N1QL: A SQL twist comes to document databases

N1QL: A SQL twist comes to document databases

The language will be a part of the upcoming Couchbase Server 4.0 release

Looking to bolster query capabilities for its NoSQL database, Couchbase this week is trumpeting the arrival of its N1QL "next-generation" declarative query language, which brings SQL-like querying to Couchbase Server, the company's distributed, JSON document datastore.

Although currently available only for Couchbase, the technology could be adopted by competitors for use in rival NoSQL databases. "First of all, it's open source and we encourage the other NoSQL vendors to adopt it," Doug Laird, Couchbase, chief marketing officer, said at the Couchbase Connect 2015 conference Wednesday in Silicon Valley. (Officials at rival NoSQL platform MongoDB could not immediately be reached Wednesday afternoon for a response to Laird's offer.)

Pronounced "nickel" and geared to distributed, document-oriented databases, N1QL will be part of the Couchbase Server 4.0 release, which is expected this summer or fall. The technology had been in a standalone, developer preview mode, but a beta of version 4.0 featuring N1QL was released Wednesday. "We take this 40-year-old standard and extend it slightly for JSON," Laird said. "Now, all the power of SQL is available for JSON databases." Data in Couchbase is stored in JSON documents.

N1QL and SQL have different data models, according to Couchbase documentation. In a SQL database, data is constrained to tables with a uniform structure, but with N1QL, data exists as free-form documents, which are gathered as collections called keyspaces.

N1QL user DirecTV has found it to be a language that extends SQL capabilities to search into documents and offers advanced features like nesting and un-nesting, according to a presentation by Fidencio Garrido, DirecTV principal engineer, who presented at the conference. "When they introduced me to N1QL, we quickly realized that N1QL was offering to have the flexibility to search with a language that looks like 99 percent the same as SQL," Garrido said. "So for all developers, it was an easy transition."

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