Columnar databases are surging with the NoSQL movement, but actually they play in both SQL and NoSQL camps. From a SQL perspective, some columnar databases have been around for two decades (i.e., Sybase IQ had product momentum in the 1980s) and the SQL language works just fine against columnar databases. However, if you define NoSQL as having a different data layer from the relational "all columns successively" row-based layout, columnar databases are NoSQL. Furthermore, if you define NoSQL as being not ACID (atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability) compliant, some columnar databases are and some are not.
Whether columnar databases are part of the NoSQL movement or not by your definition, they are becoming an essential component of an enterprise infrastructure for the storage of data designed to run specific workloads. When an organization embraces the value of performance, it must do everything it can to remove barriers to the delivery of the right information at the right time to the right people and systems. There is no ERP for post-operational data; no one-size-fits-all system. Some gave that role to the relational, row-based data warehouse, but that ship has sailed. In addition to columnar databases, very-large data stores like Hadoop, real-time stream processing and data virtualization to bring together result sets across all these systems are required today.
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