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Comparison to document databases

Document databases reverted back to the hierarchical model in one aspect: storing nested records (one-to-many relationships, like positions, education, and contact_info in Figure 2-1) within their parent record rather than in a separate table.

However, when it comes to representing many-to-one and many-to-many relationships, relational and document databases are not fundamentally different: in both cases, the related item is referenced by a unique identifier, which is called a foreign key in the relational model and a document reference in the document model [9]. That identifier is resolved at read time by using a join or follow-up queries. To date, document databases have not followed the path of CODASYL.

Relational Versus Document Databases Today

There are many differences to consider when comparing relational databases to document databases, including their fault-tolerance properties (see Chapter 5) and handling of concurrency (see Chapter 7). In this chapter, we will concentrate only on the differences in the data model.

The main arguments in favor of the document data model are schema flexibility, better performance due to locality, and that for some applications it is closer to the data structures used by the application. The relational model counters by providing better support for joins, and many-to-one and many-to-many relationships.

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