For organizations that want to use MongoDB, learning how can be overwhelming: where and how do you even begin employing this robust database? As the database grows in popularity, IT leaders need a clear understanding of its basis as well as tips for better usage.
Below are five simple steps to ensure a successful pathway for MongoDB.
Step 1: Understanding the Basics
A document-oriented database is a type of computer program designed for storing, retrieving and managing document-oriented information. Document-oriented databases are a main category of NoSQL databases. MongoDB is a type of document-oriented database, which means everything goes into and is retrieved from the database in the form of documents—unlike the relational databases where it’s in the form of rows. Documents in MongoDB aren’t the usual Word or text files, but JSON-formatted files. MongoDB falls into the group of document-oriented NoSQL databases.
Step 2: Getting to Know the Concepts
Three main concepts describe what a document-oriented database comprises:
- Database: MongoDB arranges data into databases just as most relational databases do. In an RDBMS (relational database-management systems), a database is a set of tables, stored procedures, views and so on. In MongoDB, a database is a set of collections. A MongoDB database contains one or more collections.
- Collection: A collection is the equivalent of an RDBMS table. Documents in a collection can have different fields. Typically, all documents in a collection have a similar or related purpose.
- Documents: A record in a MongoDB collection, and the basic unit of data in a MongoDB, is the document. A document contains a set of fields or key-value pairs. The best way to think of it is that it’s similar to a multidimensional array.
Step 3: Learning the Basic Utilities/Tools
MongoDB tools and processes primarily operate by interacting with a running MongoDB instance. Not only do these processes create traffic on a running database instance, they also force the database to read all data through memory. Each of the following tools has been designed for a specific purpose that caters to the needs of various functions in a document-oriented database:
- Mongostat: A command-line tool, mongostat displays a summary list of statistics regarding the status of a currently running MongoDB instance.
- Mongotop: Another command-line tool, mongotop provides a method to track the amount of time a MongoDB instance spends reading and writing data.
- Mongoimport, mongoexport: These command-line utilities create a binary export of the contents of a Mongo database.
Step 4: Exploring the Main Features
MongoDB has many important features that make it a preferred database when approaching modern web-application development. The below features represent a few of the main functions that this database offers:
- Supports indexing, ad hoc queries and real-time aggregation. MongoDB supports ad hoc queries by indexing BSON documents and by employing a unique query language. It creates indexes to improve the performance of searches. These features offer a powerful way to access and analyze data.
- Supports replication. MongoDB supports two forms of replication: replica sets and master-slave. The replication capability is important because it continuously copies data from primary to secondary servers. Thus, if the primary server fails, the secondary one can take over.
- Hashed-based sharding. This feature applies when different parts of a data table are spread across multiple servers. It will distribute new entries across all available servers, making the data more evenly distributed. Doing so solves a major and common problem: scaling. This feature is especially important to consider for large data sets and high-throughput operations.
- File storage. This feature is called GridFS and represents a simple file abstraction. GridFS is basically a way of breaking up large binary objects for storage in the database. It requires two queries: one to fetch a file’s metadata and one to fetch its contents. Thus, if you use GridFS to store small files, you’re doubling the number of queries that your application must perform. As a rule of thumb, anything that’s too big to load all at once probably isn’t something you want to load all at once on the server. Therefore, anything you plan to stream is a good candidate for GridFS.
- MongoDB Management Service (MMS). This feature is a truly unique offering, as it represents an effortless approach to operations that would normally be overly complicated. Now with a single click you can provision machines, configure replica sets and make upgrades, all in a single interface.
Step 5: Making the Appropriate Upgrades
Upgrading to the latest version of MongoDB is extremely important, as older versions can accumulate several security issues over time. Failing to apply updates can leave your data unprotected and vulnerable to hackers. Always install the latest version, as doing so will ensure a more secure approach for your document-oriented database. The latest version, as of December 2016, is 3.4.1.
Getting started with MongoDB is easy, but once you’re building applications you may find that more-complex challenges will arise. Start thinking about proper design, optimization and implementation before you get too far ahead. MongoDB is growing daily, so it’s critical to clearly understand the basics before moving forward.
About the Author
Pete Salamanca is VP of Managed Services for Rackspace’s Enterprise Applications division.