Not All NoSQL Is Created Equal — Here’s What to Consider

There was a time when using NoSQL was a risk to your business. Now it is a risk not to use NoSQL. What has changed? Clarity, maturity, shifting market and a highly competitive landscape. We’ll look at each of these and how they interact.

Clarity of Expertise

Imagine taking your daughter to the zoo. The first area you go to is labeled “Sloth” and sure enough you see a bunch of the slow-moving animals. The next area you go to has a large animal with a very long neck. The label is “Non-Sloth.” Next you see a cat-like creature with a big mane. It is also labeled “Non-Sloth.” In fact, everything in the zoo is labeled “Non-Sloth” except the Sloth. This is a ridiculously bad way to label animals, but unfortunately, that’s the situation we have with SQL vs. NoSQL.

Everything that isn’t SQL is NoSQL. This has caused a great deal of confusion in the marketplace about what NoSQL is, what it’s good for, and how it can be applied. There is no single answer because the technologies are as different as a lion and a ferret. This lack of clarity led some organizations to delay their exploration of NoSQL, while others had bad experiences because they thought they were getting one thing and ended up getting another.

Fortunately, clarity is emerging. The vendors are getting better at describing their spheres of applicability and there is now enough experience by consumers that they understand where the different classes of NoSQL play. For example, MarkLogic focuses on integrating data from silos to build operational and transactional, mission critical applications. Because of this focus, the product stresses areas like consistency, reliability, security, governance, and data agility. Other vendors focus on different use cases and their products reflect that.


If you’re going to bet your business on a technology, that technology better not be half-baked. The fact of the matter is that while technology seems to move at an incredibly fast pace, it still takes many years to build and harden a core piece of software infrastructure like a database. The category of NoSQL hasn’t been around for very long, and the vast majority of systems in the category don’t focus on mission critical operations where hardening is an inherent requirement. Some have begun to talk about enterprise requirements, but they have a long road to travel before being truly hardened – it’s a hard thing to do.

Having said that, MarkLogic has been around since long before the term NoSQL. Enterprise requirements, like ACID transactions, have been baked-in since version 1.0. We’ve had a long time to get this stuff right. That means that organizations do have a choice in the NoSQL space that gives them proven security, reliability, scalability, and governance. That removes another roadblock to NoSQL adoption.

Shifting Market Requirements

So far, we’ve talked about how it has become safe to adopt NoSQL. Now we’re getting into why not adopting NoSQL can hurt you. When SQL products like Oracle were in their infancy over 35 years ago, the world was a different place. Computation and storage were wildly expensive, data was very small, the pace of change in the market was slow, and relational algebra was a great way to normalize your organization’s data into a form that was convenient for the computer.

Now, every one of those metrics has changed. Computation and storage are cheap with scale-out Intel architectures, data sizes have exploded, the pace of change in the market and regulatory environment are break-neck, and normalizing data for the convenience of machines has slowed IT development times to a crawl.

Leading edge organizations like Deutsche Bank are taking advantage of NoSQL to adapt to the modern world. In six months they had integrated data from multiple trading systems into a single, global trade store that could serve as a hub for downstream transactions as well as regulatory reporting and risk aggregation. They tried this with Oracle and it was a long and painful exercise that prompted Deutsche Bank to get clarity on the NoSQL space and determine that MarkLogic was a technology on which they could “run the bank.” Not using MarkLogic would have meant more costs, more delays, and less agility in the business.

Highly Competitive Landscape

Many large, established organizations are experiencing new competitive pressures from small, agile, competitors who can leverage new technologies without the boat anchor of legacy technology. In years past, these smaller players would have had extreme difficulty pulling together the IT assets needed to compete with larger firms. Now, with cloud computing, they can have a world-class data center at their fingertips in no time at all.

While the smaller firms have focus and speed, they can only dream of the resources of the larger organizations. One of the most valuable resources is their data from multiple products, services, suppliers, and a huge customer base. The problem is that they often can’t leverage their data because it is locked up in dozens of different relational silos. MarkLogic’s brand of NoSQL makes it possible to integrate that data quickly, and share it in a safe, governed, manner. That’s leading to greater data agility and ultimately, a competitive advantage.

Bringing It All Together

We’re seeing a second generation of NoSQL consumers who understand that not all NOSQL is created equal. They see that there is a mature option available that they can bet their business on. That’s making them comfortable with betting on NoSQL. They are also living the daily changes in regulatory requirements, business needs, and an unrelenting competitive threat from newcomers. All of these pressures, and more, are making them realize that NoSQL isn’t just safe to adopt, it’s necessary to adopt.

For more information

Why MarkLogic Will Lead the Next-Generation of Database TechnologyIn this blog, CEO Gary Bloom discusses how NoSQL is the next-generation technology for the modern enterprise.