Evaluating Structured vs. Non-Structured Databases

For many years, information stored in databases was largely structured, residing in fixed fields. This kind of structured data often included customer names and dates, search algorithms, and numeric financial records, i.e., material that is simple to store and query because it fits tightly into rows and columns.

Structured data will always be important to businesses because they will always have to store customer and financial information. But over the past few years, companies have started to maintain more unstructured data as well, particularly as they deploy and scale applications. They are also housing more content such as videos, podcasts, PDFs, and images that they use on their websites, in emails, and for social media.    

Legacy MySQL database solutions were a perfect fit for structured data, as they were designed to scale up performance—by leveraging a larger server—as the volume of information grew. MySQL was also a quality option for low-complexity applications that grew over time.

Today, however, companies deploying complex, distributed applications are asking these legacy databases to handle unstructured data and, in many cases, MySQL performance is faltering as a result. These database solutions were simply not designed to allow databases to scale out by adding additional servers in the cloud and today’s business landscape is making scale-out capability a necessity.

E-commerce is an example of a sector where businesses are rolling out new, more complex applications all the time. Online retailers are locked in a constant battle to provide a unique and excellent customer experience and, as a result, they are investing in all manner of applications, including:

  • Real-time big data analytics
  • Mobile transactions
  • E-auctions
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Automated online assistants
  • Group buying offerings

Some organizations have turned to NoSQL designs in search of a simpler, sleeker database solution. NoSQL certainly offers advantages to businesses, particularly startups and small businesses that can benefit greatly from leveraging free open source software. But NoSQL has limits as well; specifically, it may struggle to maintain ACID (atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability) compliance, which can lead to problems like inventory information not being updated in real time on an e-commerce website. So how can an organization maintain a rapidly increasing volume of unstructured data without suffering website performance issues?    

Put simply, scale-out architectures are the future for e-commerce businesses. A scale-out database allows businesses to automatically increase capacity by adding servers in the cloud so that an organization can deploy and grow complex applications while maintaining excellent website performance. A best-in-class scale-out database like ClustrixDB goes one step further by automatically rebalancing the workload when new servers are added, removing the possibility of bottlenecks on individual machines and guaranteeing that e-commerce merchants are getting the most out of the hardware.

ClustrixDB also offers e-commerce sites the ability to flex upcapacity during peak seasons or unexpected traffic spikes. When the peak periods are over, those merchants can flex down again, ensuring that they are not paying for capacity they no longer require.  

As previously mentioned, businesses will always need structured data. But e-commerce businesses will continue to roll out new and more complex applications in the years to come, and that will require flexibility and scalability that legacy MySQL architectures simply can’t provide. E-commerce businesses will continue to look to the cloud for an inexpensive and effective way to scale—and many will realize significant benefits.

But the e-commerce businesses that enjoy the greatest success will invest in solutions that can automatically add capacity as necessary without disrupting performance. These are the organizations that won’t ever have to worry about customers suffering subpar experiences on their websites.

And in e-commerce, that’s what matters most of all.