Over the last few months I have spoken to many of the leaders in the so-called NoSQL movement. The latest member I have spoken to is Max Schireson, President of 10gen, developers of the MongoDB open source database. Like just about everyone in the NoSQL club, Max doesn’t really like the name or the tag.
Max says that calling non-relational databases NoSQL make it seem like they are anti-SQL or instead of SQL databases. According to Max, “you don’t define something but what it is not”. They are not meant to replace SQL databases, just another alternative. I don’t know, maybe we should just call this class of databases “big data DBs”
Whatever you call it, you can’t argue with the success of MongoDB and 10gen. MongoDB was the brainchild of Dwight Merriman and Eliot Horowitz. Merriman was a co-founder and CTO of DoubleClick, as well as the chief architect of Panther Express. He is the CEO of 10gen. Horowitz was an engineer at DoubleClick and then went on to found ShopWiki. He is the CTO of 10gen. Between them they have contributed a lot of the actual code to MongoDB which they started in 2007.
Merriman’s vision was to build a DB that would scale on commodity hardware and in the cloud. Their customers include names like Intuit, Shutterfly and foursquare. Like other NoSQL DBs, they really excel when the data needs and read/write loads are big. For this reason, they are perfectly suited to much of the social networking and big web based apps and networks that we all use today.
MongoDB’s popularity can also be judged by the attendance at their developer conferences both in San Francisco and New York. At their most recent they had over 800 attendees. 10gen is a key member of the vibrant NYC tech world too. They count among their investors Fred Wilson’s Union Square Ventures.
One thing that sets 10gen and MongoDB apart is their business model. They do not have a commercial version versus a community version. You can get a commercial license rather than the open source license MongoDB comes with from 10gen. However, that just denotes that you have purchased a support contract.
From a functionality standpoint there is not difference between the open source version and the commercial licensed version. I think that is great! On the other hand though it means 10gen will have to generate almost all of their revenue from service and support of the open source code. There are some who say that this model does not scale to build a truly successful company.
Whether 10gen has to eventually change the commercial license options versus the open source version or finds some other way to keep revenues growing, MongoDB is a great project in the club no one seems to want to be in, the NoSQL databases.