MongoDB – Why Does NoSQL Matter?

In recent years, the drumbeat of vendors proclaiming the ascendancy of NoSQL has become increasingly loud. One of the NoSQL vendors that is seeing business results from its NoSQL solution is 10gen, which is the lead commercial sponsor behind the open source MongoDB NoSQL database.

“We’re seeing the NoSQL space really taking off now and it’s being used in a significant way by a lot of people, including a lot of large enterprises,” Dwight Merriman, CEO and co-founder of 10gen, told “So big Internet companies like Craigslist and Shutterfly as well as big companies like SAP, Telefonica and LexisNexis are using it.”

Competition from the traditional database vendors also helps to validate the NoSQL space. At the OpenWorld Conference last month, Oracle announced its own NoSQL solution.

From a competitive perspective, Merriman sees MongoDB as the most popular NoSQL database in use today. His metrics for popular are somewhat indirect, though, and include MongoDB job postings and Google search popularity.

In terms of where NoSQL is fitting into enterprises, Merriman isn’t necessarily seeing NoSQL as a replacement for SQL databases but rather as a new tier of database technology usage. He noted that most Fortune 500 enterprises have an Oracle type relational database in their organizations already. The relational database is used for Online Transaction Processing (OLTP). Most big enterprises also have some form of data warehouse and a business reporting and intelligence database.

“Basically every large enterprise in the world has those two buckets for sure and what we’re seeing are enterprises adding a third bucket, which is a NoSQL basis,” Merriman said. “So on a forward basis, enterprises will have three classes of databases instead of two.”

When it comes to new Internet companies, Merriman expect that those companies will choose only one of three types of databases. The chosen database will likely be the one that maps closest to the problem the company is trying to solve.

Merriman noted that to use MongoDB, an organization must write new code.

“It doesn’t use SQL so if your old code assumes a relational data model so you have to write new code,” Merriman said.

For those that are looking to migrate to MongoDB, Merriman said enterprise developers need to re-write the code that talks to the database. He noted that there is not a lot of tooling for migration, since it’s not easy to automate.

“There are all the normal tools you’d expect in the database for import, export and monitoring of data,” Merriman said. “They’re just not specifically designed for migration.”

MongoDB 2.x

MongoDB 2.0 was recently released providing new concurrency features to the open source NoSQL database.

For the roadmap moving forward, Merriman said there is continuing work to further improve concurrency in the database. Additionally there is a new aggregation framework in the works that will make operations where users are aggregating and merging statistics easier and faster than the current model. MongoDB developers are also working on full-text search for a future release of MongoDB.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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