What does the future hold for NoSQL?

Matt Asay, VP of business strategy at MongoDB
Matt Asay, VP of business strategy at MongoDB

We recently spoke to Matt Asay, VP of business strategy at MongoDB, to discuss the disruptive nature of NoSQL solutions, the advantages of an open-source approach, and what MongoDB's plans for the future are.

MongoDB is a NoSQL database with a focus on agility and scalability, helping organisations including The National Archives, The Guardian and Telefonica by providing a non-relational, open-source solution that allows for the management of data produced by modern applications.

This has made MongoDB a popular solution among the startup community in the UK, helping them to build their businesses around valuable data. As part of a vibrant and fast-moving sector, Asay enthused about the industry and his company's role in it during our Q&A.

Tech Radar Pro: With the database market dominated by the likes of Oracle and IBM, how is NoSQL challenging this established order?

Matt Asay: NoSQL started as a movement and has become less useful as a category definition. I say "less useful" because "NoSQL" describes an array of databases that are generally more different than similar.

Still, what NoSQL set out to describe was a shift away from the rigid, structured data of the past to a new world of unstructured, constantly changing data.

That's the world in which MongoDB lives and thrives. Most data today simply doesn't fit neatly into a relational database. Sure, given enough money and time you can force most data into the rows and columns of a relational database, but organisations are coming to realise that this is a very poor use of both resources and time.

So I'd actually rephrase your question: with today's data so clearly suited to a NoSQL, general purpose database like MongoDB, how can the likes of Oracle hope to remain relevant for modern applications?

Not because Oracle is a bad database - it's actually fantastic for yesterday's business needs. But because modern applications need a modern database like MongoDB.

TRP: What features does an open source solution like MongoDB have that proprietary offerings don't?

MA: It's not so much a set of features that MongoDB has versus, say, Oracle. Oracle has been around for 40 years. It has a wealth of functionality. What proprietary or open-source RDBMSs don't have, however, is the natural ability to handle unstructured and semi-structured data at scale.

Consider this: 90% of the world's data was created in the last two years, 80% of the world's data is unstructured, and unstructured data is growing at twice the rate of structured data.

Put that together and it's clear that the trends favour databases that are comfortable with messy data that doesn't fit neatly into the rows and columns of a relational database.

TRP: Was MongoDB designed specifically for web applications or does it have other use cases?

MA: Co-founder Dwight Merriman likes to describe MongoDB as the database he wishes he would have had back when he started DoubleClick, which he later sold to Google. It's not about web applications: it's about an entire new generation of modern applications that require an operational database.

One of the reasons MongoDB has been so popular is that it's a true, general purpose database that is useful in a broad array of use cases including content management, big data (including the database powering a new breed of internet of things applications), product and asset catalogs, and more.

TRP: Would you say that Europe is slower to adopt open source solutions than the rest of the world, or is it more open minded?

MA: The irony is that Europeans have been quickest to develop much of the leading open source technologies, but European companies have been slower to adopt than organisations in APAC or North America.

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.