Infoworld: Which freaking database should I use?

In the era of big data, good old RDBMS is no longer the right tool for many database jobs. Here's a quick guide to choosing among NoSQL alternatives

I've been in Chicago for the last few weeks setting up our first satellite office for my company. While Silicon Valley may be the home of big data vendors, Chicago is the home of the big data users and practitioners. So many people here "get it" that you could go to a packed meetup or big data event nearly every day of the week.

Big data events almost inevitably offer an introduction to NoSQL and why you can't just keep everything in an RDBMS anymore. Right off the bat, much of your audience is in unfamiliar territory. There are several types of NoSQL databases and rational reasons to use them in different situations for different datasets. It's much more complicated than tech industry marketing nonsense like "NoSQL = scale."

Part of the reason there are so many different types of NoSQL databases lies in the CAP theorem, aka Brewer's Theorem. The CAP theorem states you can provide only two out of the following three characteristics: consistency, availability, and partition tolerance. Different datasets and different runtime rules cause you to make different trade-offs. Different database technologies focus on different trade-offs. The complexity of the data and the scalability of the system also come into play.

Relational databases are based on relational algebra, which is more or less an outgrowth of set theory. Relationships based on set theory are effective for many datasets, but where parent-child or distance of relationships are required, set theory isn't very effective. You may need graph theory to efficiently design a data solution. In other words, relational databases are overkill for data that can be effectively used as key-value pairs and underkill for data that needs more context. Overkill costs you scalability; underkill costs you performance.

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Read the rest of my article over at InfoWorld.

Also, I am speaking at the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) on August 9 at the NC State University Club in Raleigh, NC.. The topics will include Trends in Mobility and Cloud Computing. If you are interested in attending or joining AITP, please click on the above link.

After you're done. Please consider sending me ideas on other topics you'd like me to write about. I'm always looking for ideas.

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