Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Andreas Grabner, Steven Lamb, William Schmarzo, Rich DeFabritus

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing

@CloudExpo: Article

NoSQL – The Trend for Databases in the Cloud?

Why is NoSQL more responsive than SQL-based systems?

SQL seems to be somewhat old fashioned when it comes to scalable databases in the cloud. Non-relational databases (also called NoSQL) seem to take over in most data storage fields. But why do those databases seem to be more popular than the "classic" relational databases? Is it due to the fact that professors at universities "tortured" us with relational databases and therefore reduced our interest - the interest of the "new" generation for relational databases? Or are there some hard facts that tell us why relational databases are somewhat out of date?

I was at a user group meeting in Austria, Vienna, one month ago where I talked about NoSQL databases. The topic seemed to be of interest to a lot of people. However, we sat together for about four hours (my talk was planned for one hour only) discussing NoSQL versus SQL. I decided to summarize some of the ideas in a short article as this is useful for cloud computing.

If we look at what NoSQL offers, we'll find a numerous offers on NoSQL databases. Some of the most popular ones are MongoDB, Amazon Dynamo (Amazon SimpleDB), CouchDB, and Cassandra. Some people might think that non-relational databases might be for those people who are too "lazy" to do their complex business logic in the database. In fact, this logic reduces the performance of a system. If there is a need for a high-responsive and available system, SQL Databases might not be your best choice. But why is NoSQL more responsive than SQL-based systems? And why is there this saying that NoSQL allows better scalability than SQL-based systems? To understand this topic, we need to go back 10 years.

Dr. Eric A Brewer in his keynote "Symposium on Principles of Distributed Computing 2000" (Towards Robust Distributed Systems, 2000) addressed a problem that arises when we need high availability and scalability. This was the birth of the so-called "CAP Theorem." The CAP Theorem says that a distributed system can only achieve two out of the three states: "Consistency, Availability and Partition tolerance." This means:

  • That every node in a distributed system should see the same data as all other nodes at the same time (consistency)
  • That the failure of a node must not affect the availability of the system (availability)
  • That the system stays tolerant to the loss of some messages

Nowadays when talking about databases we often use the term "ACID," but NoSQL is related to another term: BASE. Base stands for "Basically Available, Soft state, eventually consistent." If you want to go deeper into eventually consistent, read the post by Werner Vogels - Eventually Consistent revisited. BASE states that all updates that occur to a distributed system will be eventually consistent after a period of no updates. For distributed systems such as cloud-based systems, it is simply not possible to keep a system consistent at all times. This results in bad availability.

To understand eventually consistent, it might be helpful to look at how Facebook is handling their data. Facebook uses MySQL, which is a relational (SQL) database. However, they simply don't use such features as joins that MySQL offers them; Facebook joins data on the web server. You might think "What, are they crazy?" However, the problem is that the joins Facebook needs will sooner or later result in a very slow system. David Recordon, Manager at Facebook, stated that joins are better performing on the web server [1]. Facebook must know what is good performance or not as they will store some 50 petabytes of data by the end of 2010. Twitter, another social platform that needs to scale their platform, should also think about switching to NoSQL platforms. This will hopefully reduce the "fail whale" to a minimum [2].

Summing it up, NoSQL is relevant for applications that are in the need of large-scale global Internet applications. But are there any other benefits for NoSQL databases? Another benefit is that there are often no schemas associated with a table. This allows the database to adopt new business requirements. I've seen a lot of projects where the requirements changed over the years. As this is rather hard to handle with traditional databases, NoSQL allows easy adoption of such requirements. A good example of this is Amazon. Amazon stores a lot of data on their products. As they offer products of different types - such as personal computers, smartphones, music, home entertainment systems and books - they need a flexible database. This is a challenge for traditional databases. With NoSQL databases it's easy to implement some kind of inheritance hierarchy - just by calling the table "product" and letting every product have its own fields. Databases such as Amazon Dynamo handle this with key/value storage. If you want to dig deeper into Amazon Dynamo, read Eventually Consistent [3] by Werner Vogels.

Will there be some sort of "war" between NoSQL and SQL supporters like the one of REST versus SOAP? The answer is maybe. Who will win this case? As with SOAP versus REST, there won't be a winner or a loser. We will have more opportunities to choose our database systems in the future. For data warehousing and systems that require business intelligence to be in the database, SQL databases might be your choice. If you need high-responsive, scalable and flexible databases, NoSQL might be better for you.


  1. Facebook infrastructure
  2. Twitters switches to NoSQL
  3. Eventually Consistent

More Stories By Mario Meir-Huber

Mario Meir-Huber studied Information Systems at the University of Linz. He worked in the IT sector for some years before founding CodeForce, an IT consulting and services company together with Andreas Aschauer. Since the advent of Cloud Computing, he has been passionate about this technology. He talks about Cloud Computing at various international events and conferences and writes for industry-leading magazines on cloud computing. He is Cloud Computing expert in various independent IT organizations and wrote a book on Cloud Computing covering all topics of the Cloud. You can follow Mario on Twitter (@mario_mh) or read his Blog at http://cloudvane.wordpress.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue an...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessi...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), sponsor of the IoTivity open source project, and AllSeen Alliance, which provides the AllJoyn® open source IoT framework, today announced that the two organizations’ boards have approved a merger under the OCF name and bylaws. This merger will advance interoperability between connected devices from both groups, enabling the full operating potential of IoT and representing a significant step towards a connected ecosystem.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
As cloud adoption continues to transform business, today’s global enterprises are challenged with managing a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. The rapid adoption of IoT and increasingly mobile workforce are exacerbating the problem. Ensuring secure data sharing and efficient backup poses capacity and bandwidth considerations as well as policy and regulatory compliance issues.