There's also a growing preference for cloud-hosted databases that can be spun up and down quickly without the need to own and manage specialized hardware. In a SQL-style database it usually is best for a schema of the data to be set up beforehand. In a NoSQL database, the data can basically just be thrown into the database and organized and search later. "It's for developers who don't want to wait for a DBA to provision a database," Aslett says.
With the increased interest in NoSQL databases, a growing market of vendors has blossomed to offer NoSQL databases either as on-premises software installations or on a public cloud. NoSQL databases can generally be broken into four major buckets: key-value store, document, wide-column and graph databases. There are a range of products across these categories from Amazon Web Services' DynamoDB being a leading key-value database to offerings from MongoDB, Couchbase, MarkLogic and Cloudant (which IBM purchased) specializing in document DBs. Vendors like Datastacks, ObjectRocker (acquired by Rackspace) and FoundationDB have a new breed of SQL-style databases that run on distributed platforms which some have dubbed NewSQL.
Matt Aslett, Research Director at 451 Research
As the database market continues to evolve, the lines between database segments are beginning to blur. Oracle, a giant in the SQL database market now has NoSQL offering. Even within the NoSQL market overlap is emerging. AWS's DynamoDB, for example, was a leading key-value store database but recently announced it would support JSON to become a document database as well. The consolidation is only natural in a nascent and growing industry, experts say.
NoSQL offerings are still evolving, with ease of management, installation and building up fault tolerance and reliability being keys that vendors are working on. Backed by more than $230 million in venture financing (including a $150 million round last year), the 7-year old, New York City-based MongoDB (formerly named 10gen) recently announced MMS, a wizard-like tool which allows installation and management of a distributed MongoDB deployment through a slick GUI and automated provisioning engines.
But it's still in its early days. Aslett estimates that in 2012 the NoSQL market collected about $184 million in licensing and support revenue. By 2016 it is expected to collect $1 billion. That's considerable growth but it's still peanuts compared to the $16 billion overall big data market that IDC predicts in 2016.
That hasn't held back companies from adopting it though. At a recent Boston event for MongoDB as part of a traveling roadshow for the company, a senior architect from MetLife described how the company uses the NoSQL system as the back-end database for the company's customer service portal, used by call center employees to provide more detailed response to customer issues. Attendees roaming the halls ranged from a regional medical insurer who was in the earliest stages of testing MongoDB and evaluating it for broader use to a major university IT administrator who already has a MongoDB deployment in production.
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