Choosing the right database is a critical choice when building any software application. All databases have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to performance, so deciding which database has the most benefits and the most minor downsides for your specific use case and data model is an important decision. Below you will find an overview of the key concepts, architecture, features, use cases, and pricing models of MongoDB and SQL Server so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how MongoDB and SQL Server perform for workloads involving time series data, not for all possible use cases. Time series data typically presents a unique challenge in terms of database performance. This is due to the high volume of data being written and the query patterns to access that data. This article doesn’t intend to make the case for which database is better; it simply provides an overview of each database so you can make an informed decision.
MongoDB vs SQL Server Breakdown
MongoDB uses a flexible, JSON-like document model for storing data, which allows for dynamic schema changes without downtime. It supports ad hoc queries, indexing, and real-time aggregation. MongoDB can be deployed as a standalone server, in a replica set configuration for high availability, or as a sharded cluster for horizontal scaling. It is also available as a managed cloud service called MongoDB Atlas, which provides additional features like automated backups, monitoring, and global distribution.
SQL Server can be deployed on-premises, in virtual machines, or as a managed cloud service (Azure SQL Database) on Microsoft Azure. It is available in multiple editions tailored to different use cases, such as Express, Standard, and Enterprise.
SSPL for community edition, commercial licenses for other versions
Content management systems, mobile applications, real-time analytics, IoT data management, e-commerce platforms
Transaction processing, business intelligence, data warehousing, analytics, web applications, enterprise applications
Horizontally scalable with support for data sharding, replication, and automatic load balancing
Supports vertical and horizontal scaling, with features like partitioning, sharding, and replication for distributed environments
MongoDB is a popular, open-source NoSQL database launched in 2009. Designed to handle large volumes of unstructured and semi-structured data, MongoDB offers a flexible, schema-less data model, horizontal scalability, and high performance. Its ease of use, JSON-based document storage, and support for a wide range of programming languages have contributed to its widespread adoption across various industries and applications.
SQL Server Overview
Microsoft SQL Server is a powerful and widely used relational database management system developed by Microsoft. Initially released in 1989, it has evolved over the years to become one of the most popular database systems for businesses of all sizes. SQL Server is known for its robust performance, security, and ease of use. It supports a variety of platforms, including Windows, Linux, and containers, providing flexibility for different deployment scenarios.
MongoDB for Time Series Data
Although MongoDB is a general-purpose NoSQL database, it can be used for storing and processing time series data. The flexible data model of MongoDB allows for easy adaptation to the evolving structure of time series data, such as the addition of new metrics or the modification of existing ones. MongoDB provides built-in support for time-to-live (TTL) indexes, which automatically expire old data after a specified time period, making it suitable for managing large volumes of time series data with a limited storage capacity. MongoDB has also recently added a custom columnar storage engine and time series collection for time series use cases, meant to improve performance over the default MongoDB storage engine in terms of data compression and query performance.
SQL Server for Time Series Data
While Microsoft SQL Server is primarily a relational database, it does offer support for time series data through various features and optimizations. Temporal tables allow for tracking changes in data over time, providing an efficient way to store and query historical data. Indexing and partitioning can be leveraged to optimize time series data storage and retrieval. However, SQL Server may not be the best choice for applications requiring high write or query throughput specifically for time series data, as specialized time series databases offer more optimized solutions as well as a variety of developer productivity features that speed up development time for applications that heavily use time series data.
MongoDB Key Concepts
Some key terminology and concepts specific to MongoDB include:
- Database: A MongoDB database is a container for collections, which are groups of related documents.
- Collection: A collection in MongoDB is analogous to a table in relational databases, holding a set of documents.
- Document: A document in MongoDB is a single record, stored in a JSON-like format called BSON (Binary JSON). Documents within a collection can have different structures.
- Field: A field is a key-value pair within a document, similar to an attribute or column in a relational database.
- Index: An index in MongoDB is a data structure that improves the query performance on specific fields within a collection.
SQL Server Key Concepts
- T-SQL: Transact-SQL, an extension of SQL that adds procedural programming elements, such as loops, conditional statements, and error handling, to the standard SQL language.
- SSMS: SQL Server Management Studio, an integrated environment for managing SQL Server instances, databases, and objects.
- Always On: A suite of high availability and disaster recovery features in SQL Server, including Always On Availability Groups and Always On Failover Cluster Instances.
MongoDB’s architecture is centered around its flexible, document-based data model. As a NoSQL database, MongoDB supports a schema-less structure, which allows for the storage and querying of diverse data types, such as nested arrays and documents. MongoDB can be deployed as a standalone server, a replica set, or a sharded cluster. Replica sets provide high availability through automatic failover and data redundancy, while sharded clusters enable horizontal scaling and load balancing by distributing data across multiple servers based on a shard key.
SQL Server Architecture
Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database that uses SQL for querying and manipulating data. It follows a client-server architecture, with the database server hosting the data and processing requests from clients. SQL Server supports both on-premises and cloud-based deployment through Azure SQL Database, a managed service offering in the Microsoft Azure cloud. SQL Server’s architecture includes components such as the Database Engine, which processes data storage and retrieval, and various services for reporting, integration, and analysis.
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Flexible Data Model
MongoDB’s schema-less data model allows for the storage and querying of diverse data types, making it well-suited for handling complex and evolving data structures.
MongoDB’s replica set feature ensures high availability through automatic failover and data redundancy.
MongoDB’s sharded cluster architecture enables horizontal scaling and load balancing, allowing it to handle large-scale data processing and querying.
SQL Server Features
SQL Server offers advanced security features, such as Transparent Data Encryption, Always Encrypted, and row-level security, to protect sensitive data.
SQL Server supports scaling out through features like replication, distributed partitioned views, and Always On Availability Groups.
SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is a powerful platform for building high-performance data integration and transformation solutions.
MongoDB Use Cases
Content Management Systems
MongoDB’s flexible data model makes it an ideal choice for content management systems, which often require the ability to store and manage diverse content types, such as articles, images, and videos. The schema-less nature of MongoDB allows for easy adaptation to changing content structures and requirements.
IoT Data Storage and Analytics
MongoDB’s support for high data volumes and horizontal scalability makes it suitable for storing and processing data generated by IoT devices, such as sensor readings and device logs. Its ability to index and query data efficiently allows for real-time analytics and monitoring of IoT devices.
MongoDB’s flexibility and performance features make it an excellent choice for e-commerce platforms, where diverse product information, customer data, and transaction records need to be stored and queried efficiently. The flexible data model enables easy adaptation to changes in product attributes and customer preferences, while the high availability and scalability features ensure a smooth and responsive user experience.
SQL Server Use Cases
SQL Server is commonly used as the backend database for enterprise applications, providing a reliable and secure data storage solution.
Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence
SQL Server’s built-in analytical features, such as Analysis Services and Reporting Services, make it suitable for data warehousing and business intelligence applications.
SQL Server’s performance and scalability features enable it to support the demanding workloads of e-commerce platforms, handling high volumes of transactions and user data.
MongoDB Pricing Model
MongoDB offers various pricing options, including a free, open-source Community Edition and a commercial Enterprise Edition, which includes advanced features, management tools, and support. MongoDB Inc. also offers a fully managed cloud-based database-as-a-service, MongoDB Atlas, with a pay-as-you-go pricing model based on storage, data transfer, and compute resources. MongoDB Atlas offers a free tier with limited resources for users who want to try the service without incurring costs.
SQL Server Pricing Model
Microsoft SQL Server offers a variety of licensing options, including per-core, server + CAL (Client Access License), and subscription-based models for cloud deployments. Costs depend on factors such as the edition (Standard, Enterprise, or Developer), the number of cores, and the required features. For cloud-based deployments, Azure SQL Database offers a pay-as-you-go model with various service tiers to accommodate different performance and resource requirements.
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