We recently spoke to Matt Asay, VP of business strategy at MongoDB, to discuss the disruptive nature of NoSQL solutions, the advantages of an open-source approach, and what MongoDB's plans for the future are.
MongoDB is a NoSQL database with a focus on agility and scalability, helping organisations including The National Archives, The Guardian and Telefonica by providing a non-relational, open-source solution that allows for the management of data produced by modern applications.
This has made MongoDB a popular solution among the startup community in the UK, helping them to build their businesses around valuable data. As part of a vibrant and fast-moving sector, Asay enthused about the industry and his company's role in it during our Q&A.
Tech Radar Pro: With the database market dominated by the likes of Oracle and IBM, how is NoSQL challenging this established order?
Matt Asay: NoSQL started as a movement and has become less useful as a category definition. I say "less useful" because "NoSQL" describes an array of databases that are generally more different than similar.
Still, what NoSQL set out to describe was a shift away from the rigid, structured data of the past to a new world of unstructured, constantly changing data.
That's the world in which MongoDB lives and thrives. Most data today simply doesn't fit neatly into a relational database. Sure, given enough money and time you can force most data into the rows and columns of a relational database, but organisations are coming to realise that this is a very poor use of both resources and time.
So I'd actually rephrase your question: with today's data so clearly suited to a NoSQL, general purpose database like MongoDB, how can the likes of Oracle hope to remain relevant for modern applications?
Not because Oracle is a bad database - it's actually fantastic for yesterday's business needs. But because modern applications need a modern database like MongoDB.
TRP: What features does an open source solution like MongoDB have that proprietary offerings don't?
MA: It's not so much a set of features that MongoDB has versus, say, Oracle. Oracle has been around for 40 years. It has a wealth of functionality. What proprietary or open-source RDBMSs don't have, however, is the natural ability to handle unstructured and semi-structured data at scale.
Consider this: 90% of the world's data was created in the last two years, 80% of the world's data is unstructured, and unstructured data is growing at twice the rate of structured data.
Put that together and it's clear that the trends favour databases that are comfortable with messy data that doesn't fit neatly into the rows and columns of a relational database.
TRP: Was MongoDB designed specifically for web applications or does it have other use cases?
MA: Co-founder Dwight Merriman likes to describe MongoDB as the database he wishes he would have had back when he started DoubleClick, which he later sold to Google. It's not about web applications: it's about an entire new generation of modern applications that require an operational database.
One of the reasons MongoDB has been so popular is that it's a true, general purpose database that is useful in a broad array of use cases including content management, big data (including the database powering a new breed of internet of things applications), product and asset catalogs, and more.
TRP: Would you say that Europe is slower to adopt open source solutions than the rest of the world, or is it more open minded?
MA: The irony is that Europeans have been quickest to develop much of the leading open source technologies, but European companies have been slower to adopt than organisations in APAC or North America.
Things like Linux and MySQL were hatched by Europeans, yet their broadest adoption has been in the U.S. On a government level, however, Europe has definitely led over the U.S. Europe has long pointed to the benefits of using open source. Now it just needs European companies to listen more.
TRP: You received considerable funding in 2013 from a range of sources, how is this investment being used?
MA: While it's great that MongoDB has raised over $200 million, it's still quite small compared to the billions that Oracle and other legacy incumbents have at their disposal. The thing we have that our proprietary competitors do not is a vibrant, massive open-source community.
We're spending a great deal of money investing in an even bigger, stronger engineering team, but we're always mindful of the need to multiply our internal resources by the power of our external community.
In addition to engineering, we're expanding our footprint to Asia-Pacific and strengthening our presence further in EMEA. We're very fortunate to have the resources to be able to hire exceptional people everywhere.
Ultimately, it's people, not money, that will make MongoDB the most widely used database on the planet.
TRP: What does the rest of 2014 hold for MongoDB?
More and faster! In 2014 I expect to see a winnowing down of the NoSQL database population. Today, DB-Engines.com lists over 200 databases, many of them NoSQL databases. By the end of the year, the market will have settled on two to three primary NoSQL databases, similar to what happened in the relational database market.
MongoDB is currently the top NoSQL database by a considerable margin, and we want to make it even easier to embrace MongoDB by expanding our partner reach, widening our physical footprint throughout Europe and Asia-Pacific and constantly improving the core database.