Couchbase: data shapes in the new digital economy

This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Open Source Insider blog written by Luke Whitehead in his capacity as head of EMEA marketing for Couchbase — the firm is am an open source, distributed (shared-nothing architecture) multi-model NoSQL document-oriented database specialist.

Whitehead writes as follows…

Digital transformation = revolution

The very term revolution is defined as a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operations.

What better way to describe the colossal change facing businesses today as industry after industry shifts to the digital economy? Businesses speak of the Digital Economy, but what tools and innovation is opening up new opportunities? According to the European Commission the digital economy is “the single most important driver of innovation, competitiveness and growth, and it holds huge potential for European entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).”

Web, mobile & IoT apps are the heart of the new Digital Economy – a multi-trillion-dollar business opportunity – and NoSQL is the operational database powering those apps. Built on the cloud, mobile, social media and big data, it has become fundamental to businesses across the globe. The explosion of new apps seems unstoppable, but what’s behind the applications? What tools are developers using to deal with the mass of data?

Relational vs. non-relational

The all-important backbone is often down to a decision between relational vs. a non-relational database. Relational databases were born in the era of mainframes and business applications – long before the Internet, the cloud, big data, mobile and now, the digital economy. NoSQL databases have been specifically engineered to meet a new generation of enterprise requirements including the need to develop with agility and to operate at any scale.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for relational databases within today’s business world, what’s important is for a developer to understand the business needs and supporting them with the best possible infrastructure.

Relational databases are well suited to legacy business management applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) – still vital across enterprises. The difference with NoSQL is in the detail. Non-relational databases meet the performance, scalability, availability and agility requirements of interactive customer-facing applications. 

With so much data up for grabs, data has become the new currency, and open source developers are the bankers so critical to business success.

Only by deriving data-driven insights, at the moment of interaction, can a business recognise who they’re engaging with, understand what that they want and deliver a great experience. Those that can store, find and access their data at a moment’s notice, will stay ahead in the game – able to deliver exceptional customer experiences and create innovative products and services that will allow them to succeed in the digital economy.

Embracing NoSQL

The most innovative companies are embracing NoSQL by successfully introducing it into their relational environments. Many developers deploying NoSQL broadly to address the following challenges and new business requirements:

1. Customers are becoming more demanding, meaning business processes must be fast and agile in order to cater to their needs.

2. As part of this demand, businesses must scale to support thousands if not millions of users with consistently high performance, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

3. The Internet is connecting everything, meaning businesses must support a variety of applications with different data structures and countless real-time interactions.

4. Big data is getting bigger making it essential to store customer generated semi-structured/unstructured data from a variety of sources

 NoSQL looks to address these needs, helping businesses to remain competitive across a huge number of applications including:

  • Supporting large numbers of concurrent users
  • Delivering highly responsive experiences to a globally distributed base of users
  • Being always available, no downtime ever
  • Handling semi and unstructured data
  • Rapidly adapting to changing requirements with frequent updates and new features

You might be wondering ‘why now?’, ‘why change?’ or even ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. The bottom line is the digital economy is expected to reach €3.2 trillion in the G-20 economies and already contributes up to eight per cent of GDP across Europe. It represents opportunity and potential in times of business uncertainty and political change.

Amidst change and uncertainty, the digital economy is here to stay – it powers growth, creating jobs and contributing to higher productivity gains, providing opportunities for developers throughout Europe.

A modern infrastructure is essential to powering maximum uptime, and all important scale that meets the requirements for doing business in today’s digital economy. With NoSQL, enterprises are able to both develop with agility and operate at any scale to deliver the performance and availability required to meet the demands of digital economy businesses.

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I have been tracking NoSQL databases for several years, collecting publicly available data on skills and vendors. The NoSQL market is still tiny. Considerations and summary of data in Section 2 of this very large slide deck: Considerations for using NoSQL technology on your next IT project. Slides regularly updated with new data as I find it. Update due soon.
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