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Moving NoSQL into the Mission-Critical Space - 5 Questions with Couchbase CEO Bob Wiederhold


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In 2011, Membase (formerly NorthScale) and CouchOne joined forces to create Couchbase, which provides a distributed NoSQL document database for interactive applications. The company just released Couchbase Server Enterprise Edition 2.5 with new high availability and security features.  Bob Wiederhold, president and CEO of Couchbase, talks with DBTA about the update and the changing landscape for NoSQL.

It has been just about 3 years since Couchbase was launched. How has the use of NoSQL changed in that time?

Wiederhold: There has been a massive change. The first phase of the NoSQL industry I think was really characterized by grass roots developer adoption. Developers would hear about a NoSQL technology and go home over the weekend and download it, install it, and bring it in to their companies and generally use it on non-mission-critical, non-business-critical applications and relatively non-risky places. Through the end of 2012 that was pretty much how the adoption could be characterized.

And then we saw a very significant change at the end of 2012 and up to the present. We have started to see big internet companies and enterprises start to do deep strategic evaluations of NoSQL and then select a product and deploy it under business-critical and mission-critical applications that are already operating at significant scale.

We have done extremely well with those deep strategic evaluations.  Scalability and performance are really critical for mission-critical and business-critical applications and those are two of the very strong capabilities of Couchbase.

That is what has driven our very rapid growth. We grew by more than 400% last year and expect to grow at similar levels this year.

What is the biggest misconception that you come up against with regard to NoSQL?

Wiederhold: One of the things that we have to keep explaining is that NoSQL really makes a very different set of tradeoffs in terms of how the technology is architected and how it is built compared to relational technologies. And a lot of times people coming from the relational world try to put everything through the filter of how relational databases operate and NoSQL databases operate quite differently and you really have to think differently about how you model your data, how you store your data, how you are going to scale to support large amounts of data and large numbers of users. As more people come to find out about NoSQL and look into it more deeply, that is an ongoing conversation that I have with people.

How does the Couchbase Server 2.5 release move the conversation forward in terms of greater acceptance for NoSQL?

Wiederhold: We think that the growth in the numbers of companies deploying NoSQL for their business-critical and mission-critical applications is going to accelerate and these companies want to see more of what I classify as enterprise-class features. In 2.5, that is the focus of the release.

What have you added in Couchbase Server 2.5?

Wiederhold: Since NoSQL provides a distributed database that runs on commodity servers you are storing a master copy of the data on one server and replica copies of the data on other servers and you want to make sure that both of those servers are not in the same rack in your data center because if the whole rack goes down you lose access not only to your master data but to you replica data as well. Rack Zone Awareness is a feature that makes sure that your master data and replicated data are stored on different racks. It is a new feature that is very important for enterprises.

The second feature is an encryption capability – a security feature –and that is something that is built on top of our capability called Cross Data Center Replication. For global companies – companies that have users around the world - they typically are going to mirror their databases from one data center to the other. They might have three data centers - one in California, one in New York, and one in Europe,  and if you use an app from that company you will be sent to the dc that is closest to where you are. And all of those data centers need to have all of their data mirrored across each of the different data centers. That is the capability that we added about 15 months ago and the capability that we are adding to that in the 2.5 release is an ability to encrypt the data as it is being sent from one data center to another. In some cases, customers will be using VPNs (virtual private networks) to attain a high level of security but in other cases they will be using public WANs (wide area networks), and when they use the wide area networks they want the data to be encrypted as it is sent between the two data centers – so that is a second capability that is part of the 2.5 release.

Both are very important for enterprises and big internet companies that are deploying business- and mission-critical applications.

What’s ahead?

Wiederhold: We think the NoSQL industry is going to continue to grow very rapidly. The trend of more and more companies doing these strategic evaluations and deploying under business- and mission-critical applications – that is going to continue and also continuing to grow around the world. We are investing heavily in Europe, in Israel, in various parts of Asia – including China, Japan and Korea – and so our real focus for this year is continuing to scale and put a combination of sales people and sales engineers, and technical support people around the world to support this increasingly global customer base. 


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