Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NoSQL -- Old Wine, New Bottle

Got an email with links about NoSQL. Links like "Going NoSQL with MongoDB". This -- like many such articles -- includes the phrase "the NoSQL movement" as if there's something new going on. Thank goodness Ted Neward includes quotes around "new". This isn't new. And doubly good, Neward doesn't use words like "excitement".

Some folks like to link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NoSQL. This is misleading, of course, since avoiding SQL isn't new or even that interesting. If you're going to treat avoiding SQL specially, then you should have a NoProceduralProgramming, NoFunctionalProgramming, NoAssembler, NoShellScript and NoHTML movements, also.

Why stop there? Why not have a NoDumbAssArchitecture movement, too?

If you want to see dumb, breathless stuff, however, use Google and search for "nosql excitement". You'd think that the file system was new technology. In particular, posts like "NOSQL Movement - Excited with the coexistence of Divergent Thoughts" seem silly.

Unless -- I guess -- you've been solving all data management problems with a relational database. I guess when you discover that you don't have to use the hammer, then it's exciting to see that everything isn't simply a nail, either.

If avoiding the hegemony of SQL seems important, or even interesting, perhaps you've been living in a cave. Seriously. The file system has always been there and has always worked nicely for lots of problems. My 2002-era Ralph Kimball Data Warehouse Toolkit books are very clear that large, high-volume data warehouses are mostly flat files. Data marts are SQL databases suitable for ad-hoc SQL queries. But the RDBMS isn't always the best place for large volumes of data.

Bottom Line

NoSQL isn't new or even very interesting.


If you're an architect, but you're not looking at alternatives to the RDBMS -- and running benchmarks to compare the choices -- you're not really doing architectural work. You're probably a glorified programmer and should consider working in a place that doesn't stifle you by imposing a "one world -- one architecture" viewpoint.

If you're a manager and think that "everything in SQL" is a risk-reducer, you need to actually talk to your people. If you think that your people's skills are limited to SQL, you're doing your team (and your customers) a disservice. Consider a skill upgrade of your own. Your team can learn other non-RDBMS technologies. Perhaps you should stop stifling them.

If you're a DBA and you know -- for a fact -- that the relational database is perfect and complete, you should perhaps pause a moment and consider things the relational databases don't do well. Graph-theory problems and hierarchies require fairly complex workarounds. Even a many-to-many relationship requires this extra association table. Perhaps those things are the signs of force-fitting data into the RDBMS model.


  1. NoSQL is a marketing brand, not a technology or architecture term. All the hype and "newness" and "excitement" makes more sense if you view it in this context.

    As for many-to-many tables, this is not a good example of "force-fitting".

    Take for example regular expressions. Making a regular expression to match any problem you throw at it is really easy! Here it is: .*

    The hard part is making a regular expression that matches your valid input, but also rejects invalid input.

    So it is with relational databases. Accept valid input, reject invalid input.

  2. NoSQL means Not Only SQL. So, it's not about avoiding SQL, it's about enhancing data management with a different approach when it makes sense. It's about integration.

  3. 不要去想沒拿到的東西,多想想自己手裡所擁有的..................................................

  4. 傻氣的人喜歡給心 雖然每次都被笑了卻得到了別人的心..................................................................

  5. 我只知道,假如我去愛人生,那人生一定也會回愛我................................................

  6. Notes from A NOSQL Evening in Palo Alto
    DateThursday, October 28, 2010 at 10:35AM

    url: http://highscalability.com/blog/2010/10/28/notes-from-a-nosql-evening-in-palo-alto.html

  7. Big Data and NoSQL March to the Enterprise
    Published: October 30, 2010

    url: http://www.nytimes.com/external/gigaom/2010/10/30/30gigaom-big-data-and-nosql-march-to-the-enterprise-73963.html?ref=technology

  8. Snowflake data warehouse is a cloud-based data warehouse that uses a unique data model optimized to manage both structured and unstructured data at scale. It dramatically simplifies ETL processes, allowing users to focus on data modeling and business insights.