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When and Why to Choose a NoSQL Database

By   /  March 31, 2016  /  No Comments

nosql-databasesby Angela Guess

Lisa Vaas recently wrote in Ars Technica, “Poke around the infrastructure of any startup website or mobile app these days, and you’re bound to find something other than a relational database doing much of the heavy lifting. Take, for example, the Boston-based startup Wanderu. This bus- and train-focused travel deal site launched about three years ago. And fed by a Web-generated glut of unstructured data (bus schedules on PDFs, anyone?), Wanderu is powered by MongoDB, a ‘NoSQL’ database—not by Structured Query Language (SQL) calls against traditional tables and rows. But why is that? Is the equation really as simple as ‘Web-focused business = choose NoSQL?’ Why do companies like Wanderu choose a NoSQL database? (In this case, it was MongoDB.) Under what circumstances would a SQL database have been a better choice?”

She continues, “Today, the database landscape continues to become increasingly complicated. The usual SQL suspects—SQL Server-Oracle-DB2-Postgres, et al.—aren’t handling this new world on their own, and some say they can’t. But the division between SQL and NoSQL is increasingly fuzzy, especially as database developers integrate the technologies together and add bits of one to the other.”

Vaas goes on, “In the beginning—about 12 years ago—there was structured data, and it was good. Usually consisting of things like numbers, dates, and groups of words and numbers called strings, structured data could be displayed in titled columns and rows that were easy to order. Financial companies loved it: you could put customers’ names and account balances into rows with titled columns, and you could put the data into tables and do other things with it, like join tables and run queries in a language, SQL, that was pretty close to English.”

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