NoSQL databases are all the rage, but the case to switch from SQL databases is not always as clear cut as you might have been led to believe. Know what's what, and then decide.

My advice? Don't think of SQL vs. NoSQL as an either/or question. Options are a good thing. Many alternatives exist, so if you are having issues with your chosen database, experiment with different products on both sides and run your own benchmarks.

Also look into how you are using your database. If the database was “bootstrapped” while you were creating your killer application or service, and it is starting to give you problems, you might have an easily solvable design issue at the root of your troubles. If databases are not your thing, consult with an expert. RDBMSes have been around a long time, and there are plenty of experts.

Whatever you decide to do, don't think of NoSQL as your escape from the SQL RDBMS world. NoSQL databases are not a panacea. I asked my boss, Monty Widenius, the creator of MySQL, what his opinion on the whole NoSQL vs. SQL thing was. His answer: “Non-SQL gives you a very sharp knife to solve a selected set of issues. If you find SQL too hard to use, you should not try Non-SQL.”

His basic point is that if you don't understand SQL RDBMSes, you'll probably end up hurting yourself by jumping into NoSQL. Key-value stores like those found in NoSQL databases do work for certain kinds of data, but they don't work well at all for other kinds. It is instructive to point out that the companies that use and have championed NoSQL databases have not given up on SQL RDBMSes. They continue to use them in vital roles.

Finally, many of the NoSQL ideas are based on old technology. Key-value stores have been around for more than 20 years, for example. New this time around are things like map-reduce (some claim that even this is an old idea), which spread the workload over many computers. In that sense, NoSQL databases really should be called distributed-DBMSes (DDBMSes?). Basically, distributed RDBMSes, without the R.

Whatever you call them, NoSQL databases are solving problems that were considered “solved” by many in the RDBMS world a long time ago. They're just solving the problems in a different way, and they have a different set of requirements. If this new-old way solves an issue you're having, great! On the flip side, if your current RDBMS is meeting your needs, don't feel like you need to jump on the bandwagon.



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Yap what more can you say

Tsvetan Filev's picture

Yes this article exactly matches the situation today with SQL/NoSQL movements.
Very good analysis.