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Jnan Dash

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Closer Look at One NoSQL Database – MongoDB

MongoDB’s name comes from the middle five letters of the word “humongous”, meaning big data

Among the new crop of NoSQL database products, MongoDB ranks quite high, in my opinion. The company that produces MongoDB is 10Gen, a venture backed new start-up since 2008. But its rapid growth over last 4 years bears testimony to its technical strength.

MongoDB’s name comes from the middle five letters of the word “humongous”, meaning big data. It is an open-source, document-oriented storage which is schema-free and can entertain dynamic queries with full indexing. The programming model is BSON – binary encoding of JSON (Javascript Object Notation), a lightweight text-based open standard designed for data interchange. Douglas Crawford of Yahoo invented JSON in 2006.

The other key tenet of MongoDB is its scalability architecture – it can scale out horizontally using its automatic “sharding” (or keyrange partitioning). It does provide master-slave or peer-to-peer replication for high availability, recovery, and performance. One of its customers Disney’s Interactive Media Group, for example, has 1400 instances of Mongo. It uses sharding for write performance and replication for read performance.

MongoDB can be deployed from the cloud via Amazon’s AWS. Their revenue model is via support services, training, and consulting. Partners include VMWare, Amazon, Redhat, etc. – all cloud platform providers offering MongoDB as an option to their clients. Although the database suits document storage the best, it can handle other unstructured data like video, and images. But initial thrust seems to be those customers looking for high scalability using commodity hardware and superior performance.

MongoDB claims over 400 customers, including many internet companies like FourSquare, Craigslist, etc. Several textbooks have been published on MongoDB and the development community is growing fast. It certainly bridges the gap between traditional RDBMS (Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server, DB2) at one end and Key-Value pair search engines (Riak, Cassandra, Voldemart,..) at the other end.

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Jnan Dash is Senior Advisor at EZShield Inc., Advisor at ScaleDB and Board Member at Compassites Software Solutions. He has lived in Silicon Valley since 1979. Formerly he was the Chief Strategy Officer (Consulting) at Curl Inc., before which he spent ten years at Oracle Corporation and was the Group Vice President, Systems Architecture and Technology till 2002. He was responsible for setting Oracle's core database and application server product directions and interacted with customers worldwide in translating future needs to product plans. Before that he spent 16 years at IBM. He blogs at