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What Is A NoSQL Database?

Why choose to migrate to a NoSQL database? Learn about scalability, enhanced performance and the flexibility that NoSQL provides over relational databases.

Benefits Of NoSQL Over Traditional Relational Databases

The last few years have seen the rise of the NoSQL database which has overridden the dominance of the traditional relational database. Developments in software and the way users are becoming more reliant on software innovations such as SaaS have required a new approach to database technology.

What Is A NoSQL Database?

NoSQL is an abbreviation for ‘Not Only SQL’ which helps to explain that SQL is only one type of database storage solution that is available in the development of new software products.

NoSQL actually refers to a more comprehensive set of database technologies that were produced as a solution to the demands of constantly improving modern software.

Problems With Relational Databases

Relational databases have served us well, but they are simply not built with flexibility in mind. Today’s business operations are extremely adaptable and scalable – users require access to applications 24/7 from offices all around the globe and on multiple different devices and platforms. Relational databases are not equipped to cope with such pressures. In addition they are not able to offer the same performance standards as NoSQL databases which can take advantage of new processing power.

In terms of schemas, relational databases require schemas to be defined before use. This means a developer must predefine the exact type of data that will be stored in the database in advance. This may seem acceptable until you want to add a customer field or financial column into your software. At this point, you must migrate the entire database over to the new schema. Such a migration results in downtime and loss of performance.

NoSQL Benefits

NoSQL databases provide many benefits for the work of current software developers. They are schema-less which allows the input of data without predefinition. This means that changes can be made in real-time without any concerns about performance loss or downtime. Developers can push code as often as they please without any adverse effect on the product.

NoSQL is also open source which offers greater flexibility for enterprises. Developers must simply set up a test environment to fine-tune their software products before rolling out across their organisations.

The majority of NoSQL technologies also utilise integrated caching capabilities, which keeps the most frequently used data in the system memory and eradicates the need for an additional caching layer. Again, this improves the performance of NoSQL databases over the traditional relational model.

Types Of NoSQL Database

There are various types of NoSQL database that are available depending on your requirements.

  • Graph Database – this type of database allows you to store relationships between multiple entities. This database might be useful in a social networking scenario.
  • Document Database – each key is paired with a document data structure. Documents are hierarchical tree structures which can consist of maps, collections and scalar values.
  • Column Family Database – data is stored in collections of ‘families’ rather than rows. Popular styles of column database include Cassandra, Amazon DynamoDB, Hypertable and HBase.
  • Key-Value Databases – these are by far the simplest type of NoSQL database to use in terms of API. Each key value is stored without the database knowing its relevance. Instead, it is the role of the application to interpret the value of the key.

NoSQL databases provide a wealth of benefits for the modern software developer, but switching to this enhanced model can be a complex task. If you require assistance in implementing a trial or live NoSQL database in your organisation, then contact a professional software development company to help you make the move.

Karen Harding is the marketing manager at Objective IT, one of the South East’s leading web and software development companies.

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