Non-Relational Database: Meaning, Examples & Types 

non relational database
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Most databases are classified as relational or non-relational. Non-relational databases are also known as “NoSQL,” which stands for Not Only SQL, and the key difference between them is how they store information. A non-relational database stores data in a non-tabular format and is more versatile than typical relational database designs based on SQL. It does not adhere to the typical relational model provided by relational database management systems. Here, you’ll get to understand how a non-relational database works with examples, as well as the different types.

What Is A Non-Relational Database?

Non-relational databases (also known as NoSQL databases) differ from standard relational databases in that their data is stored in a non-tabular format. A document can be quite thorough while also including a variety of different types of information in various formats. Non-relational databases are far more flexible than relational databases due to their capacity to ingest and organize many types of information concurrently.

Non-relational databases are frequently used to organize vast amounts of complicated and diverse data. A large store, for example, might have a database where each customer has their own document with all of their information, from name and address to order history and credit card information. Despite their different formats, all of this information can be saved in the same document.

Non-relational databases are often faster since a query does not have to look at multiple tables to get a response, as relational databases frequently do. Non-relational databases are thus suited for storing rapidly changing data or for applications that handle a wide range of data types. They can be used to support fast-developing applications that require a dynamic database that can change quickly and accommodate enormous amounts of complicated, unstructured data.

When beginning a project, evaluate the differences between a relational and non-relational database to gain a better knowledge of the best solution for the project. You can also think about distinct applications for both and when you would choose one over the other.

Types Of Non-Relational Database

The term “non-relational database” actually refers to four distinct types of databases. The four types are as follows:

#1. Graph Database

Each piece of data is kept as a node, and relationships between nodes, known as edges, are equally important. Graph databases are particularly suited to evaluating a vast volume of seemingly unconnected data points and discovering the links between those points. Some applications include financial firms that need to detect fraud, healthcare practitioners that need to better understand illness progression, and, of course, social networks that need to manage user interactions. 

#2. Key Value Store

Each item of data has a distinct key that corresponds to some value. This database’s structure is conceptually quite similar to a Javascript object or a Python dictionary. Key-value databases are often quite quick; we use them to store data that is likely to be quite diverse and lacking in any kind of schema. Because key-value databases have such low latency, they are ideal for caching, message queuing, and managing user profiles, to mention a few applications. Popular key-value databases include Redis and Amazon DynamoDB.

#3. Document-Oriented Store

Document databases are likely the most versatile of these four. Each piece of data is saved as a document, usually in JSON format, with the keys available for querying. Each document may have a unique shape. In addition, each document can have a distinct structure, but there is also the opportunity to form collections of documents. These collections can be structured hierarchically, allowing for relational queries without sacrificing flexibility. 

Document databases are used in a variety of contexts, including online shopping carts, gaming, and content management. Document-oriented databases such as MongoDB and Amazon DynamoDB are well-known examples. Because Amazon DynamoDB is a hybrid, it is classified as both a key-value and a document-oriented database.  

#4. Wide-Column Database

Each data point is saved in a table-like structure. Relational databases are the most similar to wide-column databases. However, the data can be unstructured and does not need to follow a strict schema. Wide-column databases are a cross between a key-value and a relational database. Each item of data is assigned a unique key that corresponds to a set of column types that can differ from row to row. 

When there are a big number of data points with diverse column kinds, this form of database is typically utilized. Records from an IoT device, for example, will contain frequent entries but potentially various data kinds. Cassandra and HBase are prominent wide-column database alternatives. 

The Advantages of Using a Non-Relational Database

Today’s applications capture and store massive amounts of increasingly complicated customer and user data. Of course, the value of this data to enterprises lies in its analytical potential. Using a non-relational database can reveal patterns and value even in massive amounts of disparate data.

Non-relational databases have various advantages, including:

#1. Organization of massive datasets

Non-relational databases, in the age of Big Data, can not only store vast amounts of information, but they can also query big datasets with ease. Non-relational databases have significant advantages in terms of scale and speed.

#2. Adaptable database extension

Data is not fixed. As more data is collected, a non-relational database can absorb these new data points, enriching the existing database with new levels of granularity even if they do not suit the data types of previously existing data.

#3. Several data structures

Data collected from users today takes many forms, ranging from numbers and strings to photo and video material and message history. A database must be able to store these varied information formats, understand their relationships, and perform detailed queries. Non-relational databases can combine different types of information in the same document regardless of the format in which it is stored.

#4. Cloud-suitable

A non-relational database can be extremely large. And, because they can develop exponentially in some situations, they require a hosting environment that can grow and expand with them. Because of its inherent scalability, the cloud is a suitable home for non-relational databases.

What Is the Difference Between a Relational Database and a Non-Relational Database?

To further understand what a non-relational database is, first define a relational database. Relational databases are a type of data storage that requires each item of data to be arranged in a specified way (usually using tables, as in our hypothetical ice cream spreadsheet above). Each piece of data is analogous to a row in a spreadsheet, where we define the column types ahead of time and normalize the data, so that each row has either an entry or a null value for each column. 

Each sort of data in a relational database requires its own table. A hotel, for example, would have one table for guests and another for reservations. Each entry in the guests’ table would contain an identical set of properties, such as guest_ID, name, and address. Meanwhile, each reservation record in the table would have the attributes ID, stay_date, and guest_id. 

It’s worth noting that the bookings table’s final property (guest_id) is actually a reference to a row in the guests database. This type of link between data in multiple tables is how we can connect dissimilar data types. SQL (Structured Query Language) works in relational databases because of these types of relationships as well as the inflexible table architecture.

If the hotel wanted to know about all of the reservations a specific visitor had, the lookup would necessitate access to both tables. A non-relational database, on the other hand, may contain all data relating to a guest (including reservations) in a single entry, making lookups faster in many circumstances. 

When To Use A Non-Relational Database

If your systems require any of the following, you should consider a non-relational database:

#1. Simplicity

Relational databases are a collection of rows and tables that must be assembled to serve a query. By needing to piece together tables from separate nodes, you add a new layer of complexity to your distributed data cluster. This increases latency, reduces performance, and makes the system more complex.

Non-relational databases contain all of the information you require in a single document, with links to specific bits of information. This removes a layer of complexity as well as a significant amount of delay and throughput, making distributed data a breeze.

#2. Availability and scalability

The ability to add and delete nodes on demand is one of the advantages of a distributed data network. This is done automatically on cloud platforms. When you need more, the system will construct a new node, replicate the data to it, and you’ll have an extra cash register to accommodate your expanding lines.

At the same time, your data must be operational 99.999% of the time. With assignment failover, you can immediately spin up a replacement node if one fails, while keeping the number of service points constant. This safeguards performance, keeping you open 24 hours a day, and makes the consumer very happy.  

#3. Performance of quick-release cycles

The database structure could be one of the most significant hurdles to your next release. You must set it up at the start of your project when you know the least about its requirements. Changing the foundation of your data requires the same amount of time and effort as changing the foundation of a building. This could put a halt to your future project.

A schemaless data model provides the most flexibility. You can begin using your database immediately and progress to the next version much more quickly.

#4. Dynamic Application Architecture

Non-relational databases provide seamless support for documents, key values, counters, time series, graphs, and other models. This allows you to collect data in any way you need. You can use a document to place orders, a graph to recommend products or content, and a time series to collect IoT data. This adaptability is ideal for a microservice design or just tailoring your application to its data requirements. 

#5. ACID data consistency

The Marquis item of relational databases is fully transactional guarantees. How can you take use of what non-relational databases have to offer if you can’t trust the data? Compromise data can throw off all aggregates, causing the metrics on which you rely to be incorrect and the judgments you make based on that information to be dangerous.

ACID non-relational databases provide everything except the kitchen sink. ..and that as well! The goal is to ensure that enjoying ACID does not detract from your performance. Only the most elite non-relational databases are capable.

Is SQL a Non-Relational Database?

No, SQL is not a non-relational database.

Is MYSQL a or Non-Relational Database?

No, MySQL is a SQL-based relational database management system.

Is MongoDB a Non-Relational Database?

Yes, MongoDB is a non-relational document database that can store data in JSON format.

Should I Use NoSQL or SQL?

SQL databases are best suited for structured data, whereas NoSQL databases can handle structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. As a result, NoSQL databases lack a predefined schema and instead employ more flexible structures to accommodate their data types.

In Conclusion,

One item of stored data in a non-relational database may have different fields or attributes than the data next to it in the same database. If you imagine an ice cream flavor spreadsheet, you know that each row will appear about the same. There will be columns for the name of the ice cream flavor, the brand, the ingredients, and so on. Each row in the spreadsheet will include a value for one of these columns.

A non-relational database does not have to adopt this form. One ice cream flavor entry could include information about its award-winning recipe, another could include a list of celebrities who have said that flavor is their favorite, and a third could include tasting notes. In short, storing data in a non-relational database provides a lot more freedom.

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