IoT Performance Bottlenecks & Open Source Databases

by Gaurav Belani

The Internet of Things (IoT), in essence, is all about everyday devices that are readable, recognizable, trackable, and/or controllable via the Internet, regardless of the communication means — RFID, wireless LAN, and so on. The total installed base of IoT connected devices is projected to amount to 21.5 billion units worldwide by 2025. Thanks to IoT, the proliferation of data can be quite daunting. Hence, businesses should effectively organize and work with this enormous amount of valuable data.

Databases play a pivotal role in enabling enterprises to make the most of IoT by facilitating proper organization, storage, and manipulation of data. IoT applications typically make use of both relational and non-relational (aka NoSQL) types of databases. While the selection of the type of database is made based on the type of application, in most cases, a mix of both types is used.  However, picking the most efficient database for a particular IoT application can be tricky. There are so many parameters to consider, such as scalability, availability, data handling ability, processing speed, schema flexibility, integration with required analytical tools, security, and cost.

Key Business Drivers of IoT

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In the implementation of IoT applications for enterprises, there’s a need for flexibility in processing the data at the edge and to synchronize the data between edge servers and the cloud. No single commercial database can fulfill all such needs of an organization.  IoT is the basis of DevOps, agile software, and other development methodologies. Plus, thousands of developers are coming up with innovative IoT products, exponentially increasing the number of new devices and sources of data. Hence, the faster they come up with an idea and develop it the better it is. An open-source database is a cost-effective and versatile option for business IoT applications:

  • The database can bring together data from all the devices and sensors, allowing developers to be creative and develop internal tools, standalone products, or components of bigger systems.
  • It offers several tool kits and libraries for the faster development of IoT devices while keeping the risk and costs under control. Further, open-source hardware like Arduino and Raspberry Pi can help turn up several IoT devices, from home security to health monitors.
  • An open source database lowers the cost of the device. That’s because it offers a variety of accessible open source databases such as MongoDB, Cassandra, and MySQL/MariaDB that help manage data at a lower cost. This allows enterprises to experiment with various solutions that would otherwise be ignored because of the high cost of licenses for development tools and software components.
  • It makes it easy for developers to prototype IoT devices and convert them into full-fledged products like aquariums and thermostats. As open source is accessible to all, developers just need to tap a few pre-existing open source libraries, customize it as per their needs, and contribute it back to the community.

For instance, several startups are building wearables that can sense environmental factors, such as air composition and microbial content, and matching it with public databases to warn the wearer about traces of a specific pathogen in real-time. This is feasible because they are leveraging existing open source libraries and tools.  

IoT Database Architecture

In a typical IoT architecture, hundreds to thousands of sensors and actuators are connected with the edge server, and the enterprise IoT solution collects data from all these devices continuously.  Cloud MQTT, Apache Kafka, and Rest Service components are used to ingest the IoT data streams from the devices to the database. Next, edge analytics performs the translation, aggregation, and filtering of the incoming data, which allows real-time decision making at the edge. 

The database must support high-speed read and write operations with sub-millisecond latency. It helps in performing complex analytical operations on the data from the edge server. The database then communicates commands to the IoT devices and stores the data for as long as required.  Simply put, the whole IoT implementation is centered around the idea of data collection/insertion through sensors and sending instructions back to those devices. And so, open-source software like databases and even VPNs (check out VPN reviews before deciding on one), which helps boost device security by protecting against IoT attacks such as botnets and MITM, is vital to enterprise-grade IoT applications.

IoT applications generate enormous volumes of data like RFID data, streaming data, sensory data, and many others. Moreover, IoT solutions are distributed across geographical regions. Thus, the dynamic nature of IoT data demands the use of a suitable database that can allow you to efficiently manage the data  IoT solutions operate across a diverse environment; thus, it’s tough to choose an adequate database. Here are a few points to bear in mind when choosing a fitting database for your IoT system:


An IoT solution scales out automatically to serve a growing load to prevent blackouts due to a lack of resources. Therefore, the database you choose for IoT applications must be scalable. Ideally, IoT databases should be linearly scalable, such that a server to a node cluster increases the throughput.  Distributed databases work best for IoT solutions as they can run on commodity hardware and scale by adding and removing servers from the database cluster as needed. On the other hand, if the application collects a small amount of data, a centralized database works.

Ability to Manage Voluminous Data

As mentioned earlier, IoT generates vast amounts of data in real-time. The success of an open source database lies in the efficient management of data while processing events as they stream and dealing with data security. 

Fault-Tolerant & High Availability

An ideal IoT database should be fault-tolerant and highly available. For instance, hardware and software updates are often known to interrupt normal data operations. This should not be the case. Similarly, if a node in the database cluster is down for some reason, it should still be able to read and write requests.  Open source distributed SQL database management systems like CrateDB provide automated replication of data across the cluster to ensure high availability. It can also self-heal the infected nodes.

Improved Flexibility

An increasing number of IoT solutions are adopting a combination of cloud and fog computing at the edge. Therefore, the open source database you choose should be flexible enough to process data at the edge servers and then synchronize it between these servers and the cloud.

Advanced Capabilities

Depending on the IoT solution, you would require a database that is capable of real-time data streaming, data filtering, data aggregation, real-time analytics, near-zero latency read operations, geo distribution, and schema flexibility among others. Use these questions to determine your data needs for the IoT solution and select a database that’s most suitable:

  • What kind of data processing and decision making is being delegated to the edge servers?
  • Is the cloud solution deployed in one geographical region, or distributed across various regions?
  • What’s the volume of data transferred from the IoT device to the edge server to the central server? (peak volume)
  • Does your IoT solution control any devices or actuators? Do they need a real-time response?

Top Open Source DBs for IoT Apps

It’s clear that open-source databases serve as catalysts for IoT applications, but every business has a unique requirement which means that choosing the right database for the various stages of IoT implementation is important.  Further, IoT applications are mostly heterogeneous and domain-centric. That makes it tough to choose an appropriate database. When looking for an open source database for IoT applications, it’s critical to consider parameters like scalability, availability, the ability to handle huge volumes of data, processing speed and schema flexibility, integration with varied analytical tools, security, and cost.  So, let’s end this piece with three of the best open source databases for enterprise-level IoT applications:


A flexible and powerful open-source database that supports features like indexes, range queries, sorting, aggregations, and JSON. It also supports a rich query language for CRUD (create, read, update, delete) operations as well as data aggregation, text search, and geospatial queries. In fact, Bosch has built its IoT suite on MongoDB.  MongoDB has a few clear benefits for IoT data:

  • It’s a powerful database that’s easily scalable and can effectively manage huge volumes of data.
  • It is document-oriented.
  • It can be used for general purposes.
  • Being a NoSQL database, MongoDB uses JSON-like documents with schemas.


A highly scalable and distributed open-source database for managing enormous amounts of structured data across numerous commodity servers. The Apache Cassandra provides linear scale performance, simplicity, and easy distribution of data across multiple database servers, ideal for many large-scale IoT applications.  The advantages of Apache Cassandra include:

  • It’s a free and open source distributed NoSQL database management system that can handle voluminous data through multiple commodity servers. Thus, it can ensure high availability with zero single-point failure.
  • It’s decentralized. Each node in the cluster is identical.
  • It demonstrates high performance.
  • It utilizes the immense scale of time-series data coming from devices, users, sensors, and similar mechanisms across locations.
  • Each update gives you a choice of synchronous and asynchronous replication, thus giving you complete control.
  • Avoids downtime as both read and write execute in real-time.


Since RethinkDB is a super scalable JSON database for real-time web, it’s one of the best and most preferred open source databases available today. Its real-time push architecture dramatically minimizes the time and effort required to build scalable IoT apps. Plus, it has an adaptable query language for examining APIs, which is easy to set up and learn.  Here are a few reasons, RethinkDB is ideal for IoT solutions:

  • It’s an adaptable query language for examining APIs.
  • Offers asynchronous queries via Eventmachine in Ruby and Tornado.
  • Offers a variety of mathematical operators like the floor, ceil, and round.
  • If the primary server fails, the commands are automatically shifted to a new one.

  Handling IoT data effectively requires you to choose a suitable open source database. However, finding an efficient database can be a tricky undertaking, considering the fact that the IoT environment keeps changing. The information shared in this post will take you a step closer to understanding why open source databases help developers and organizations manage IoT data effectively.

Gaurav Belani

Gaurav Belani is a senior SEO and content marketing analyst at Growfusely, a content marketing agency that specializes in data-driven SEO. He has more than seven years of experience in digital marketing and loves to read and write about AI, machine learning, data science, and other emerging technologies. In his spare time, he enjoys watching movies and listening to music. Connect with him Linkedin and Twitter at @belanigaurav

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