The following comments are based on a literal definition of the NoSQL acronym, “Not Only SQL”. So readers are advised not to interpret my comments as an endorsement of “NoSQL databases” (MongoDB, DocumentDB, etc).
A lot has been written over the last few months on the promise – or illusion of one – represented by NoSQL databases. This commentary focuses on the experience of enterprise consumers who have failed to obtain the results they expected from their efforts to implement a new approach to addressing data and working with it. The consistent thread running through these presentations is an assessment about the quality of the technology – not ready just yet – for prime time. For readers not familiar with this debate, a recent research report from Forrester claimed 42% of enterprise consumers of off the shelf “NoSQL” databases are challenged by them. Reference is made to the Forrester report in an article titled Database drama: Relational or NoSQL? How to find the best choice for you
Perhaps this assessment is accurate. But what if it really doesn’t matter? What if these consumers have no choice but to use other approaches than simply SQL to get at the results they require? In 2015 for prominent consumer brands, this is the case. Just 20 years ago Procter and Gamble, Clorox, Church & Dwight and their peers all looked to television and radio advertising, and print as their promotional playgrounds. Nielsen, Harris and other polling organizations could service this big business market segment with periodic reports, data visualizations, and even predictions produced by algorithms.
But in 2015 retail customers find their entertainment content online. Over the top video does not look to be leaving the scene anytime soon. Cloud SaaS social media options continue to magnetize their interest and speak to their needs with greater accuracy based on personalization technology already in use almost everywhere.
So how does Procter and Gamble crunch these numbers? Do they collect online chatter into columnar database structures for processing via SQL queries? Not likely. In fact it is highly unlikely the Procter and Gambles of the world are even touching online chatter any more. It makes more sense for them to simply consume the predictive product offered by facebook and/or another social media ISV. Sure they will likely look to Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and IBM to run the operation because they have the on-premises infrastructure and RDBMS repositories big consumer brands still need to put together with the massive volume of unstructured data their promotional efforts are producing in the cloud. But without NoSQL methods of addressing so-called “dark data” it is not likely we would be seeing Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn reporting the kind of increases in revenue, and even profit of the last couple of weeks.
Here is another important point to consider when evaluating whether or not NoSQL data structures make sense as a long-term solution for big business, or not: Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Amazon and Microsoft all have developed their own version of big data solutions – clusters of servers in a peer computing architecture. Google claims to have invented NoSQL as a method of addressing lots of data. Microsoft has DocumentDB. They are all using analytics developed for unstructured data along with SQL to product the business intelligence the brands need to survive.
Until another medium emerges to challenge online content publishing over Ethernet networks with variants of hypertext NoSQL is simply inevitable.
Ira Michael Blonder
© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved