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I think NoSQL is only as popular as it is because a lot engineers don’t have a proper understanding of the relational model (which isn’t hard to understand at all, it just seems to have fallen out of popularity). I certainly think there are completely valid use cases for denormalized datastores, but I don’t think those use cases are what’s driving their adoption. You can see this in how so many mongo/dynamo... apps end up just being semi-normalized, relational-ish databases.

I also think another reason is that relational database interfaces don’t really fit in with the architecture people want to use these days. Products like dynamo have secure and operable HTTP interfaces and SDKs that fit in really nicely with the ‘serverless’ stuff. To run a relational database you pretty much need to run a network, which isn’t particularly compatible with such architectures.

I think a factor in this is that NoSql databases have nice API's that programmers can use to setup tables, do simple queries etc, which makes it much easier to get started. For RDBMS's you have to muck around with connections and SQL, which is more powerful but requires much more ceremony. (Connection pooling, prepared statements etc)

The lack of understanding of the relational model is not the limiting factor in my experience, the developer experience is just much worse.

Perhaps this is one reason why frameworks like Django are so popular

> but requires much more ceremony. (Connection pooling, prepared statements etc)

NoSQL databases need you to go through this ceremony too. It may be less obvious if you're just passing JSONs over HTTP all the way, but something still needs to keep connections and sanitize untrusted input.

What you say is True, but can be solved by an ORM, though that adds an extra layer of complexity

It's not just ORM. Many NoSQL databases allow for real-time events (query subscriptions), a simple security model, built-in data versioning, built-in sharding. You rarely get any of that out-of-the-box for a traditional RDS.

NoSQL is popular because it's untyped/dynamically-typed. You don't need to do a schema migration every time you insert a new data type.

Judging by my previous managers way of describing things ("give me if x then y"), many people understand the relational model on a basic level, but can't think in sets when describing the output they are looking for ("give me x where Y"). While you can get "if" statemnts in SQL, it's not the way you should be thinkng when doing any sort of non-trivial query.

The dreaded generic object table* is something I think people have put in SQL databases forever and will continue to do so, so it seems superficially logical to me to say "why not just use an object store of some sort?"

*I have experience with a system, not designed by me, that had one, and we were always going to redo/split it but never did.

"Serverless" is just "someone else's servers". I might be missing something big here, but I don't see why - in principle - a "serverless", SQL-over-API-as-a-Service couldn't work.

It’s also an abstraction on top of those servers, that separates your business logic from the underlying architecture to a degree that a lot of people find really appealing.

> but I don't see why - in principle - a "serverless", SQL-over-API-as-a-Service couldn't work.

It can, but there’s just not really any good ones. Where as there are products like Dynamo which are amazing from an operability standpoint (as long as your use case doesn’t run up too hard against any of its constraints). AWS Serverless RDS is pretty terrible for example, the engine choices are limited, the scaling story is terrible, it’s expensive, it doesn’t actually have anything close to the “on-demand” functionality described in the marketing material, and the interface is just a mechanism for passing SQL queries around (so you’d probably want to use yet another abstraction layer for constructing your queries). Spanner is pretty good, but it’s really expensive, and isn’t amazing enough on its own to justify moving to GCP unless you’re already there. You can also run an HTTP interface yourself for you RDBMS, but there isn’t really a mature product in that space. There’s no show stopping technical limitations there, it’s just not a well or widely supported feature.

> "Serverless" is just "someone else's servers".

Clearing that bit up:

Cloud is "just someone else's servers".

Serverless is "someone else maintains the infrastructure." It's one step further in the same direction.


If the cloud is akin to renting a flat instead of owning it, then serverless is like living in hotels.

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