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What You'll Learn
What is CouchDB and what benefits might it offer your website?
In this article I'll cover the most important features of CouchDB, why it's revolutionary, and how easy it is to use.
You'll get tips on what to look for in CouchDB hosting. And I'll share my recommendations for CouchDB web hosts.
What is CouchDB?
CouchDB is a document-oriented NoSQL database management system.
It's user-friendly; modular and scalable.
It doesn't use schemas; it stores data in JSON documents.
Instead of SQL, queries use predefined map and reduce functions. These allow users to easily retrieve dataset summaries from a database.
CouchDB is written in Erlang. It's accessible via a RESTful API.
What's Unique About CouchDB?
Although many NoSQL technologies allow for the creation of scalable applications, most of them exist at a deep level of server control — using programming languages which are either compiled or rely on deep-rooted computing cluster control.
Creating a database for a website is simple with CouchDB. We found the ultra-minimalist UI to be, yes, relaxing.
CouchDB has that functionality but is more focused on making the data extremely accessible — allowing for direct manipulation of JSON objects, and use of an exposed URI for sending encapsulated JSON data over a RESTful API.
These features let CouchDB offer one of the best solutions for quickly putting together applications that have strong communication between a web server and a web client.
Creating documents in CouchDB is a breeze too. In this example, you can see the use of key/value pairs.
Who Created CouchDB?
The CouchDB project started in 2005 by Damien Katz, a former developer from IBM.
Couch stands for "cluster of unreliable commodity hardware." Joe Lennon, writing for IBM developerWorks explained that the acronym reflected CouchDB's "high availability and reliability, even while running on hardware that is typically prone to failure. "
Traditionally, servers on the web using commodity hardware might fail or experience communication bottlenecks from heavy traffic.
CouchDB is set up in such a way that HTTP requests will cause CouchDB to react and scale up resources to meet demand — and after a spike is done, CouchDB will resume regular speed again.
Damien Katz's Next Creation: Couchbase Server
Damien Katz went on to create Couchbase Server, which was also a commercial-level technology.
However, unlike CouchDB, Couchbase isn't centered around HTTP requests, instead placing emphasis on controlling computer memory in a computing cluster.
So where CouchDB uses JSON document information for running CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations, Couchbase instead uses a Memcached protocol.
"[CouchDB] is good for building lots of collaborative applications -- lots of web applications which generally are centered around documents, context, To-Do's, bug reports, things like that. And that's the sort of stuff CouchDB excels at." -CouchDB creator, Damien Katz.
What's the Difference Between CouchDB and Couchbase?
The two systems share a lot of similarities, but CouchDB emphasizes controlling traffic at the HTTP level rather than at a deeper networking level.
That means CouchDB is good for applications which want to run well natively on the web without focusing on building infrastructure.
CouchDB Is Easy to Use
Following cues from popular frameworks like Ruby on Rails, CouchDB can be infinitely complex but is still very simple to get started.
After verifying your installation of CouchDB, the console will amusingly print, "Time to relax."
After downloading CouchDB, navigate to the checkmark icon to verify installation.
CouchDB, just like Rails, should feel natural to learn for anyone who has done any work on the web and can serve as a great starting point for anyone new to web concepts too.
Once you've downloaded CouchDB you can access the "Fauxton Visual Guide" from the dashboard.
The "Fauxton Visual Guide" offers pain-free onboarding. The "Using Fauxton" section may not be what you're expecting.
The use of images with minimal text is newbie-friendly and fun to use.
Features of CouchDB
CouchDB has just a few core concepts that drive the functioning of the technology.
These can be easily understood by operation teams, and have easy to trace error logging.
|Feature||What CouchDB Does||Why That's Good|
|Creative Data Modeling
||By combining features of an intuitive document storage model with a powerful query engine, CouchDB has the resources, methods, and representations to query, map, combine and filter data.
||With added fault tolerance, scalability and smart replication, the data model can manage web documents natively.
||CouchDB can handle common applications like contacts, invoices and documents in an easy way which abstracts the data into self-contained documents.
||Rather than dealing with a hierarchy of relational ties, a Couch JSON object has all of the self-contained attributes to build a document with only a single self contained file.
|Syntax and Semantics
||Real world documents have a familiar template but are not always the same.
For example, a business card will always have most of the same information, but not every business card will have a "Fax" number.
With schema-free storage, documents contain only the aspects of information needed.
|Rather than declaring "Fax Number: None," a CouchDB object simply will not have a "Fax" identifier, making the database more flexible.
|Base Layer for Larger Systems
||As applications scale in size, CouchDB has deeper reaching components which can solve storage problems and deal with latency and reliability in an intelligent way.
||Although it may be impossible to optimize for both data storage and read speed at the same time, or to balance latency against concurrency, CouchDB has tools to leave this balance up to the developer and to make a system responsive based on application states.
|Replication of Data
||The concept of replication means a synchronization of two or more CouchDB databases — which is possible and encouraged in architecture for CouchDB.
||Many of the problems in replicating over a network will still happen with CouchDB, but tools exist to deal with inconsistencies.
So, when things go wrong, they will be logged in a meaningful way which can be addressed quickly.
|Localization of Data
||Since CouchDB uses JSON over RESTful HTTP, the delivery of data to a web client device is very simple.
||This means that synchronization can be handled in such a way that data can be cached offline.
What's more, web applications which use CouchDB can even run without a network connection so long as all the relevant document information has been transported.
Erlang, the language behind CouchDB — is very efficient on small devices.
Installation of CouchDB
The method of installing CouchDB will depend on the platform you're using.
For example, macOS users can simply download the native application and then interact with it via the "Fauxton" interface.
It can also be installed via ports (FreeBSD), directly from the source code, and from binaries (Windows, Unix). Consult the documentation for details.
Some dependencies exist, including the Erlang OTP, Python, OpenSSL, and a variety of other small tools.
Once set up, CouchDB can be accessed over command line curl requests or from Fauxton. It's instantly ready to run CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) commands over any network to which its IP is available — although starting on localhost is recommended.
For production level hosting, any server with sufficient privileges will work. Linux servers might be the easiest to set up.
Any provider which supports machine images is sure to have one that offers CouchDB as Joyent is known to have decent support.
ALERT: With CouchDB, you must compile your own HTTPS-capable instance because it lacks built-in security within the server, leaving data vulnerable to attack.
Final Thoughts about CouchDB
- A new type of database - Shifting away from traditional relational databases, CouchDB offers users a way to replicate their database across multiple servers, index quickly and conduct full text searches for more efficient data retrieval, and works with an easy-to-use, JSON-based document format, which translates well across different languages.
- User-friendly - Its scalable architecture and document-oriented database management system is made up of self-contained documents, both of which make searching for, inserting, and deleting internal data and documents more user-friendly.
Web-optimized - Data stored as JSON documents allows for easy consumption by web applications, all document changes are retrievable, and communication to the database directly via REST API.
- Flexibility - Those looking for an efficient way of tracking documents, handling traffic spikes, and scaling, should consider using CouchDB, thanks to the set limits programmers must deal with.
- Almost idiot-proof - In fact, CouchDB is the type of database that prevents any mistakes from occurring that will hurt you later on and gives you the chance to build your document-based applications in a whole new way.
My Recommendations for CouchDB Hosts
Not all hosting companies are equal when it comes to CouchDB, but I recommend adding these hosts to your considerations list.
If you are after unlimited storage, even on the inexpensive shared hosting plans, your best bet is going to be InterServer hosting. Not wanting to interrupt your site's speed and performance, InterServer assures its customers that whatever resources are needed at any given time will be available with no downtime.
Additionally, InterServer VPS Cloud hosting comes with instant setup, full root access for customizing your hosting experience, and an easy to use cPanel, which is especially helpful when installing CouchDB.
Liquid Web is ideal for those running business or e-commerce sites that want in on the benefits of CouchDB.
With features like real-time monitoring and a 100% uptime guarantee, built-in backups, unlimited site use, and easy scalability both up and down, Liquid Web also provides customers with 24/7 on-site support via phone, email, and live chat.
Lastly, web host Rackspace Cloud focuses on giving clients a database, such as CouchDB, that extends beyond that of traditional relational databases.
In fact, in addition to prominent web host features like managed security measures, multi-cloud connectivity, and fast performing dedicated servers, Rackspace Cloud proudly partners with Cloudant, a database-as-a-service (DBaaS) solution based on CouchDB to eliminate delays, expenses, and distractions that come with the administration of databases.
Summary: How CouchDB Stacks Up
Keep these points in mind when considering whether to use CouchDB.
Pros of Using CouchDB
- Easily handles high volumes of data without interruption, scaling to meet the needs of users.
- Can replicate to devices such as smartphones since it has the ability to work offline.
- Is accessible via Fauxton, a native, web-based administration interface for creating, updating, deleting, and viewing documents.
Cons of Using CouchDB
- Lack of built-in security within the server leaving data vulnerable to attack – must compile your own HTTPS capable instance.
- Sometimes needs compacting – without doing so you end up with wasted space as more data accumulates.
- The only true way to receive "eventual consistency" is through replication and verification of data.
CouchDB Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
Who should use CouchDB and why?
Just take a look at who is already using it in a production environment — which includes Ubuntu and BBC. Many other projects using Couch are technical project sites, or websites which have some powerful document processing aspect.
There are many different mobile applications which also use Erland and CouchDB successfully.
Why use CouchDB over Couchbase, Hadoop, or other NoSQL solution?
Each project needs to have its own technical justification.
CouchDB, while amazing for fast production and powerful document control — doesn't natively have the deep hardware layer that Couchbase or Hbase+Hadoop might offer.
CouchDB works well in any environment which has a data-heavy client and needs to be responsive to user volume.