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5 Reasons NoSQL Adoption is Booming

These five advantages of NoSQL databases explain what's driving their rapid adoption.

Relational databases have been used by enterprises for decades. Their impact has been so strong that some enterprises even classify themselves as an Oracle shop, a Microsoft shop, or an IBM shop. This is not surprising. Relational databases have worked well so far, primarily because the focus was on storing and analyzing structured data while keeping the storage costs low.

The characteristics of data and its applications have changed in recent years. Analysts are estimating that 80 percent of enterprise data is now unstructured. That means it consists of data such as images, audio, data feeds, and social media data. Understanding all this data requires new techniques that are not available in relational databases. This has led to the rise of NoSQL databases. These databases have been steadily gaining market share in recent years and are now challenging the use of relational databases in the enterprise environment for niche applications as well as operational data stores for a broad range of use cases.

This significant shift cannot be ignored and executives need to understand situations where using a NoSQL database may be the better choice. This is not trivial. The appropriate use of NoSQL databases can lead to the ability to offer a better product to customers, increase revenue, and accelerate innovation while lowering the operational costs. The growing popularity of NoSQL databases can be seen on this ranking from DB-engines.com where MongoDB ranked fourth behind the top three relational databases that have been around for over 20 years. [Editor's note: The author is an employee of MongoDB.]

Here are the five advantages of NoSQL databases that are driving their adoption:

#1. They can analyze multistructured data

Unstructured data is growing at twice the rate of structured data, but relational databases are not suited to handling such a wide variety of data types. The inability to analyze all data -- unstructured, semistructured or structured -- can lead to an enterprise missing out on critical information and insights. This can result in a decline in revenue, loss of customers, and slow time to market.

Deriving greater value from multistructured data can become a huge competitive advantage --for example, by offering customers a better experience through more tailored product offerings. To achieve this, executives need to ensure the right technical solutions are in place to not just store multistructured data but also to analyze it in real time and derive value from it.

2. They can help accelerate agile development

Agile development is heavily used for application development to quickly iterate on features and continuously improve the application based on user feedback. NoSQL products can further accelerate this process by using a set of features that make development easier, such as:

  • Flexible data schema to allow quick modifications and adjustments based on business requirements without the need for an expensive maintenance window

  • The ability to represent data in application-native formats such as JSON and XML, eliminating the need for an additional layer to transform the data into a format understood by the application

  • Operational tools that enable quick deployment of a NoSQL environment on a global scale, as well as to support DevOps teams through index analysis, data inspection, or backup management

  • Elastic scalability that can handle the growing needs of the enterprise by leveraging commodity hardware to scale out

  • Automated query optimization, among many other features, to help accelerate the time to launch new applications or modify existing ones

  • These features increase productivity of the development and operations teams and frees up their time to focus on other aspects of the business.

    #3. NoSQL can lower operational costs

    NoSQL databases are easy to deploy, come with sophisticated management tools, and are more efficient at scaling out compared to relational databases. This reduces the costs of hardware and operations teams required to efficiently run and manage apps of the same size. Additionally, less hardware frees up space in the data center for other applications and servers. Even better, the cost for using a NoSQL database is a fraction of the cost of a relational database and can be up to 70 percent less expensive to build and run than Oracle. All these savings can be reinvested in the business to further product innovation and produce even greater benefits.

    #4. NoSQL is a mature product

    A few years back, NoSQL was a new technology and had some technical and operational challenges. The technology has significantly matured, with Forrester reviewing 15 vendors in its latest report. NoSQL products now come with management tools that have made it easier to deploy and manage them just like relational databases. These products are focused on high availability and can support global scale by design, something relational databases were never actually designed for.

    Several Fortune 500 enterprises such as UPS, GE Capital, and AXA are already using NoSQL databases for their systems of record for mission-critical applications and for customer-facing systems of engagement. These applications are governed by strict SLAs to offer the best customer experience and avoid customer churn, for which the new generation of NoSQL databases are well equipped.

    #5. NoSQL can reduce risk

    From the outset, NoSQL database vendors used decades of lessons learned from relational databases to reduce risk. Not every vendor succeeded, but those that did built products that can support the most demanding mission-critical use cases. The solutions come with features to monitor environments, automatically send alerts in case of issues, and have self-healing capabilities in case of a node failure. Environments are backed up automatically and support point-in-time recovery, if required. Due to the drastically reduced risk, large enterprises are now replacing their existing relational databases with NoSQL on a regular basis to gain a competitive advantage and accelerate product innovation. In addition, new applications are often built with a NoSQL-first strategy in mind.

    A Final Word

    This boom in NoSQL adoption is affecting all types of enterprises, from small startups to big global enterprises. Today, several large enterprises have transformed their environments by running major parts of their business on top of a NoSQL database.

About the Author

Gagan Mehra is the director of information strategy at MongoDB where he leads information strategy on the west coast with a focus on helping customers get greater business benefits by utilizing the full power of MongoDB. You can reach the author at gagan.mehra@mongodb.com.

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