Starting up fast with NoSQL: first steps

After reading up a bit on NoSQL, I decided it was time for me to do some experimenting and see how quickly I could set up an application using NoSQL. One of the things I like about NoSQL is that it supposedly supports very low-friction development, which I'm going to try and find out soon.

I'm not going to talk about whether or not NoSQL is right for you, which NoSQL implementation/provider is best or whether or not NoSQL is better or worse than SQL. I'm just having some fun with it, and seeing how easy this goes. I will focus on document store databases and C# .NET.

Personally, I'm also hoping to find out if NoSQL is a better match for quick and dirty personal projects than Plain Old SQL.

Choosing a NoSQL for .NET

After reading up on what NoSQL databases are most popular for .NET, the choice came down to RavenDB, CouchDB and MongoDB.

RavenDB

RavenDB is made by Ayende ( among others, I suppose ), and has the reputation of having a very nice and clean API plus a very good-looking management application made in Silverlight ( perhaps Silverlight isn't dead yet after all ). RavenDb however has a commercial license for non-open-sourced projects, and since I wanted to use NoSQL for one of my personal ( non-OS ) projects, I decided to let this one go for the moment. It's definitely worth taking a look at though, so it stays on my list for later projects.

CouchDB and MongoDB

This left me with the other 2 competitors. I didn't put much effort into comparing the two in terms of functionality since I'm only exploring the the subject of NoSQL, and decided on a "community knows best" approach.

A quick NuGet Fight ( somebody should make this into a website, which we now did ) gave the advantage to MongoDb ( aka Mongo ), and off I went.

nuget fight

I usually don't let a simple NuGet Fight decide which libraries I use, but since this is only experimentation, it's good enough for me.

Setting up Mongo ( the very easy way )

The whole point of this exercise was to have a no-friction-at-all experience. Setting up a mongoDb locally? Aaah, friction, get it away!

But seriously, I wanted none at all.

Mongo in the cloud

This matches my philosophy of "somebody probably already did this better than me", and since a lot of these providers offer a free sample of their services, how much less friction can you have?

I decided to use MongoLab, mostly because their free offer was the best I could find. They offer 240MB for free, all you need to do is sign up.

sign up

How can you resist?

Creating your database

MongoLab offers a nice web interface for all creation and management of your MongoDB.

mongolab overview

Creating a new database is easy, you can even choose your provider. I also like the fact you can get different pricing schemes for different databases. For now, we'll test our luck with the free version.

create new db

Et voila! We have our new database. You can see the connectionString in the overview, which we'll use in our application later.

my first mongo db

All we have to do now is create some collections ( aka tables in other environments ) to put our data in. We can do this via the web interface as well as in code. For now, we'll stick to the web interface.

add collection

I want to create a small exhibitor website for this demo, but I don't know which properties I will store for each entity. With document store database, you do not have to define any columns on your table (because there is no table, only a collection of documents), so I can choose what to store later instead of having to decide right now. This once again removes some friction, and more importantly: it delays design choices to when I'm ready for it.

Consuming Mongo

A small controller and an entity class later, and my little expirement is already taking form.

public class HomeController : Controller
{
    readonly MongoServer server;
    readonly MongoDatabase mongoDb;
    readonly MongoCollection<Exhibitor> exhibitors;
    public HomeController()
    {
        server = MongoServer.Create(string.Format("mongodb://{0}:{1}@ds031587.mongolab.com:31587/myfirstmongodb", ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["MongoUser"], ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["MongoPwd"]));
        server.Connect();

        mongoDb = server.GetDatabase("myfirstmongodb");
        exhibitors =
           mongoDb.GetCollection<Exhibitor>("exhibitors");
    }
    public ActionResult Index()
    {
        return View(exhibitors.FindAll());
    }
}        

Conclusion

So far, everything is still going well for me. I've set up a small database in a couple of minutes and got a simple piece of code working.
Next post, I'll be going deeper into the code and create a simple CRUD application using our newly created Mongo database.