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The Weather Channel forecasts heavy NoSQL ahead

Joab Jackson | Oct. 15, 2014
Changing databases is not a move to be taken lightly, especially when the switch is to a relatively new kind of database.

Changing databases is not a move to be taken lightly, especially when the switch is to a relatively new kind of database.

The Weather Channel, however, found that it had to switch to a NoSQL MongoDB data store in order to more quickly develop apps and add features to its range of Internet-based weather information services.

"There was an awful lot of work to do in wrestling the tools into doing what we wanted," said Luke Kolin, vice president at The Weather Channel in charge of architecture. "There was just too much boiler plate and drudge work."

For over a decade, the weather-oriented cable television channel had relied on a traditional enterprise IT stack, including Java Enterprise Edition, Apache Tomcat Java servlet containers and MySQL databases.

With this architecture, "we had taken it about as far as it could go," Kolin said.

As part of an effort to update its IT infrastructure, The Weather Channel is now deploying the MongoDB NoSQL database to replace this stack.

The performance of the enterprise Java and MySQL stack was fine, but developing with them had grown increasingly difficult in the fast-paced competitive environment.

MongoDB provided the best combination of ease-of-development and fast response times.

As many other companies are learning, The Weather Channel is finding that its customer-facing technologies are among the most important to manage, given that such technologies are the primary interface for many of its customers.

IT analyst firm Forrester has estimated that by 2017, 31 percent of enterprise technology spending will be for products and services that interact with the organization's customers, such as software for customer relationship management, Web content management, e-commerce storefronts, marketing automation and customer analysis. Spending for these technologies will grow by 10 percent each year, Forrester predicted.

As part of an overall rearchitecting of its media systems, The Weather Channel set up an instance of MongoDB Enterprise on the Amazon Web Services.

Earlier this year, it switched its iPhone and Android apps over to the new database and plans to move the rest of its Web operations to the service by the end of the month.

Currently, The Weather Channel's MongoDB instance responds to 2 million requests every minute, on average, while maintaining user information and copies of the weather updates for tens of thousands of locations worldwide.

Replacing a relational database with MongoDB, or any other NoSQL database, has been a controversial topic over the past few years.

MongoDB is a NoSQL database, meaning that it sacrifices some of the advance parsing and joining abilities that SQL-based relational databases offer, in favor of offering the ability to scale across multiple servers so they can host very large data sets and respond to queries very quickly.

 

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