Posted by: Tony Shannon | October 31, 2012

Javascript & NoSQL: Some History and Some Future

Though I spend a significant part of my work in the Information Technology field, you wont have seen much in the way of real technical aka “techie” stuff on this blog to date.

For the most part, my work involves brokering discussions between those with no technical background (i.e. clinicians), those with some technical background (e.g. some management colleagues) and those with a deep technical background (the “techies” or the engineers of this world). Much of that brokerage involves trying to find common ground between those differing perspectives, so I find that I end up using words like change… discussing people, process and information issues…with a blend of technology.

In this post, I needed to bring your attention to some happening in the software/technical world that I think are worth sharing with a broader audience, so I need to use two technical phrases.. “Javascript” and “NoSQL”.

Java is an island, is also the name of a blend of coffee and for some of those reasons became the name of a software language which became popular in the 1990s. Script, or Scripting is a technical speak for quick and easy computer language..

Javascript was developed as a popular, quick and easy,  light weight, software language about the same time as Java, i.e. in the early days of the Internet.
Now Javascript is only 1 of many many software languages, though it is particularly interesting to me for 2 reasons.

1) It has recently become the most popular of all programming languages
2) It happens to be the same programming language that I used when developing a web based application back in 2000.

Furthermore though back at that time I was using Javascript in an unusual way (tech speak: as both the client side and server side language in an Active Server Pages environment), that approach has most recently become pretty popular. Thats not to say that I saw any of that coming, but quite simply it was the easiest and most software productive language I could find at the time, plus I only wanted to learn 1 software language and no more..
My sense is that part of the increasing appeal of Javascript is that is now starting to offer the power to do some amazing things with just 1 language, where in the past many software developers juggled several different languages to do the same thing.. which seemed inherently over complicated to me.

In brief Javascript (with tools such as Sencha/ExtJS, JQuery, Node.JS, the related rise of JSON etc) is becoming quite a force to be reckoned with and my instinct is that this is of real significance to the software industry, the web etc.

If you would just like to see one thing that Javascript can do, I have to commend these stunning views of the Periodic Table of Elements.

On a related note, I’ll now mention;

NoSQL – or No StructuredQueryLanguage

The term relates to “databases”, another key part of the software world, essentially where “data” gets stored.
Without delving into the deep history here, the engineering of databases has gone through several stages, as you might expect.

SQL StructuredQueryLanguage has become the basis of  most “standard” database approaches.. ie  it has for many years become the “norm” in databases and was the approach that I used back in 2000.
In very simple terms SQL databases are widely understood as “relational” databases, ie with several/many tables of data, with relationships between those tables,  more related reading on databases here..
It suffices to say that planning a SQL database can get/has become a complicated effort.. overcomplicated many might say.. so the limits of SQL databases seem to have been tested by some of the Big Data challenges that the web has started to throw at them.

Hence the more recent move toward NoSQL databases such as the very interesting (& JSON oriented) MongoDB, which have become increasingly popular of late…
Part of the promise of NoSQL databases, as I understand it, is that they allow for a much more flexible approach to database building and ongoing maintenance.
Looking back, the interesting thing was that though I was working with SQL databases back in 2000, I was made aware back then of a database that was meant to be very fast and flexible, so much that the US Veterans Administration were running their Health IT system on it… as it happens I know now that it happened to be a powerful NoSQL database.. by the unusual name of Mumps..an impressive but poorly understood technology, which may be best explained in this impressive paper on its role as a Universal NoSQL Engine.

Now to the link between these pieces of history.. it just so happens that a colleague who happens to know a great deal about both of these subjects has just begun blogging. His name is Rob Tweed and he has recently begun what I believe are a very important series of articles about these 2 technical elements, which share some history.

From what I have read he makes a very compelling case as to why these technologies have a very promising/important future… together. For some more history and more of that future, pop over to robtweed.wordpress.com

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