Sql – When would I use XML instead of SQL?


I've been working on database-driven web applications for a few years now and recently took on a project involving a CMS that is XML-capable. This has led me to think about the usage of XML/XSLT in general and in what situations it would be more useful than the approach I've always used, which is storing all of my data in a (My)SQL database and then using PHP/Python/etc. to work with it on the web as needed.

There's obviously something I'm not "getting" here.. could anyone give me examples of applications where storing the data in XML files instead of in a database would be preferable?

Best Solution

To quote This Book (Effective XML: 50 Specific Ways to Improve Your XML):

“XML is not a database. It was never meant to be a database. It is never going to be a database. Relational databases are proven technology with more than 20 years of implementation experience. They are solid, stable, useful products. They are not going away. XML is a very useful technology for moving data between different databases or between databases and other programs. However, it is not itself a database. Don't use it like one.“

I think this sums it up, if a little bluntly. XML is a data interchange format. One can have XML parsing libraries that can query a DOM with XPath expressions but that is not the same thing as a DBMS. You can build a DBMS with a DOM/XPath interface but to get ACID properties or scale to large data sets you need to implement a DBMS engine and a data format with indexes, logging and other artifacts of a DBMS - which (by definition) makes it something other than XML.