Can SQL and NoSQL databases live happily together?


Open source database pioneer Rasmus Johansson shares his views on the current debate around SQL and NoSQL database. Johansson has been VP of Engineering for SkySQL since 2013 and the merger of SkySQL and MariaDB. Prior to the merger he functioned as COO for Monty Program Ab since 2010. He has earlier worked in various IT project positions for Microsoft, WM-data, Icon Medialabs and Finnair.

TechRadar Pro: Why are databases so important to businesses?

Rasmus Johannson: No large business can be competitive today without the ability to store, manipulate and analyse large quantities of data. A database is the fundamental technology that enables these processes, and having technology with the right capabilities can radically enhance the competitive advantage that good use of data offers. A database helps every business turn data into information which becomes knowledge when analysed.

TRP: What problems are enterprise database users facing at the moment?

RJ: I don't want to be just another voice marvelling at the exponential growth of data in businesses – storing lots of data isn't in itself a difficult thing to achieve. What's more difficult is getting value from that data, and the truth is that no one solution offers a satisfactory answer to that.

This means that one of the biggest challenges for enterprise database users is interoperability. Ensuring that a database can interoperate with others can dramatically increase the actual value of the data they hold. We've worked very hard at SkySQL to improve the ability of the MariaDB database to interact productively with other databases, and that work continues.

TRP: How have database needs changed in the last 15 years?

RJ: The volume of data that we have to deal with is obviously a major change, but the functionality and ease-of-use that users expect is perhaps a bigger one. The consumerisation of enterprise IT has left no-one unaffected, including DBAs and their teams. Perhaps DBAs don't yet expect pastel colours, big buttons and rounded corners, but even the most technically-minded IT professionals will immediately query any arbitrary limits to functionality or interoperability, and it is entirely right and proper that they do so.

The most common answer to "why can't' we do that?" is no longer "because that's just the way things are". Those days are gone, and good riddance to them. Nowadays, IT professionals are much more likely to adapt the functionality of existing technology to help them meet the demands of their organisations. Many exciting innovations have come about in this way, and many more will do so in the future.

TRP: NoSQL vs SQL: what is the hype about?

RJ: think this is a very exciting time in the evolution of IT, where the value that technology professionals can deliver to a business has simply never been greater. The debate around the merits of SQL and NoSQL is just a symptom of how important IT functionality has become to the modern business.

There's clearly merit on both sides of the argument, and it's my view that both technologies will happily co-exist long into the future. If anything, I'm just glad that people are talking about databases with such passion. It helps emphasise the point that they form a crucial part of the enterprise IT ecosystem, and therefore, of the modern business.

NoSQL represents the modern themes in database management, for example the simplicity of design, storing of massive amounts of data and scaling out horizontally in an easier way. These themes were introduced in new database products which happily used the term NoSQL. However, proven relational database technologies like MySQL or MariaDB have also adapted many of the NoSQL aspects and more is coming.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.