Production Knowledge: SQL or NoSQL

Oct. 2, 2012
Just as the debate between Mac or PC rages on, and polarized opinions persist over which industrial network protocol is the best, a new technology debate is breaking out of the clustered ranks of IT developers and into the user realm.

This new debate is principally focused on whether it is better to continue adherence to the SQL database structure with which we are most familiar (read “Manufacturing Databases”) or hitch our wagons to the NoSQL database, which is purported to be better suited to cloud-based computing — a direction many experts contend we are all headed toward sooner or later.

Loads of information on this debate exist, but one of the clearest explanations I came across was delivered by Avi Kapuya, an IT specialist with more than 20 years experience in cloud computing, data and storage, and systems scalability, performance and distribution. His comments on the subject were originally posted on the site

According to Kapuya, the real difference between NoSQL and SQL lies in the different data access methods provided by NoSQL and SQL, which result in different scalability and performance results. Though this is largely a developer issue, and one that would not be noticeable to the user, the narrow data access pattern of NoSQL results in predictable and reliable scalability and performance—which is why cloud-based computer factions tend to support it. After all, cloud computing is all about scalability. On the other hand, although SQL has a much wider array of access patterns open to it, its focus on simplicity and data integrity make it—for now, at least—preferable for large, complex organizations.

For the time being, the SQL/NoSQL debate at your facility will come down to two things: the directives of the company (i.e., how important is cloud-based computing to your company’s management) and the availability of IT personnel with NoSQL expertise.

Chances are you’ll be sticking with your SQL database for some time to come.

About the Author

David Greenfield, editor in chief | Editor in Chief

David Greenfield joined Automation World in June 2011. Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and media experience to his position, David’s contributions can be found in AW’s print and online editions and custom projects. Earlier in his career, David was Editorial Director of Design News at UBM Electronics, and prior to joining UBM, he was Editorial Director of Control Engineering at Reed Business Information, where he also worked on Manufacturing Business Technology as Publisher. 

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