Why the “NoSQL” moniker is useful – for now

By March 28, 2010Uncategorized

There’s been a lot of crowing as of late from folks that wish the whole NoSQL “movement” (where “NoSQL” means “not only SQL” – but gets misinterpreted a LOT) had been named something else. Since the whole movement is essentially engineers at this point, I thought I’d weigh in (I’m just a lowly marketing guy, so reader beware).

The NoSQL moniker is, frankly, about as good as it gets for an early adopter technology. Why? Because it’s polarizing. Of course, the engineers hate it — it doesn’t *accurately* describe anything about what’s going on there (in case you haven’t heard, engineers love accuracy and precision). However, when a new technology is gaining ground, marketing matters. And when marketing matters, the BEST thing you can have is a “storyline” that writes itself for the journalists, analysts, etc that will help to distribute these ideas inside of enterprises.

“NoSQL” does just that. It’s got an implied conflict in the name, and the single easiest story to “write” is one of conflict (see, oh, I dunno, ALL of the mainstream media outlets).

Folks on both sides of the debate should be embracing this name for the time being. Reason: the name provides a context that will get attention, and early on attention equals adoption (pilots, etc).

I’d contend that the name will fade – especially as “NoSQL” constructs get integrated into SQL data models. Now, the zealots will always want the divide. But the truth is that the divide will disappear over time as the technology matures, and in five years time, we’ll all look back at “when we used to call that stuff NoSQL.”

In the meantime, engineers — embrace it. Yes, the moniker isn’t accurate. Yes, it feeds the flames of inaccuracy. Yes, it’s an upstart naming convention that begins by shooting an arrow at the “old man” of SQL. That’s all fine and dandy. It’s actually *exactly* what you want. (Don’t believe me? Go study Oracle’s early ad campaigns — which were brilliant — for proof.)