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 Redis and SQL Server so you can quickly see how they compare against each other.
The primary purpose of this article is to compare how Redis 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.
Redis vs SQL Server Breakdown
Redis can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or as a managed service
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.
Caching, message brokering, real-time analytics, session storage, geospatial data processing
Transaction processing, business intelligence, data warehousing, analytics, web applications, enterprise applications
Horizontally scalable via partitioning and clustering, supports data replication
Supports vertical and horizontal scaling, with features like partitioning, sharding, and replication for distributed environments
Redis, which stands for Remote Dictionary Server, is an open-source, in-memory data structure store that can be used as a database, cache, and message broker. It was created by Salvatore Sanfilippo in 2009 and has since gained significant popularity due to its high performance and flexibility. Redis supports various data structures, such as strings, hashes, lists, sets, sorted sets with range queries, bitmaps, hyperloglogs, and geospatial indexes with radius queries.
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.
Redis for Time Series Data
Redis has a dedicated module for working with time series data called RedisTimeSeries. RedisTimeSeries offers functionality like downsampling, data retention policies, and specialized queries for time series data in Redis. Being an in-memory database, Redis will be very fast for reading and writing time series data, but due to the cost of RAM compared to disk using Redis could become expensive depending on the size of your dataset. If your use case doesn’t require extremely fast response times, you could save money by going with a more traditional time series database.
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.
Redis Key Concepts
- In-memory store: Redis stores data in memory, which allows for faster data access and manipulation compared to disk-based databases .
- Data structures: Redis supports a wide range of data structures, including strings, hashes, lists, sets, and more, which provide flexibility in how data is modeled and stored.
- Persistence: Redis offers optional data persistence, allowing data to be periodically saved to disk or written to a log for durability.
- Pub/Sub: Redis provides a publish/subscribe messaging system, enabling real-time communication between clients without the need for a centralized message broker.
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.
Redis is a NoSQL database that uses a key-value data model, where each key is associated with a value stored as one of Redis’ supported data structures. The database is single-threaded, which simplifies its internal architecture and reduces contention. Redis can be deployed as a standalone server, a cluster, or a master-replica setup for scalability and high availability. The Redis Cluster mode automatically shards data across multiple nodes, providing data partitioning and fault tolerance.
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.
Free Time-Series Database Guide
Get a comprehensive review of alternatives and critical requirements for selecting yours.
Redis supports atomic operations on complex data types, allowing developers to perform powerful operations without worrying about race conditions or other concurrent processing issues.
Broad data structure support
Redis supports a range of data structures such as lists, sets, sorted sets, hashes, bitmaps, hyperloglog, and geospatial indexes. This flexibility allows developers to use Redis for a wide variety of tasks by using data structures that are optimized for their data in terms of performance characteristics.
Redis provides a publish/subscribe messaging system for real-time communication between clients.
Developers can run Lua scripts in the Redis server, enabling complex operations to be executed atomically in the server itself, reducing network round trips.
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.
Redis Use Cases
Redis is often used as a cache to store frequently accessed data and reduce the load on other databases or services, improving application performance and reducing latency.
Redis can be used to implement task queues, which are useful for managing tasks that take longer to process and should be executed asynchronously. This is particularly common in web applications, where background tasks can be processed independently of the request/response cycle
Real-time analysis and machine learning
Redis’ high performance and low-latency data access make it suitable for real-time analysis and machine learning applications, such as processing streaming data, media streaming, and handling time-series data. This can be achieved using Redis’ data structures and capabilities like sorted sets, timestamps, and pub/sub messaging.
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.
Redis Pricing Model
Redis is open-source software, which means it can be deployed and used freely on your own infrastructure. However, there are also managed Redis services available, such as Redis Enterprise which offer additional features, support, and ease of deployment. Pricing for these services typically depends on factors like the size of the instance, data storage, and data transfer.
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.
Get started with InfluxDB for free
InfluxDB Cloud is the fastest way to start storing and analyzing your time series data.