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SQL is relational. DB's that fall into the NoSQL camp relax the relational integrity constraints to get performance and scaling benefits.

Think BASE (Basically Available, Soft state, Eventual consistency) instead of ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability).

ebay's paper on BASE: http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=1394128

(I believe this is where the term originated)


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