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NoSQL is Not the Answer


NoSQL is Not the Answer

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Steve Jones
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item NoSQL is Not the Answer

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Jeff Moden
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NoSQL types of databases may, in fact, be the answer. Now, lets figure out what the question is. :-P

If you need a database that is essentially nothing but a place to store and retrieve data to and from, like some lightweight desktop application or perhaps a smart phone application or simple inventory for a refrigerator application (yeah, they're here), the NoSQL database types may, in fact, be the way to go.

Change your requirements to something that has to support thousands of users on a system that has mega-row reference tables and giga-row main storage tables and, you're correct, NoSQL probably isn't going to hack it.

Like everything else in our business, "It Depends". :-)

--Jeff Moden

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ej.s
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I think most seasoned DBA's learned long ago that there is no such thing as an instant one size fits all out of a glossy shrink wrapped box when it comes to capturing, storing, retrieving and presenting data, information and intelligence. If there were, almost every vendor on the planet would be out of business. SQL has provided us with an answer to a very wide range of issues and given us a "standard" and a "platform" everyone can work with and perhaps more importantly, that we can "live" with day on day ... for the longer term. NoSQL has yet to provide anything comparable we can get a handle on but, it may well have merit and like everything else that comes along, is worthy of looking into for what we may be able to use it for.
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Ted Smith
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It is definitely not the answer to most common real-world full-business data requirements. BUT it is certainly a candidate for some niche problems where either a full RDBMS is overkill or where an RDBMS's complexity is not required and sits actually in the way of performance/scale (wouldn't want to run Google's search engine on a MS-SQL platform).

Where an RDBMS is merely overkill, you could look at whether the maintenance-overhead to support 3 platforms (document file-system, relational transaction data AND one or more NoSQL databases) instead of 2 (the documents with relational database) is worth it (yes, the business WILL still need an RDBMS for many business-processes). Or whether it's just easier to add the additional database(s) into the already existing (and maintained/supported) RDBMS.
For those niche problems NoSQL will bring a lower-cost solution than scaling up/out of an existing RDBMS, and so by all means use it.

If traditional RDBMS and NoSQL platforms can be seamlessly integrated into a single platform and the strengths of each applied to the appropriate problems without adding maintenance/cost overheads over a one or the other solution I might look into NoSQL in my field (mostly automating/integrating complex business processes).

Although: I'm still waiting for seamless integration of a document file-system with the transactional database, although I might be out of a job when off-the-shelf solutions would become that easy.

Yes, I know that NoSQL could provide an interesting alternative for file-shares for document-storage, but it would still require maintenance/integration of 2 platforms without much benefit over the current 2 platform solutions, but that may change in the not-so-distant future, so I'll keep taps on this new technology.
webrunner
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I agree with everyone who's posted so far. I think the sensible approach is to see where NoSQL fits in and where SQL fits in and use the best tool for the job. The current battle of comparisons where people take extreme views seem unproductive. My guess is that the future will see some combination of SQL and NoSQL, but that it would be a mistake to abandon SQL entirely, especially for well-normalized databases. The thought that went into that normalization probably includes lots of safeguards for data integrity that would be put at risk if those databases were rashly converted into NoSQL with no way to roll back from them. At the same time, NoSQL could work well with data extracted from SQL databases to improve performance in many different scenarios (web sites, reports, etc.).

I hope cooler heads prevail and sensible compromises win out. Just my two cents.

- webrunner

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Eric M Russell
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Just because a database platform is good enough for Facebook or Google, that doesn't mean it's good enough for online banking or e-commerce. I believe that financial and operational data, where every transaction has a dollar amount attached to it, is held to a higher degree of scrutiny than a page full of web search results or some teenagers guest book.
NoSQL databases may be the answer for a write one / read many datamart serving a content management application, where all you are doing is bulk loading and bulk reading, and the end result isn't audited by accountants. I'd bet that even Google and Facebook are running their own internal CRM and financial database applications on SQL Server or Oracle.


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NoSQL DB's like Cassandra are good at scaling out rather than up, more so than SQL Server. It allows a dept to move away from expensive big-iron SANs and just scatter your data across dozens of commodity servers. In theory, one could save significant money with the licensing costs (zero for Cassandra vs. ~25-30K per socket for SQL Ent.) and on hardware (no SANs, no wasted servers on MS clustering). But, Cassandra is not ACID compliant so data integrity is not implied nor guaranteed. It may also require more manpower to manage as with most open-source applications unless you employ only rock stars. As far as the volume it can handle, I don't have a clue.
mtillman-921105
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One reason for using NoSQL is when there is no need to be careful about how safe the data is. NosSQL can be the "down and dirty," or "git 'r' done" mode at times. MS SQL, on the other hand, is so careful not to loose data, but sometimes the data's not worth much to begin with. In these situations, it's either easy to recreate or doesn't matter much to begin with.

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Steve Jones
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Good comments, and very true. NoSQL doesn't necessarily work for many of the highly transactional systems we have. However it might be nice for others. Maybe DSS, maybe some of the warehouse/query systems where there are scale issues. Maybe for some corporate sites that are doing more publishing of data and aren't so transactional.

It's worth learning about and making an evaluation. Lots come into play, including supporting multiple platforms, learning tech, etc.

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J Thaddeus Klopcic
J Thaddeus Klopcic
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We are currently evaluating a NoSQL solution (HyperTable) for a "datamart" type of application. We have gigabytes of weather observations that need to be searchable by location, date, and observation type. The indexing options are rudimentary at best, but the highly distributed nature and ability to handle gigantic datasets seems like it would be worth the trouble of working the rest of the way through the implementation.

I figure we will probably use a RDBMS for the more complex queries, which will return a key range of sorts for the actual data retrieval from the NoSQL tables. I'd like to hear more about other hybrid solutions that others have tried.
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