What the heck are you actually using NoSQL for?
Monday, December 6, 2010 at 9:34AM
Todd Hoff in nosql

It's a truism that we should choose the right tool for the job. Everyone says that. And who can disagree? The problem is this is not helpful advice without being able to answer more specific questions like: What jobs are the tools good at? Will they work on jobs like mine? Is it worth the risk to try something new when all my people know something else and we have a deadline to meet? How can I make all the tools work together?

In the NoSQL space this kind of real-world data is still a bit vague. When asked, vendors tend to give very general answers like NoSQL is good for BigData or key-value access. What does that mean for for the developer in the trenches faced with the task of solving a specific problem and there are a dozen confusing choices and no obvious winner? Not a lot. It's often hard to take that next step and imagine how their specific problems could be solved in a way that's worth taking the trouble and risk.

Let's change that. What problems are you using NoSQL to solve? Which product are you using? How is it helping you? Yes, this is part the research for my webinar on December 14th, but I'm a huge believer that people learn best by example, so if we can come up with real specific examples I think that will really help people visualize how they can make the best use of all these new product choices in their own systems.

Here's a list of uses cases I came up with after some trolling of the interwebs. The sources are so varied I can't attribute every one, I'll put a list at the end of the post. Please feel free to add your own. I separated the use cases out for a few specific products simply because I had a lot of uses cases for them they were clearer out on their own. This is not meant as an endorsement of any sort. Here's a master list of all the NoSQL products. If you would like to provide a specific set of use cases for a product I'd be more than happy to add that in.

General Use Cases

These are the general kinds of reasons people throw around for using NoSQL. Probably nothing all that surprising here.

More Specific Use Cases

Redis Use Cases

Redis is unique in the repertoire as it is a data structure server, with many fascinating use cases that people are excited to share

VoltDB Use Cases

VoltDB as a relational database is not traditionally thought of as in the NoSQL camp, but I feel based on their radical design perspective they are so far away from Oracle type systems that they are much more in the NoSQL tradition.

Analytics Use Cases

Kevin Weil at Twitter is great at providing Hadoop use cases. At Twitter this includes counting big data with standard counts, min, max, std dev; correlating big data with probabilities, covariance, influence; and research on Big data. Hadoop is on the fringe of NoSQL, but it's very useful to see what kind of problems are being solved with it.

Poor Use Cases

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