The web is literally built on databases. The majority of your favorite websites are probably driven by one or more relational databases.

But there’s a “movement” afoot. Its goal: provide a superior alternative to popular RDBMSs like MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server.

Dubbed “The NoSQL Movement” by Dave Kellogg, the CEO of Mark Logic Corporation, a growing number of developers are turning away from traditional RDBMSs and turning to alternatives with names like Hadoop and Cassandra.

In a post on the subject the other day, Kellogg details what’s driving the movement. Big factors: performance, scalability and costs. For super-popular consumer-facing web services like Facebook and Twitter, using RDBMSs is not only costly, it becomes technologically challenging.

The growing prominence and popularity of ‘NoSQL‘ alternatives, which can sometimes provide for greater performance, especially with large volumes of data, is a good thing. RDBMSs certainly have their limits, and it’s nice to see innovation delivering new solutions. But as Kellogg notes, there’s also a lot of hype around NoSQL. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

Inevitably, more and more businesses will see popular services like Facebook and Twitter moving over to NoSQL alternatives and they’ll wonder what it’s all about. Some will even go so far as to adopt NoSQL solutions without doing a cost-benefit analysis. Case in point: I recently read an RFP for a development project that required the use of Cassandra for some data storage. In my opinion, there was absolutely no need for it, outside of the fact that the client thought Cassandra was cool and assumed that its service would become really, really popular some day.

In my opinion, businesses should be careful when considering NoSQL solutions. Not only will the vast majority of web-based applications never reach the scale at which these become attractive, the relative immaturity of most NoSQL solutions means that there’s a much smaller pool of competent developers who have expertise with them. Obviously, if you’re running a service like Facebook or Twitter, that’s not an issue, and the cost savings from moving to these solutions makes them worthwhile. But for smaller companies and entrepreneurs, the maturity of RDBMSs like MySQL means that it’s far easier (and less costly) to find experienced developers
to build and maintain applications that run on them.

Will there come a day when RDBMSs share the spotlight with alternative solutions? It’s quite likely. But the RDBMS (and SQL) aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Photo credit: pvera via Flickr.