Under the broad umbrella term that is Big Data lies a mass of buzzwords, acronyms, and terminologies. Among these is NoSQL, which is attracting renewed interest from businesses as they struggle to cope with the constant eruption of new types of data.

And the word is out! As companies strive to adopt Big Data sooner than rivals, the competitive advantage of Big Data deployment is increasingly coming from technologies that are still on the fringes of the domain proper. NoSQL has matured into one such tech and has become a must-have skill for any professional hoping to break into the lucrative Data Science domain.

Make no mistake – if there’s one skill to learn for 2016 if you are someone looking to launch a career in Big Data, it’s got to be NoSQL! Read on to find out why, and gain a basic understanding of what it’s all about!

A Peek into NoSQL

The NoSQL -or Not Only SQL- database is an approach to managing data and database design that comes in handy when dealing with large sets of distributed data.

It consists of a wide range of architectures and technologies that seek to solve performance and scalability issues with Big Data, which cannot be adequately addressed by relational databases. It is used primarily when enterprises need to analyze and access huge amounts of unstructured data or data that is stored on multiple virtual servers over cloud.

There is no specific definition for what NoSQL is, but a set of its characteristics would offer a good definition:

  • Not using the relational model
  • Running well on clusters
  • Mostly open-source
  • Built for 21st-century web-estates
  • Schema-less
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 The types of NoSQL databases

There are four types of NoSQL databases:

Key Value Databases:

These are the uncomplicated data stores to use from the perspective of an API. The client can enter a value for the key, get a value for the key, or delete the key as a whole from the data store. Key values use the primary key access, thus offering great performance and easy scalability.
The most popular key value databases are:

  • Redis
  • Riak
  • Memcached
  • Project Voldemort
  • Couchbase

Document Databases:

The significance of document databases is, as the name suggests, that they offer a great way to store and manipulate documents. Documents in XML, BSON, JSON, and like formats are stored in and retrieved from database stores. These documents would be similar to each other. They are hierarchical tree data structures that are self-descriptive, consisting of maps, scalar values, and collections.
A few popular document databases are:

  • MongoDB
  • CouchDB
  • OrientDB
  • Terrastore
  • RavenDB

Column family stores:

These databases store the data in what are called “column families”, which have rows with many columns associated with a row key. These are sets of data that are related and accessed together.
The most popular column family database is Cassandra. The other well-known column family databases are:

  • HBase
  • Hypertable
  • Amazon DynamoDB

Graph databases:

These databases allow the storage of entities or nodes and the relationship between the entities.
There are a variety of graph databases that are available:

  • Noe4J
  • Infinite Graph
  • OrientDB


Why choose the NoSQL database

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore why you should choose NoSQL as a main component of your skillset:

  • It improves the programmer’s productivity with the use of a database that matches an application’s needs.
  • It enhances the data performance with the use of some combination of handling larger data volumes, the reduction of latency, and the improvement of throughput.

And here’s the clincher – NoSQL specialists earn some of the highest salaries in the information technology industry!

If Hadoop forms one side of the Big Data coin, NoSQL forms the other. Professionals with skills to handle data stress –which is quickly becoming a serious issue- caused by huge volumes of graphs, documents, and other file formats, are in huge demand across the industry.

According to data from Payscale.com, the average salary for a professional skilled in NoSQL is $117,982. A Senior Software Engineer receives $117,982 while a Software Developer receives $89,671.

Among the various industries that employ NoSQL specialists, the Healthcare Services industry pays the best, with a whopping average salary of $135,948, followed by the Software Development industry, offering an average salary of $120,043. The Software as a Service (SaaS) Development industry pays $107,912 as average annual salary, while you can expect to earn as much as $99,266 in the Information Technology Services (ITES) industry, $92,000 in Financial Services, $86,358 in Software Services, and $85,929 in Information Technology (IT) Consulting.

According to a survey conducted by Dice.com in 2014, a professional with NoSQL database skills draws the second-highest average pay in the Big Data skillset pool, earning an average of $114,796, while Cassandra stands in fourth with an average salary of $112,383 and MongoDB in seventh with an average salary of $107,825 followed by HBase with an average salary of $105,295.

Choosing the right NoSQL

Now that you’re spoilt for choice, how do you choose the right NoSQL database to work with?
Here are a few guidelines to ease the decision-

Key value databases:

  • These are useful when storing user profiles, session information, shopping cart data, preferences.
  • They are, however, best avoided when there is a need to query by data, or when there are relationships between the data that is being stored, or if there is a need to operate multiple keys at the same time.

Document Databases:

  • These are used for content management systems, web analytics, blogging platforms, ecommerce applications, and real time analytics.
  • They are best avoided when using databases for systems which need complex transactions that span multiple operational queries.

Column Family Databases:

  • These are also used for blogging platforms, content management systems, maintenance of counters, heavy write volume, and expiring usage.
  • However, they are best avoided for systems that are in early development or changing query patterns.

Graph Databases:

  • They are well-suited to problem spaces that have connected data, such as spatial data, social networks, routing information for money and goods, and recommendation engines. 
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Careers that require NoSQL and Hadoop skills

There is hardly any shortage of the utility of NoSQL in business. A few careers for which these skills are a pre-requisite are as follows:

  • Database Administrator: According to Indeed.com, DBAs receive an average salary of $81,000 and are in high-demand across the globe. Organizations hiring DBAs are looking for those with experience handling a range of database platforms like Cassandra, MongoDB, and Oracle. The more the experience, the greater the salary!
  • Data Architect: With an average of $107,000, Data architects are expected to have experience in the creation of data models, analyzing data, data warehousing, and data migration. Experience in DBA is desirable.
  • Data Scientist: This position requires a wide range of data-driven skills. The job description of a data scientist includes that of gathering data, analyzing it, and presenting it visually along with using this data to make forecasts/predictions. A data scientist’s average salary is $104,000. Harvard Business Review and Forbes recently labeled Data Science the ‘sexiest job of the 21st century’, and demand remains very high.
  • Software/Application Developer: This is among the most popular jobs for NoSQL skilled professionals. With app dev skills, professionals get plenty of freelance work. In addition to database management experience, programming skills will also be necessary. The average salary that a software developer earns is $107,000 and application developers earn an average of $93,000.

It all comes down to the numbers!

NoSQL skills are not only in high demand, companies are actually willing to pay competitive salaries to get their hands on skilled professionals with experience. Dice conducted a survey that showed employees skilled in Hadoop and NoSQL earn over $100,000 a year, which is significantly higher than the overall average IT salary of $85,619.

Professionals who are interested in NoSQL databases have a whole host of jobs to choose from. MongoDB tops the list. Here is some data on the number of jobs available against each of the popular NoSQL databases.

  • MongoDB: 635
  • Cassandra: 430
  • HBase: 320
  • Redis: 208
  • CouchDB: 93

These statistics indicate the importance of companies according to database management skills, which can directly be attributed to the popularity and growth of big data. The best aspect of a career in data management is that Data Management is unlikely to ever go out of fashion –it’s practically recession-proof!

Have these numbers caught your eye? Do you find yourself interested in a career in Data Science?

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