How big is your data?

MongoDB mocked after posting “100GB Scaling Checklist”

Elliot Bentley

NoSQL sceptics have field day after MongoDB posts – and later amends – guide to scaling up to 100GB.


NoSQL sceptics have had a
field day with a blog post from MongoDB (the company

previously known as 10gen
) warning of the
difficulties of scaling the document-oriented database up to a
measly 100GB.

Despite being pulled – and later reinstated with
a new introduction – the blog post has been held up as undermining
MongoDB’s promises of being able to handle “big data”.

It started with the best of intentions: To tie
in with a recorded webinar by Christ Winslet of MongoHQ (an
independent company to MongoDB), the company posted a checklist for
users of the NoSQL database with moderately large quantities of
data on their blog.

“Surpassing 100GB of data in your application
requires you to have in-depth knowledge of how to operate and run
MongoDB,” read the opening sentence. “MongoHQ recommends going
through the 100GB Scaling Checklist as you grow.” In slides for the
accompanying webinar, Winslet wrote that “100GB is relatively big

This was leapt upon by critics of the database,
who saw it as an admission that it’s far from suited to dealing
with genuinely large datasets. Gwen Shapira, a DBA at
Cloudera, quipped
on twitter
: “#mongoDB:
the big data platform that is challenging to scale over

For reasons unclear to JAXenter, the original
blog post (preserved
by Google’s cache
) was taken down, only to be
reinstated several hours later. This
new blog post
came with a revised
introduction, emphasising that “most systems” require specialized
knowledge when scaling to large sizes, and a new title that omitted
the 100GB figure. The checklist itself remained the

That didn’t stop MongoDB’s critics from piling
on, however. Markus Winand used it as a key example in his own blog
post, titled
“MongoDB is to NoSQL like MySQL to SQL — in the most harmful
, which reached the front page of Hacker News.
The fact that MongoDB’s creators felt the need to publish the
guide, he wrote, “gives me the impression that scaling MongoDB to
that size is a serious issue”.

Whether this is true or not is a matter of great
contention – after all, big data is about more than just sheer
volume. But if this event proves anything, it’s that even one of
the most popular of NoSQL databases has yet to gain developers’
trust. And that, given the opportunity, internet commentators will
tear into any slip-up.

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