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Couchbase NoSQL database addresses mobility, synching issues

Couchbase offers an embedded version of its NoSQL database, which can fit on a smartphone. That feature turned out to be a plus for air carrier Ryanair.

NoSQL software provider Couchbase Inc. updated its Couchbase Server, releasing the 3.1.0 Enterprise Edition. While described as a minor release, it is notable in that it is production-certified for use with the Couchbase Sync Gateway 1.1, a version specially tuned for meeting users' data needs in the unique world of mobile applications.

In mobile apps, keeping individuals' devices "on the same page" as the database server can be challenging. That is only one of several reasons mobile applications can be a unique nut to crack. Couchbase Sync Gateway focuses on such a problem.

In the same vein, there is an embedded version of the Couchbase NoSQL database, which can fit on a smartphone. Phones can encounter unique session and data synchronization issues when working as part of larger cloud-based systems. An onboard database can address such problems.

While Couchbase's use of performance enhancing Memcached technology and its recent additions of clustering management are useful features for mainstream enterprises, analyst William McKnight said the software's mobile support is important, too. 

"Mobile capabilities are a nice part of the Couchbase family," said McKnight, president of McKnight Consulting Group LLC, based in Plano, Texas. "They support a Couchbase Lite that actually gets embedded in mobile devices."

Sync traits take to the airways

Couchbase Server, Sync Gateway and Couchbase Mobile client database proved a fit for Dublin, Ireland-based air carrier Ryanair Ltd., according to Vladimir Atanasov, lead developer for the airline's Android development team. "People walk around with phones in their pockets. We wanted a system that travelled well," said Atanasov.

According to colleague Paul Sheridan, senior software architect at Ryanair, the historically low-cost carrier is in the midst of an effort to improve customers' travel experience, and development of a better-performing, mobile flight-booking application by Atanasov and his team is part of that effort. He said the application had reduced flight-booking process times from five to two minutes.

Atanasov said Couchbase's NoSQL embedded database for devices can better support applications that sometimes lose connection to a server. Also, he said, using the Sync Gateway proved beneficial, as developing such synchronization can be complex.

He said the Couchbase software helped eased the burden on developers working with native APIs in Java and Swift. Much of this data is handled in the form of JSON objects, a format that often goes hand-in-hand with the NoSQL databases.

If your data is local, it's going to run better.
Bob Wiederholdpresident and CEO at Couchbase

Atanasov said the system Ryanair developed had to account for changing business rules -- but could only do this successfully if it limited traffic between devices and cloud-based servers. "Our synch must be dynamic," he said.

The mobile segment is one marked for special attention by Couchbase, according to the NoSQL database company's leader.

"Customers use us as a cache, as a key-value database and as a document database, and we are continuing to expand the use cases we support," said Bob Wiederhold, president and CEO at Couchbase. "We want to be a general purpose database for Web and mobile apps."

He said that as mobile devices become more powerful from a processor perspective, people will be able to store more data on their device. Couchbase's managers think more data is going to be processed on mobile devices in the future, "as opposed to everything running in the cloud," he said.

"It's an oversimplification, but basically, today, everything runs in the cloud. The data all sits in the cloud," Wiederhold added. "If your data is local, it's going to run better."

He said insurance, plumbing and electrician field workers can exploit the same Couchbase capabilities that Ryanair developers tapped into.

Dipping its toes in SQL support

In other moves, Couchbase said it released a beta version of its N1QL query language (pronounced "Nickel"). Work is continuing now on the software as a collaborative effort with the University of California, San Diego. The goal is to create a sort of SQL for JSON documents. N1QLemploys declarative queries that open up the Couchbase NoSQL document database to SQL features, such as joins and nesting. Third-parties pledged to build connectors to Nickel include Informatica Corp., Metanautix Inc., Simba Technologies Inc., Tableau Software and others.

Should users look beyond SQL access for other decidedly non-SQL traits that will enter the product portfolios at Couchbase and other NoSQL companies? "I expect that we will see more of that in the NoSQL world going forward," said McKnight.

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