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For most companies, however, such debates may seem too technical and abstract to be of any importance. But that doesn't mean that the NoSQL 'movement' should be ignored.
Instead, companies should take a look at the with a view to understanding if and how it can be applied to their business needs.
Not everything is a nail
Relational databases, which are used by countless businesses, have proven to be one of the most efficient and effective technologies for storing and making sense of information. But that doesn't mean they're perfect.
There are numerous scenarios under which relational databases can be a pain to deal with. Two examples:
- When dealing with semistructured information, working with relational databases can feel a lot like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
- When dealing with huge amounts of information, scaling relational databases can present challenges.
The bottom line: relational databases are a hammer, but not every information challenge is the proverbial nail.
There's a market for NoSQL solutions
Enter NoSQL solutions. From the highest level, they free us in some fashion from the pains of the relational database paradigm. Some are little more than key-value data stores, while others are advanced databases built on technologies like XML.
From the simple to the complex, make no mistake about it: the buzz around NoSQL exists because there is a market for it. The true size of the market today may not be known, and it will almost certainly evolve and grow over time, but the market is real.
NoSQL has multiple applications
NoSQL can be applied by companies in a variety of ways. Redis, for instance, might serve as little more than a simple caching solution, or MongoDB could be the primary data store for a robust application. Just as the relational database is a viable solution for an almost countless number of use cases, so too are non-relational products.
Companies should keep this in mind when investigating NoSQL. The 'NoSQL' moniker effectively means 'non-relational'; it does not mean that every NoSQL solution looks alike or does the same thing.
You may not need NoSQL, but you should know about it
Many companies will never have to look beyond the relational database paradigm to put their information to good use. But that doesn't mean that NoSQL should be ignored.
At a very minimum, the growing number of NoSQL solutions, many of which have potential benefits over their relational counterparts in certain scenarios, open up new possibilities for companies to think differently about their information.
In some cases, companies will find that they shouldn't abandon relational databases, but that NoSQL gives them the opportunity to use information in new ways, or to do things with information that was ignored (or never collected in the first place) because it couldn't be used in a meaningful way.
In other words, NoSQL will, in many if not most instances, encourage companies to expand how they use information and use it more efficiently; it will less frequently ask them to choose between relational and non-relational.