A Quick Look at the Services Offered by RDBMs vs. NoSQL
The world of IT has to deal with the issue of data storage. The reason for this is that there is plenty of data produced and created daily on the internet and on various business applications. In the past, RDBMs or Relational Database Management Systems were used for storage. Even though they are still used today, there are other offerings that present competition and anyone wishing to purchase data storage systems needs to make comparisons.
One such competing system is NoSQL or Not Only SQL. It has taken the market by storm because of the other possibilities that it offers which go beyond what is provided by RDBMs. These are databases that are non-relational and have a primary language other than SQL. Instead, if you need to make a query, you have to use APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) instead.
RDBMs have several basic characteristics that have made them popular over the years. These include the following.
- They give both efficiency and flexibility
- Through normalization one is able to reduce data duplication within the database
- Relational links can easily join tables
- Data clearly shows relationships
- The storage of data is in tables using the column and raw format
Even with those wonderful characteristics, RDBMs have shortcomings that are making them less popular today. They are as follows.
- RDBMs require the data they are to store to be very structured. However, most of the data that is generated on social media and other places on the internet is not structured at all. As such, the data is non-relational and difficult for them to interpret.
- They are challenged in providing an operation that is quick to create, to read, to update as well as delete operations in a cost effective manner. This is because they are trying to deal with maintaining relationships and joining the data.
Because of this, there is a need to use a system that can easily work with data that is unstructured both efficiently and easily. NoSQL does this very well and handles big data efficiently giving the business owner maximum value. It is for this reason and others that many people have made the change to NoSQL. Here are 5 advantages of NoSQL.
- Scalability – In the past, DBAs (Database Administrators) had to scale up and not out. This means that as their need for more storage increased, they were forced to buy bigger servers. By scaling out though, they are able to distribute their load of data to a number of hosts. This has been done by using virtual environments and cloud services. There is a huge advantage in this because they no longer have to spend money on infrastructure in order to scale up. RDBMs are not good at encouraging or allowing scaling out to commodity clusters.
- Maintenance – whereas RDBMs need the help of a very well trained and usually expensive DBA to carry out maintenance, NoSQL does not require much maintenance at all. These databases have been made in such a way as to carry out automatic repair and data distribution. They therefore require less administration even though someone needs to keep an eye on how well the system is performing. With RDBMs, someone is required not just to design and install the system, but to provide ongoing tuning as well.
- Big data – the amounts of data being stored every day have grown exponentially over time. Even though the larger RDBMs have increased their capacity to meet the need for storage of data, in many cases, a single RDBM may find the data intolerable if the volume is very large. NoSQL systems on the other hand can comfortably handle big data with a lot more ease than the largest RDBMs can.
- Flexibility – when it comes to making changes on the system, RDBMs must be managed very carefully and in some cases, minor changes may even require reduction of service levels or downtime. NoSQL is easier to deal with in this respect since the data model restrictions are negligible. You can make changes without affecting the entire system.
- Economics – RDBMs use storage systems and proprietary servers that are very expensive to manage transaction volumes and exploding data. NoSQL on the other hand is many times cheaper, which means that you can process and store way more data with it at a lower cost.
One may think that NoSQL has no challenges, but that is not true. It has its challenges as follows.
- Still Young – There are those who find NoSQL systems to still be young in the industry. The fact that RDBMs have been here a while and have done a good job so far makes them appealing. They are considered functional and stable while NoSQL is still being treated with caution.
- Support – People who are looking to invest in a database need to be assured that the system will have sufficient support in the event that something should go wrong. Those who sell RDBMs offer support at a high level, but those who are offering NoSQL support tend to be young companies or start ups. This causes those who are looking to invest in them have some hesitation.
- Business Intelligence – Even though NoSQL has done a good job of meeting the needs for scaling that most businesses want, querying and analysis is slightly limited because there are few facilities that offer this. One would have to program quite a bit to get queries to work and BI tools that are used commonly by most businesses are not able to connect to NoSQL. However, there are some solutions that are emerging in the market to make data access easier on NoSQL databases.
- Expertise – Whereas there are many developers out there who understand and have worked with RDBMs, most of those who know about NoSQL are still learning. With time, there will be more experts available.
- Administration – Even though NoSQL is theoretically supposed to provide a service that does not require administration, the reality on the ground is that there is need for a skilled person to both install and maintain the system.