How Will MongoDB Fare in Difficult Times?

The world changed completely in the first 3 months of 2020. No segments of the economy and few corporations were unaffected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. So, it’s fair to ask how will this affect MongoDB?

In its earnings report for the period ending January 31, MongoDB showcased a continuation of strong growth. Their most recent revenue report reported 58% year over year growth, with MongoDB Atlas—its database as a service (DBaaS) offering—accounting for 41% of revenue and with over 15,000 customers.

MongoDB reported these strong results on March 17—just when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming fully apparent. MongoDB projected a $15-$25 million downturn in revenues as a result of coronavirus. This projection represents a reduction in growth rather than a downturn in revenue and, as such, probably represents about the most optimistic scenario for a software company in the current circumstances.

At the same time, MongoDB announced that Eliot Horowitz would be stepping down as CTO. For engineers, Eliot Horowitz was the face of MongoDB and the owner of the MongoDB vision. His departure created some additional nervousness around MongoDB’s future.

To predict how MongoDB may navigate COVID-19 and post COVID-19 environment would require an ability to predict how our industry as a whole will fare—which is a big ask. Nevertheless, let’s give it a shot.

In these early pandemic days we can at least identify the following changes to the IT landscape going forward:

  • A massive increase in telecommuting
  • A correspondingly large advantage for enterprises with cloud infrastructure
  • An economic advantage for enterprises that can rapidly scale their infrastructure in either direction

The enterprises that had the most difficulty adapting to COVID-19 were those whose infrastructure was primarily on-premise. For these companies, it was sometimes difficult to provide remote access to DBAs and system administrators, because direct access to production databases from beyond the firewall was previously seen as an unacceptable security risk.  For those that had adopted a cloud infrastructure, these security issues had already been addressed.

Most enterprises also encountered an abrupt reduction in demand. Those with a fully elastic cloud infrastructure could at least reduce their spend by shrinking database and container clusters. Those with on-premise assets had fewer options for reducing running costs.

At the other end of the spectrum, some enterprises found their workload massively increased. Online conferencing software vendors are the obvious example but gaming and streaming services also experienced a spike in demand. Companies who needed to suddenly increase their capacity could only do so if they had a fully scalable cloud infrastructure.

My conclusion is that the database vendors that have mature, fully managed, and scalable cloud-based DBaaS offerings will be at an advantage during the COVID crisis and probably beyond. While all serious database vendors offer some form of cloud service, many of these are relatively recent, not always fully managed and sometimes not fully scalable.  For instance, Cassandra vendor Datastax has only recently offered Cassandra in a fully managed cloud service, and traditional database vendors such as Oracle have been similarly late to the party.

MongoDB launched Atlas almost 4 years ago now and today it represents one of the most mature, portable and scalable DBaaS offerings. MongoDB made a big bet on the cloud and on DBaaS. Today, I think that that bet is more than ever likely to pay off.