Guide to NoSQL databases: How they can help users meet big data needs

Last updated:May 2014

Essential Guide

Browse Sections

Editor's note

Relational databases built around the SQL programming language have long been the top -- and, in many cases, only -- choice of database technologies for organizations. Now, with the emergence of various NoSQL software platforms, IT managers and business executives involved in technology decisions have more options on database deployments. NoSQL databases support dynamic schema design, offering the potential for increased flexibility, scalability and customization compared to relational software. That makes them a good fit for Web applications, content management systems and other uses involving large amounts of non-uniform data requiring frequent updates and varying field formats. In particular, NoSQL technologies are designed with "big data" needs in mind.

But for prospective users, the array of NoSQL database choices may seem confusing or even overwhelming. NoSQL databases are grouped into four primary product categories with different architectural characteristics: document databases, graph databases, key-value databases and wide column stores. Many NoSQL platforms are also tailored for specific purposes, and they may or may not work well with SQL technologies, which could be a necessity in some organizations. In addition, most NoSQL systems aren't suitable replacements for relational databases in transaction processing applications, because they lack full ACID compliance for guaranteeing transactional integrity and data consistency.

As a result, IT and business professionals making database buying decisions must carefully evaluate whether the available NoSQL options fit their business needs. In this guide, you can learn more about what NoSQL software can do and how it differs from relational databases. Trend stories and user case studies document how NoSQL databases can be used to support big data, cloud computing and business analytics applications. And experienced users from companies that have already deployed NoSQL tools offer advice on how to make the technology selection and implementation process smoother.

1NoSQL user stories and deployment best practices

Various types of businesses have deployed NoSQL database technologies and shared their stories about the deployments -- including projects that involve the use of SQL and NewSQL technologies as additions or alternatives to NoSQL software. In this section, learn more about what works and what doesn't and get tips on which options are most suitable for your data processing, business intelligence and analytics needs.

2Assess your knowledge of NoSQL databases

Take this brief quiz to check your understanding of NoSQL technology.