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Couchbase NoSQL database adds relational capabilities

With its latest update, Couchbase introduced features that bring the equivalent of tables and schema to its database to reduce friction for those moving from a relational database.

Couchbase released into general availability on Thursday its updated NoSQL database providing users with a series of new features that aim to narrow the gap between NoSQL and relational databases.

The Couchbase 7.0 release comes a week after the open source NoSQL database vendor had its IPO and is the first major update since the Couchbase 6.5 release that came out in October 2019.

The new version provides new SQL query capabilities including multi-document SQL ACID (atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability) transactions that provide more scalability and performance for users.

Key highlights of the Couchbase 7.0 release are what the vendor refers to as scopes and collections. The purpose of scopes and collections is to have a new organizing capability for the NoSQL database that mimics the tables and schema approach of a relational database.

Couchbase is known as a "schema-less database" and previously did not have a schema feature.

Features common to relational databases

The scopes and collections capabilities are key advancements, along with multiple document transactions, said Carl Olofson, an analyst at IDC.

When multiple applications develop document databases, those documents may contain overlapping data. When that happens, there must be a mechanism for coordinating the overlap.

Screenshot of Couchbase NoSQL database
Couchbase 7.0 now enables users to make multi-document SQL ACID transactions, which provide more scalability and performance for users.

With document collections, documents that are unique to an application and documents that are shared are handled together, which delivers the same simplicity as before, but without the duplication and synchronization problem.

With multi-document SQL ACID transactions, when an action occurs involving updates in multiple documents, that action either succeeds altogether, or fails altogether, keeping the data consistent, Olofson said.

"This [multi-document SQL ACID transactions] has been a common feature in relational databases for decades, but adding it to document databases makes them capable of supporting the more sophisticated operations that business applications require," Olofson said.

[Multi-document SQL ACID transactions] has been a common feature in relational databases for decades. Adding it to document databases makes them capable of supporting the more sophisticated operations that business applications require.
Carl OlofsonAnalyst, IDC

"The overall effect is to enable Couchbase to move up the food chain from being focused on end user and edge data applications to a range of more complex business process-based transactions," he said.

Bringing scopes and collections to the NoSQL database

Couchbase is positioning the "scope" as equivalent to a schema, while the "collection" is similar to a relational database table. Within the table are documents -- the equivalent of rows within a relational database -- and within the documents are data fields, which are akin to columns.

"We all have a very good sense of how our data is arranged inside a relational database. There's an ontology for it with a database schema, table, rows and columns; that's how data is arranged," explained Ravi Mayuram, CTO of Couchbase. "So we wanted to offer an equivalent of that."

Mayuram said that with scopes and collections in Couchbase 7.0 there is now a 1:1 mapping for data coming from an organization's relational system to how it can be structured within Couchbase.

That type of mapping will ease migration from a relational database to Couchbase, he said.

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