NoSQL Use Cases: When to Use a Non-Relational Database

  • Scalability is a top priority
  • You need continuous availability
  • Working with big data or performing real-time analytics

What is NoSQL?

NoSQL is short for “not only SQL,” or “non-SQL.” It’s a term used to describe databases that are not relational. To better understand NoSQL databases, let’s first take a look at their alternative, SQL databases.

  • The flexibility to easily store and access a wide variety of data types together, without upfront planning. The data types can include structured, semi-structured, unstructured, and polymorphic.
  • The ability to add new data types and fields to the database without having to redefine the data model.
  • Built-in, horizontal scalability that can handle rapid growth and is much less costly than attempting to scale-out a SQL database.
  • Continuous availability and strong resilience, due to its horizontal scaling approach.
  • Ease-of-use for developers that fits well with modern, agile teams.

Comparing NoSQL to SQL

While NoSQL databases have many advantages, they’re not the right choice for every situation. Sometimes sticking with a tried-and-true SQL database is the way to go. Let’s compare SQL and NoSQL databases across several factors. Think about how each would apply to your data profile and use cases.

NoSQL use cases

As you can see, making the choice between a SQL and NoSQL database is not always a straightforward decision. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Making the right choice depends on your organization’s specific data environment, along with your current needs and future goals. Many development teams actually use both within their cloud data architecture, sometimes even within the same application — deploying each to cover the areas they handle best.

  • Inventory and catalog management
  • Personalization, recommendations and customer experience
  • Internet of things (IoT) and sensor data
  • Financial services and payments
  • Messaging
  • Logistics and asset management
  • Content management systems
  • Digital and media management

Fraud detection and identity authentication

Protecting sensitive personal data and ensuring only real customers have access to applications is understandably a top priority. Of course, this is only heightened in areas such as financial services, banking, payments, and insurance.

Inventory and catalog management

NoSQL databases are known for their high availability and predictable, cost-effective, horizontal scalability. This makes them a great match for e-commerce companies with massive, growing online catalogs and loads of inventory to manage.

  • Easily and cost-effectively scale
  • Provide faster catalog refreshes
  • Grow its online catalog and number of products
  • Analyze its catalog and inventory in real time

Personalization, recommendations, and customer experience

Providing a fast, personalized experience is no longer a differentiator. Today, it’s table stakes. Customers expect a consistent, high-quality, tailored experience from your brand, 24/7, across all devices.

  • Can handle all types of data, structured and unstructured, from a variety of sources
  • Are built to cost-effectively scale, with the ability to store, manage, query, and modify extremely large volumes of data and concurrently deliver personalized experiences to millions of customers
  • Are extremely flexible, so you can continuously innovate and improve the customer experience
  • Can seamlessly capture, integrate, and analyze new data that is continuously flowing in
  • Are adept at being the backbone for the machine learning and AI engine algorithms that provide recommendations and power personalization

Do you have a NoSQL use case?

Hopefully, this post and the non-relational database examples above have provided some guidance about when using a NoSQL database would be the smart move. So, what’s the next step if you determine your company does indeed have NoSQL use cases?



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DataStax is the company behind the massively scalable, highly available, cloud-native NoSQL data platform built on Apache Cassandra®.