NoSQL is Not the Answer

The NoSQL Logo

There’s a lot of talk and press around NoSQL databases, which are a class of systems that are different from relational databases (RDBMS). Most of us are familiar with the competitive RDBMS’s to SQL Server; systems like Oracle, DB/2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and a few more. NoSQL systems are less well known, going by names like Cassandra, MongoDB, and the best known system used by Google, BigTable.

It seems there are a lot of ranting and raving about which system is better, and even some comparisons that look at performance in different ways that we use systems. I found a SQL Server v MongoDB comparison recently. It seems to show that SQL Server lags way behind MongoDB in terms of simple insert, update, and select operations. I’m not sure it’s the best real world test, but it shows some interesting results.

Those comparisons  are important, but ultimately we do a lot more than simply insert rows and select from basic small sets of data in many of our applications. I see many systems making use of complex queries with aggregations, multi-table joins, and complex sorting operations. These might work well in a NoSQL system, but they also might not. Who knows how well complex business transactions and reports will perform on these platforms. Someone will have to try and see if these systems can handle those needs.

NoSQL is worth examining further and learning about. I would not be surprised to see some of the features, such as easier scale-out, coming to SQL Server in the next few years. However I’m certainly not ready to view NoSQL systems as any type of evolution of the RDBMS. I think it’s much more likely that NoSQL systems solve a certain domain of problems better than a row-oriented RDBMS, much like column-oriented databases seem to be much more efficient at working with some types of data warehouses.

Steve Jones

BTW, if you want to listen to a little NoSQL humor, check out this video. It’s Not Safe For Work (NSFW), so be sure that you have a properly configured “cone of silence” so as not to offend others.


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