Making Sense Of NoSQL: A Layperson's Guide

Matt Asay


Despite how simple MongoDB is to learn and use for application development, it still comes burdened with lingo that outsiders can find abstruse. Actually, this is a problem common to a lot of great technology, which is why I appreciate it when someone takes the time to make business sense of complex technology.

For example, ReadWrite's Brian Proffitt recently wrote a primer on Hadoop that I found really helpful. Closer to home, today I stumbled upon "The Business Person’s Minimalist Guide to NoSQL" by ServiceSource's SVP of Marketing Paula Reinman.

In just a few short paragraphs, Reinman highlights why MongoDB is such a big deal, without resorting to deep technical jargon. Some examples:

Term Engineers Say I Say
Replication A master can perform reads and writes. A slave copies data from the master and can only be used for reads or backup (not writes). The slaves have the ability to select a new master if the current one goes down Gives my customers real time, uninterrupted access to key data and analysis, even when part of the system goes down
Sharding Distributes a single logical database system across a cluster of machines Allows my customers to have consistent and timely access to information even when their data volumes grow beyond the capacity of individual servers
Schema-less You can create collections without defining the structure, i.e. the fields or the types of their values, of the documents in the collection. You can change the structure of documents simply by adding new fields or deleting existing ones. Documents in a collection need not have an identical set of fields My customers can get product more quickly since my engineers can more easily adapt our application to our customers’ variable and dynamic requirements

As someone who appreciates great software but can't actually code it, I'm grateful for people like Reinman and Proffitt who can help explain why it matters.