Big talk bigger data

Couchbase: “We’re not afraid of MongoDB”

Lucy Carey
couch
Image by Studio Tdes

NoSQL CEO Bob Wiederhold outlines his plans for world domination – one enterprise at a time.

When we chatted with open source NoSQL database
providers Couchbase
last summer
, they were celebrating having secured $25m in
funding, and a 400% growth trajectory over the past year. Now,
having launched a unique ‘JSON everywhere’ mobile proposition,
they’re hoping to leapfrog over their competitors into an exploding
market, and, just maybe, dethrone that 200 pound MongoDB gorilla
along the way.

JAX: How have NoSQL market dynamics changed
since Couchbase first launched?

Wiederhold: In the first few years of
the NoSQL market, it was really characterised by grassroots
developer adoption. Developers were downloading the software,
playing around with it, and generally using it on relatively small
applications and somewhat rarely using it for business critical
applications.

That really started to change in a big way in late
2012 and throughout 2013. What we started to see in a big way was
big internet companies and enterprises starting to believe that
NoSQL was really strategic to their infrastructure and they started
doing deep technical evaluations of the various competitors and
then they began to deploy NoSQL in a big way under business
critical applications.

We started to see a very significant increase in this
period, when the dynamics of the market really started to change.
It that phase, it was a much heavier focus on ease of development,
and Mongo was quite strong as a result during that first phase, and
gained some significant popularity.

What we’re seeing in this second phase, with the more
business critical and mission critical applications, is that
scalability and performance are dramatically more important because
these apps are already operating at significant scale and they need
higher performance.

What’s the reception to your JSON anywhere
strategy been like?

It’s been fantastic. Obviously, mobile is a hot
topic…it’s the new development platform, and so people are very
excited and certainly knowledgeable about that being a huge
transition and change.

The second part of the story you know, that’s a pretty
easy bet to make, is that mobile devices are going to become more
and more powerful. They’re going to have more processing power, and
have more storage available. Our message is that we think more of
the application is going to run on the mobile device and that
there’s going to be a need for an ultralight mobile database that
sits on the mobile phone.

There are a lot of benefits to having a local
database, and obviously people are moving to NoSQL and JSON very
rapidly, so having it be JSON based is very interesting to
people.

There’s a tremendous amount of excitement around that
and whether it’s developers or people who are just looking at the
trends in mobile applications and mobile development, I think
there’s a strong belief that it is going to be very important to
have a mobile database that sits on the mobile device.

That’s one of the things we’ve provided – that’s what
we call a Couchbase Lite. It’s a JSON based ultra-lightweight,
secure mobile database. It allows you to be able to interact with
data, even when you don’t have an internet connection. It allows
you to provide much higher responsiveness to the user in terms of
the performance of your app, because your data is sitting there
locally. There are a lot of benefits to having a local database,
and obviously people are moving to NoSQL and JSON very rapidly, so
having it be JSON based is very interesting to people.

What big problems are you looking to solve
next in the industry?

The second aspect of this strategy is syncing that
database with the database in the cloud. We have something called
the Couchbase Sync Gateway, and that’s basically a framework that
allows you to very easily sync your mobile database with the
database in the cloud.

That’s notoriously a very difficult problem. Getting
syncing right is very difficult, it’s very time consuming, and
developers really struggle with getting it to work. This is going
to make that syncing dramatically easier, and so people are very,
very excited about that as well.

That syncing allows you to sync between your personal
devices, so obviously people are using their smartphones and their
tablets and their laptops. It allows you to sync on a personal
basis, and also between groups of people. It allows you to
collaborate, and sync along whatever groups of people you’d like to
sync.

Getting syncing right is very difficult, it’s very
time consuming, and developers really struggle with getting it to
work.

It’s also important for being able to backup your
data. With mobile phones, people drop them and they break, or they
drop them in water, or they lose them, or whatever, and so being
able to sync back to the cloud is becoming increasingly important
when you’re talking about mobile devices.

We’re the only NoSQL vendor that has this technology,
so we’re well ahead of everyone else. We just released our Beta 2
version yesterday, and we expect to go to GA within the next few
months. The interest in this – we’re an open source company so
people are downloading it, and using it, and developing apps on it
– and we’ve just gotten a fantastic response.

Already 75% of our user base are already using
Couchbase to develop mobile applications, but they’re developing
applications without storing data locally on their mobile device.
This is an additive capability – if you’d like to store data
locally on your mobile device, you now have the ability to do that
as well.

We now have innovative groups in large companies, as
well as start up companies, and everything in between that are
taking a look at this technology, and figuring out ways to build
better and better applications that are more responsive, that sync
more easily, and that allow better collaboration and etc. This is
not just limited to just individuals or startup companies. We’ve
got a broad spectrum of people who are downloading and using
it.

Why do you think Couchbase could be a real
threat to MongoDB one day?

Couchbase’s major strength against Mongo is scalability
and performance, and so our business has just absolutely taken
off….We’re certainly among the leaders – by far the fastest growing
– NoSQL database company, and we’re expecting to continue that very
steep growth trajectory in 2014 on the basis of winning these deep
strategic evaluations against Mongo and against
DataStax.

We foresee ourselves doing big deals on the back of
these wins, because these are all applications that already operate
at significant scale and so there’s a large number of nodes of our
software that customers need and they need longer term agreements
with us…and that’s what’s driving our growth.

Do you see the enterprise as Couchbase’s
niche, or would you like to edge out of this?

We’re doing very well in terms of grassroots developers
using our technology as well. We’re certainly not anywhere near as
popular as Mongo in that area but we consider enterprise to be very
mainstream.

This isn’t just a small number of applications.
Increasingly enterprises and the internet companies, their internet
based applications, their mobile applications, are critical to
their business, and we consider that to be mainstream. I think that
if you take a look at how the NoSQL industry is going to grow, a
very significant percentage of the business opportunity is with
these enterprises…with these business and mission critical
applications.

I think we’ve all kind of waited for this transition
to take place, for enterprises and big internet companies to feel
like the technology is mature enough, that they can start to deploy
it across their most important and most strategic applications

We think that’s where the bulk of the growth in the
industry from a business perspective is going to come from over the
next three to five years. I think we’ve all kind of waited for this
transition to take place, for enterprises and big internet
companies to feel like the technology is mature enough, that they
can start to deploy it across their most important and most
strategic applications. And I think it’s great for the NoSQL
industry that that’s starting to happen in a big way, and I think
that trend will accelerate in the next one to three years.

What’s in the pipeline for Couchbase this
year?

We came to market pretty late compared to other
vendors, particularly Mongo and DataStax. They started in 2007, and
we didn’t start until 2010. That’s one of the reasons that we’re
not that well known. Now that we’re growing very fast, now that
we’ve had huge successes, and we’re announcing on a regular basis
bigger and bigger successes with broader and broader sets of
customers, our name is getting bigger.

We’ll be making a steady stream of announcements this
year. I think, in general, many, many people, whether it’s in
blogs, or press interviews or whatever, they’re well aware of the
performance problems that Mongo has, and we want to highlight to
the market that’s an area where we really shine, and where we
really differentiate ourselves. If that’s important – well, you
ought to come over to Couchbase.

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