What Is a Document Database?

The document database defined

A document database is a type of nonrelational database that is designed to store and query data as JSON-like documents. Document databases make it easier for developers to store and query data in a database by using the same document-model format they use in their application code. The flexible, semistructured, and hierarchical nature of documents and document databases allows them to evolve with applications’ needs. The document model works well with use cases such as catalogs, user profiles, and content management systems where each document is unique and evolves over time. Document databases enable flexible indexing, powerful ad hoc queries, and analytics over collections of documents.

In the following example, a JSON-like document describes a book.

        "year" : 2013,
        "title" : "Turn It Down, Or Else!",
        "info" : {
            "directors" : [ "Alice Smith", "Bob Jones"],
            "release_date" : "2013-01-18T00:00:00Z",
            "rating" : 6.2,
            "genres" : ["Comedy", "Drama"],
            "image_url" : "http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/N/O9ERWAU7FS797AJ7LU8HN09AMUP908RLlo5JF90EWR7LJKQ7@@._V1_SX400_.jpg",
            "plot" : "A rock band plays their music at high volumes, annoying the neighbors.",
            "actors" : ["David Matthewman", "Jonathan G. Neff"]
        "year": 2015,
        "title": "The Big New Movie",
        "info": {
            "plot": "Nothing happens at all.",
            "rating": 0

Use cases

Content management

A document database is a great choice for content management applications such as blogs and video platforms. With a document database, each entity that the application tracks can be stored as a single document. The document database is more intuitive for a developer to update an application as the requirements evolve. In addition, if the data model needs to change, only the affected documents need to be updated. No schema update is required and no database downtime is necessary to make the changes. 


Document databases are efficient and effective for storing catalog information. For example, in an e-commerce application, different products usually have different numbers of attributes. Managing thousands of attributes in relational databases is inefficient, and the reading performance is affected. Using a document database, each product’s attributes can be described in a single document for easy management and faster reading speed. Changing the attributes of one product won’t affect others.

Document databases on AWS

Amazon DocumentDB (with MongoDB compatibility)

Amazon DocumentDB (with MongoDB compatibility) is a fast, scalable, highly available, and fully managed document database service that supports MongoDB workloads. Developers can use the same MongoDB application code, drivers, and tools to run, manage, and scale workloads on Amazon DocumentDB and enjoy improved performance, scalability, and availability without having to worry about managing the underlying infrastructure.

Get started with Amazon DocumentDB today.