBMS can work well as a data store.
- Healthcare: Healthcare companies regularly use NoSQL databases to manage digital health infrastructures. These databases help them scale telemedicine adoption and digital claims processing which in turn drastically improves application management and patient care.
Benefits and potential issues of NoSQL databases
While a traditional SQL database is not completely replaced by a NoSQL database, there are numerous benefits of using the latter. Let’s have a look.
- Handle large volumes of data: Unlike a relational database, NoSQL databases scale horizontally, which means they distribute data across multiple servers through cloud computing. This scale-out architecture provides advanced scalability and enables users to handle large volumes of data at lightning speed by simply adding more storage to the existing cluster.
- Store all types of data: Relational databases only store relational data that are structured and come with a predefined schema. On the other hand, NoSQL databases are schema agnostic and flexible, which enables users to store structured, semi-structured, and even unstructured data.
- Offer more control to users: Users can store information in NoSQL databases without having to convert them into a tabular format. This enables users to have more control over the ways in which data can be manipulated and stored.
Despite the versatility NoSQL databases offer, there are some potential issues that are a part of the system.
- Lack of software maturity: Traditional RDBMS have been around for more than 25 years. NoSQL databases, on the other hand, are relatively new and might not offer the same kind of stability a relational model offers.
- Less secure environment: NoSQL databases are blazingly fast but this speed comes at the cost of giving up atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability (ACID) transactions, a feature present in traditional RDBMS that guarantees data validity even in the event of an error or a complete system shutdown. NoSQL database users must choose between Consistency, Availability, and Partition Tolerance.
- No standardization: Because NoSQL databases are not tied to a predefined schema or a fixed query language, users are free to configure the design and query languages that they would like to operate with. However, this makes for complex queries and a steep learning curve. A user familiar with one type of NoSQL database might not be able to work with a different one.
- Data integrity and consistency: NoSQL databases feature basically available, soft-state, and eventually consistent (BASE) transaction models. While this transaction model offers high availability of data, the drawback is that it maintains only eventual consistency.
While there are lots of options to choose from, the best way to choose the right NoSQL database is to understand how it fits into your data requirements. Let’s have a look at some key considerations to keep in mind before selecting the right database.
- The volume of data: If your workload involves a high volume of data that has the potential to increase further, then a NoSQL database would be the right choice. However, if the volume is consistent and shows no signs of increasing, then a traditional RDBMS would be better.
- ACID guarantees: ACID guarantees are a part of traditional RDBMS that is traded off by NoSQL databases to achieve faster and more efficient performance. If data consistency and validity are not your primary concerns but performance is, then considering a NoSQL database makes more sense.
- Scope of development: If you work in an agile development environment where sprints, frequent code pushes, and quick iterations are common, then a NoSQL database would offer better developmental speed and control.
Note: The application selected in this article is an example to show a feature in context and isn’t intended as an endorsement or a recommendation. It has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.