Considering NoSQL? Let's Break Down Your Options


Non-relational alternatives to relational databases — usually referred to as NoSQL databases — have been rapidly gaining popularity over the past decade. In 2013, MongoDB published one of our most popular white papers, “Top 5 Considerations When Evaluating NoSQL Databases.” We have since updated that paper as the technology has evolved. MongoDB is now offering a major update, which adds two new issues organizations should include in their thinking: how a database handles data generated at the edge by mobile devices and how a database fits into a broader data platform that includes search and analytics.

If you’re testing the waters of NoSQL databases, then you’re probably familiar with how they’re different from traditional relational databases. The list of things you already know about NoSQL probably looks something like this:

  • They use a different data model and query language.
  • They have dynamic schemas.
  • They scale horizontally.

Beyond those common features, there are significant differences among NoSQL databases. The seven areas of significant differences among your options are:

  • Data model (document, graph, key-value, etc.)
  • Query model
  • Consistency and transactional model
  • APIs
  • Mobile data
  • Data platform
  • Commercial support, community strength, and lock-in

From MongoDB’s point of view, the most important consideration is the data model. We popularized the document model, which supports a superset of all data models, making it useful for a wide variety of applications. Key features include the ability to index and query in any field, and the natural mapping of document data structures to objects in modern programming languages.

Recent shifts in how modern applications are developed and deployed — and in the experiences they offer customers — highlight the two new considerations.

Mobile use cases: Mobile applications introduce the added challenge of not always being connected to the network. Developers need a solution for keeping all their customers’ apps in sync with the back-end database, no matter where they are in the world and what kind of network connection they have. The solution also needs to scale easily and quickly as more users download an app, and support the cutting edge of mobile development technologies as they evolve.

Data platform: MongoDB’s data platform provides developers a unified interface to serve transactional and operational applications alongside search, real-time, and data lake application needs. It eliminates the overhead and friction of developers having to stitch together multiple discrete technologies into a complex architecture, each creating its own duplicated data silo — connected by fragile ETL pipelines — and accessed, secured, governed, and operationalized by different APIs and tools.

For a deep dive into all the differences among NoSQL databases, download our white paper, “Top 7 Considerations When Evaluating NoSQL Databases.”