McKnight: Relational vs. NoSQL databases not a winner-take-all game

Although it may be tempting to view NoSQL databases as an outright replacement for mainstream relational databases, the truth is there is a place for both technologies in most organizations, according to William McKnight, president of McKnight Consulting Group. "They both handle information in a different way; they handle different workloads," he said in a video interview recorded at the 2013 Pacific Northwest BI Summit in Grants Pass, Ore.

In fact, McKnight said, the presumed competition between NoSQL databases and relational software might not produce a single winner. At his clients, it's more a case of coexistence than NoSQL versus SQL technology. "I don't see NoSQL coming into organizations and displacing a lot of relational databases," he said. "What I see happening is that organizations are taking on new objectives, new challenges [and] new applications, and they're doing it, when appropriate, with NoSQL."

The important thing, he added, is not to use a NoSQL database when it isn't appropriate. "Information needs to flow like water into the right channel. Ultimately, you have to pick the right database for the workload and the underlying data." McKnight said NoSQL technologies are a good fit for large data sets that are frequently expanded with new information, and ones in which the data records have varying structures that don't mesh well with relational data models.

In addition, relational database vendors have improved their capabilities for supporting big data applications, according to McKnight. "While NoSQL has come aboard, the relational world hasn't been sitting still," he said. "It's been rising to meet the challenge in a lot of ways." As a result, he emphasized that it's a mistake to ignore the merits of relational databases. And he said that not only is there room for both types of technologies in IT architectures, there's also room in the database market for both to continue growing: "It's really a matter of both succeeding."

In the interview with SearchDataManagement Executive Editor Craig Stedman, McKnight further discussed the relationship between NoSQL and relational databases. Viewers of the five-minute video will:

  • Hear more about why McKnight sees continued growth for both technologies.
  • Learn how NoSQL databases and relational databases can coexist in an organization.
  • Find out what applications are right, and wrong, for NoSQL database technology.

Text by Emma Preslar, editorial assistant. Email us at [email protected] and follow us on Twitter: @sDataManagement.

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