Traditional relational databases like Microsoft (MSFT) SQL Server, Oracle (ORCL) and MySQL continue to gain popularity. But channel partners would be wise to check out NoSQL (Not only SQL) alternatives, which are catching on for big data, analytics and real-time cloud computing applications.

Indeed, the worldwide NoSQL market is expected to reach $3.4 billion by 2018. That represents a 21 percent compound annual growth rate (CAG) over the next five years, according to Market Research Media.

So what's the difference between SQL and NoSQL? Software Developers Journal explains it this way

"Basically, NoSQL drops the traditional SQL ideology in favor of CAP Theorem or Brewer’s Theorem, formulated by Eric Brewer in 2000. the theorem talks about three basic principles of Consistency, Availability and Partition Tolerance (abbreviated as CAP), adding that a distributed database can at the most satisfy only two of these. NoSQL databases implement the theorem by employing Eventual Consistency, which is a more relaxed form of consistency that performs the task over a sufficient period of time. This in turn improves availability and scalability to a great extent. This paradigm is often termed as BASE – implying Basically Available, Soft state, Eventual Consistency."

Or stated more simply: NoSQL is all about availability and scalability -- two big requirements for Big Data applications.

NoSQL Companies and Partner Programs

Numerous companies develop NoSQL databases. But 10gen -- a MongoDB company -- is among the best known NoSQL players so far. The company's partner program includes software, hardware, cloud, channel and services partners. Early channel partners include Carahsoft, En Pointe Technologies and OnX. On the technology front, 10gen has close partnerships with IBM, Red Hat and others.

Other key NoSQL players include:

So what are database giants like Microsoft and Oracle doing about NoSQL?

How much margin can channel partners make from reselling NoSQL? And what type of consulting services tied to NoSQL are in high demand? The VAR Guy is pursuing answers to those questions -- and more.