A Microsoft Perspective on NoSQL and Document Databases

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIn November, 2011, Julie Lerman wrote a post for Microsoft’s MSDN Magazine on Document Databases. The title of her post is What the Heck Are Document Databases? Her post may provide business sponsors of NoSQL database projects with useful information about the notion of NoSQL, and, therefore is recommended reading material.

What prompts me to recommend this post for business stakeholders in NoSQL projects (aka Gartner’s “Citizen Developers”) is the comparative lack of abstraction characterizing Lerman’s presentation. She quickly identifies document databases as one of several types of NoSQL databases (she also presents “key-value pair” databases and points to Azure Table Storage as an example). Here’s a great example of the simplicity of Lerman’s presentation of the notion of NoSQL: “The term is used to encompass data storage mechanisms that aren’t relational and therefore don’t require using SQL for accessing their data.”

For some business readers even this short definition may be challenging. Just what does she mean when she presents her notion of “data storage mechanisms that aren’t relational?” It would, perhaps, have been helpful for the audience I have targeted to add an additional sentence, to simply illustrate how rows and columns in tables, which are, defacto, “relational” components (or structure) actually offer users a method of storing information. Kind of like “I know where you are, therefore, dear data, you have been stored SOMEWHERE”.

But the business user is likely not Lerman’s intended audience. This post appears in Microsoft’s MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) Magazine, so the intended audience, I would assume, are coders working with Microsoft tools (.NET, C#) via VisualStudio. Nevertheless, sections of the post (like the one’s I’ve quoted, above) are certainly worth a read by the audience I have in mind, as well.

Here’s more useful information. As I wrote last week, the definition of NoSQL, “Not Only Structured Query Language” is a useful text string to keep in mind when grappling with hype about “radically different” approaches to managing data, or “getting rid of” relational databases. Back in November, 2011, when Lerman published her post, she drills down into defining the NoSQL acronym, too, by pointing her readers to a post by Brad Holt of the CouchDB project. The title of Holt’s post is Addressing the NoSQL Criticism, which he handles by noting “First, NoSQL is horrible name. It implies that there’s something wrong with SQL and it needs to be replaced with a newer and better technology. If you have structured data that needs to be queried, you should probably use a database that enforces a schema and implements Structured Query Language. I’ve heard people start redefining NoSQL as “not only SQL”. This is a much better definition and doesn’t antagonize those who use existing SQL databases. An SQL database isn’t always the right tool for the job and NoSQL databases give us some other options.” (this quote is excerpted, in entirety, from Brad Holt’s post. I’ve provided a link here to the complete post and encourage readers to read the post in entirety.).

So if you need to get a good understanding about the Document Database type of NoSQL structure, I recommend reading Lerman and Holt’s posts.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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