Version 13 (modified by wkornewald, 4 years ago) (diff)

removed query refactoring section

This wiki page documents the requirements for supporting NoSQL (or non-relational) databases with Django.

This is not part of the official Django development efforts.

The Django-nonrel branch of Django already provide support for NoSQL and it requires only minimal changes to Django's ORM. However, for the more interesting features like select_related() Django's ORM needs to be refactored and simplified in several areas. Many of the sections in this page are described from the point of view of Django-nonrel since a lot of experience required for official NoSQL support has been integrated in the Django-nonrel project.

For the record, Django-nonrel has quite a few backends, already:

Also take a look at the feature comparison matrix for an overview of what is supported and what is missing. Database-specific features are sometimes provided by an automatically added manager. For example, MongoDB adds a manager which adds map-reduce and other MongoDB-specific features.

Minor issues

The default ordering on permissions requires JOINs. This makes them unusable on NoSQL DBs.

The permission creation code uses an __in lookup with too many values. App Engine can only handle 30 values (except for the primary key which can handle 500). This could be worked around, but the limitation was added for efficiency reasons (__in lookups are converted into a set of queries that are executed in parallel and then de-duplicated). Thus, it's not really a solution to just run multiple of those queries. Instead, the permission creation code should just fetch all permissions at once. Maybe in a later App Engine release this limitation will be removed when App Engine's new query mechanism goes live (which supports OR queries and gets rid of several other limitations).

Representing result rows

SQLCompiler.results_iter() currently returns results as simple lists which represent rows. This adds unnecessary complexity to NoSQL backends, especially since they have to map their results (which are dicts) to a specifically ordered list and then Django takes that list and converts it back to a dict which gets passed to the model constructor. The row format is especially inconvenient when combined with select_related() because then NoSQL backends have to collect all fields in the correct order and also take deferred fields into account.

Instead of returning lists results_iter() should return more structured data. For example, each result could be wrapped as a dict like this

yield {
    'result': {'id': 8, 'some_string_column': 'value', 'some_bool_column': True, ...},
    'related_selection': {
        'fk': {'id': 10, ...},
        'fk__user': {...},
    'annotations': ...,
    'extra_select': ...,

This is not implemented in Django-nonrel.


Django implements this in a way that requires JOINs, so this doesn't work on non-relational DBs. Still, this feature should be supported by NoSQL backends. Django needs to provide an easier format for NoSQL backends and the result value should also be simplified, as described above in "Representing result rows".

Django-nonrel merely provides a connection.feature.supports_select_related flag which tells QuerySet that the backend won't return additional data for the related data in the result rows (otherwise select_related() causes bad results full of None values). All NoSQL backends set this flag to False.


In some DB systems the primary key is a string. Currently, AutoField assumes that it's always an Integer. There are two ways to support string-based primary keys. Either we can add a StringAutoField and require developers to explicitly use that. The disadvantage of this solution is that it becomes impossible to reuse existing Django models and NoSQL models become less portable even across NoSQL databases. The better alternative is to change AutoField to support both integers and strings. Since some existing code assumes that an exception is raised when assigning a string to an AutoField we could try to detect the installed backends and keep the old behavior (but additionally show a deprecation warning) when only SQL backends are in use. When using a NoSQL backend the new behavior would be activated and AutoField would accept both integers and strings without raising an exception.

Portable code should never assume that the "pk" field is a number. If an entity uses a string pk the application should continue to work. This is currently a problem in Django's auth app (see #14881).

This is already implemented in Django-nonrel, but it's missing the deprecation warning and backwards-compatible mode when only using SQL backends.


NoSQL DBs use ListField in a lot of places. They are basically a replacement for ManyToManyField. BTW, some SQL DBs have a special array type which could also be supported via ListField.

This is already implemented in Django-nonrel.


Another useful type is SetField which stores a set instead of a list. On DBs that don't support sets this field can be emulated by storing a list, instead. This is the approach taken by Django-nonrel's App Engine backend.

This is already implemented in Django-nonrel.


MongoDB and other databases use ListField in combination with DictField to completely replace ManyToManyField in a lot of cases. Django currently doesn't provide an API for querying the data within a DictField (especially if it's embedded in a ListField). Ideally, the query API would just use the foo__bar JOIN syntax.

The field is already implemented in Django-nonrel, but lookups aren't supported, yet.


This is a field which stores model instances like a "sub-table within a field". Internally, it's just a DictField which converts model instances to/from dicts. In addition to the DictField issues this field also has to call the embedded fields' conversion functions, which again requires special support if the JOIN syntax should be supported.

The field is already implemented in Django-nonrel, but lookups aren't supported, yet.


Many databases provide support for a raw binary data type. Many App Engine developers depend on this field to store file-like data because App Engine doesn't provide write access to the file system (there is a new Blobstore API, but that doesn't yet allow direct write access).

This is already implemented in Django-nonrel.


Currently, ImageField depends on PIL. It might be necessary to provide a backend API for sandboxed platforms (like App Engine) that don't provide PIL support.

This is not implemented in Django-nonrel.


Due to lack of JOIN support on NoSQL DBs, Django fails to serialize any app's entities that have a ManyToManyField (e.g. django.contrib.auth). Instead of actually fetching the whole entities Django could fetch only the keys which are stored in the ForeignKey columns. That way, JOINs aren't required, anymore.

This is already implemented in Django-nonrel.

Batch operations

For optimization purposes it's very important to allow batch-saving and batch-deleting a list of model instances (which, in the case of batch-deletion, is not exactly the same as QuerySet.delete() which first has to fetch the entities from the DB in order to delete them).

This is not implemented in Django-nonrel, but Vladimir Mihailenco has implemented a patch which can be easily reused at least by NoSQL backends.

Multi-table inheritance

Multi-table inheritance requires JOIN support, so this feature can't be fully supported.

On non-relational DBs it could be partially emulated with a ListField that stores all model names which it derives from. E.g., if model B derives from model A it would store model B in model A's table and add B's name (app_b) to the ListField.

On App Engine this adds deeper composite indexes which is a problem when filtering against multiple ListFields combining that with inequality filters or results ordering (exploding indexes). Thus, this should only be used at the second inheritance level (seen from Model base class).

Problem: Model A doesn't know about model B, but since both of them live in the same table an A instance has to know about B's fields, so when A is saved it can preserve B's data (you can't modify only specific fields; you always replace the whole row). Either we always keep all data (which means you never free up data after schema changes unless you use a lower-level API) or we keep track of all derived models' fields and preserve those while removing all unused fields (e.g., A would know about B's fields and preserve them when saving). Probably the first solution is the safest.

This is not implemented in Django-nonrel.


Currently, Model.save_base() runs a check whether the pk already exists in the database. This check is necessary for SQL, but it's unnecessary and inefficient on many NoSQL DBs and it also conflicts with App Engine's optimistic transactions. Thus, Django should not distinguish between insert and update operations on DBs that don't require it.

This comes with a minor problem: Without that check model instances have to track whether they were instantiated from the DB and thus exist in the DB or not. Otherwise the Field.pre_save() add parameter won't work correctly and the post_save signal won't report correctly whether this is a new entity or not.

This is already implemented in Django-nonrel.


Not all backends support transactions, at all (e.g., SimpleDB). Some (e.g., App Engine) only support optimistic transactions similar to SELECT ... FOR UPDATE (which isn't exactly the same as @commit_on_success because it really locks items for read/write access).

Django-nonrel currently doesn't provide any support for optimistic transactions.


On some DBs it's inefficient to request entities using a large offset (queryset[5000:...]). E.g., App Engine's datastore doesn't actually support offsets. When you use an offset the datastore always starts from offset 0 and throws away all results you didn't request (which means you can't ever query e.g. for the 10000th result). Instead of integer offsets App Engine and SimpleDB provide some kind of "bookmark" which marks the query's current position in the result set. You can pass a bookmark to a query to move the cursor to a certain position in the result set and then query efficiently from there.

This also affects the pagination in the admin interface. Efficient "pagination" would only provide forward/backward navigation without any page numbering. This would also be a candidate for paginating via AJAX (e.g. like in Twitter).

Django-nonrel doesn't yet support bookmarks, but the App Engine backend provides a private API for them.


Query.count() is problematic since a scalable count() method doesn't exist at least on App Engine. It would be nice to be able to pass an upper limit like count(100), so if there are more than 100 results it will still return just 100.

This also affects the results count in the admin interface.

Django-nonrel's App Engine backend currently just limits the maximum count to 1000. Other backends don't have a count() limit.

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