What do we mean by NoSQL technologies?

SQL is a popular programming language for data scientists when it comes to data retrieval and data analysis. But new set of new tools is strongly emerging in the field of Big Data: NoSQL.

Unlike SQL, NoSQL is not a single technology with a standard basis for database management. NoSQL refers rather to a whole group of technologies that store and process data in different ways. The main feature of this set of technologies is that they do not use SQL as the main language for data storage and data processing.

The traditional system by which SQL manages data is known as RDMS (Relational Database Management System). We could talk extensively about the features of this system in several articles. Here I will simply summarize the theory in one claim: SQL stores information in rows and columns that form tables, which we can be linked to each other.

The advent of NoSQL technologies is a response to the tremendous growth in the amount of unstructured data in the online environment. The big challenge for data-focused companies is the overwhelming volume of data on the internet and the need to process their changes in real time.

Furthermore, since Agile is the prevailing methodology in software development, the developers  teams work in short sprints; therefore they need to quickly adapt to changes. This way of working can pose a challenge for traditional RDMS. Not only NoSQL databases store information in tables like SQL does. Rather, each specific NoSQL technology manages the data differently. Some examples are:

Document databases: Instead of storing data in a highly structured fashion as in SQL, this NoSQL technology does not use rows or columns. The information is stored in documents, each of which have a different format and structure.

Graphic database: These database systems are used for data that is easily represented  through graphs. It is mainly used to store information about

data networks such as social media connections.

Key-value store: In this system, each object is made up of a key which is associated with a value. It is the simplest NoSQL system.

Wide column stores: Instead of tables, this system stores groups of columns containing rows. Yes, I know this may sound like a table. However, unlike tables used in relational debases, the rows do not have to have the same number of columns. This system is highly recommended to analyze huge volumes of data.

Now that you have read the main utilities of NoSQL you will be wondering if these technologies will replace SQL. It is certainly an interesting question for tech and data companies. Especially now that we have more information than ever in our history, organizations and users may opt for more flexible solutions leaving behind the high degree of structure SQL offers. We will review this matter in an upcoming article.

More info in:

Data science skills: Is NoSQL better than SQL?

NoSQL Databases Explained