What Is a Wide Column Database?

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Wide Column Database

Wide column databases, or column family databases, refers to a category of NoSQL databases that works well for storing enormous amounts of data that can be collected. Its architecture uses persistent, sparse matrix, multi-dimensional mapping (row-value, column-value, and timestamp) in a tabular format meant for massive scalability (over and above the petabyte scale). Column family stores do not follow the relational model, and they aren’t optimized for joins.

Good wide column database use cases include:

  • Sensor Logs  [Internet of Things (IoT)]
  • User preferences
  • Geographic information
  • Reporting systems
  • Time series data
  • Logging and other write heavy applications

Wide column databases are not the preferred choice for applications with ad-hoc query patterns, high level aggregations and changing database requirements. This type of data store does not keep good data lineage.

Other Definitions of Wide Column Databases Include:

  • “A multidimensional nested sorted map of maps, where data is stored in cells of columns and grouped into column families.” (Akshay Pore)
  • “Scalability and high availability without compromising performance.” (Apache)
  • Database management systems that organize related facts into columns. (Forbes)
  • “Databases [that] are similar to key-value but allow a very large number of columns. They are well suited for analyzing huge data sets, and Cassandra is the best known.” (IBM)
  • A store that groups data into columns and allowing for an infinite number of them. (Temple University)
  • A store with data as rows and columns, like a RDBMS, but able to handle more ambiguous and complex data types, including unformatted text and imagery. (Michelle Knight)

Image credit: Akshay Pore

Businesses Use Wide Column Databases to Handle:

  • High volume of data
  • Extreme write speeds with relatively less velocity reads
  • Data extraction by columns using row keys

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