An Intellyx Brain Candy Brief

The diverse and confusing NoSQL (‘not only SQL’) database marketplace offers many different types of data stores that serve many different purposes. However, within the document-based store segment, two open source, JSON-centric players have been battling for mind share: Couchbase and MongoDB.

MongoDB pulled ahead early – but this race is a marathon, and Couchbase has its eye on the enterprise space, a long-term strategy. Couchbase claims better performance, but performance alone is a poor differentiator, as the award for true performance leader could easily go back and forth as each vendor improves its offering in turn.

Where Couchbase has carved out a defensible niche is with its N1QL query language (pronounced ‘Nickel’). Unlike MongoDB’s JavaScript-based query capabilities, N1QL is based on SQL – and in fact, N1QL queries are typically identical to the SQL equivalents. In addition, by leveraging N1QL, Couchbase supports JOINs, which MongoDB does not.

Both JavaScript and SQL enjoy wide enterprise support, so for many developers, the choice of query language is one of personal preference. For enterprise database shops, however, SQL has long held the position as predominant query language, giving Couchbase an edge in those shops. When those shops need JOINs, furthermore, Couchbase pulls ahead of MongoDB.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. To be considered for a Brain Candy article, email us at

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