What Do I Use This For? 270,000 Apps

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Graham Neray
June 24, 2014
Category: Company

“Would you rather run 10 different databases, or run one database in 10 different ways?” - Charity Majors, Parse/Facebook.

When introduced to a new technology, would-be users often want to know, ‘So, what should I use this for?’ At MongoDB, we like to say, ‘MongoDB is a general purpose database good for a wide variety of applications.’ While this may be true, it of course doesn’t help the would-be user with her original question: ‘So, what do I use this for?’ Fair enough.

In the evening keynote at MongoDB World, Charity Majors offered a response better than any MongoDB employee could have conjured up. Charity is the Production Engineer at Parse (now part of Facebook), a mobile backend-as-a-service that “allows you to build fully featured mobile apps without having to sully your pure mind with things like data models and indexes.” And it runs on MongoDB.

Parse runs and scales more apps than even the most sprawling enterprises. 270,000 apps. The number of developers using Parse is growing at 250% per year; the number of API requests is growing at 500% annually. They serve every kind of workload under the sun. “We don’t know what any app’s workload is going to look like, and neither do the developers,” says Charity. And as Parse goes, so goes MongoDB.

The diversity of workloads that Parse runs on MongoDB is testament to the canonical ‘general purpose’ argument. With 270,000 different apps running on MongoDB, it should be clear that you can use it for, at the very least, a lot of different use cases. But Charity’s rousing speech offered an implicit response to the use case question cited above. ‘What do I use this for?’ begs a different but arguably more important question that Charity suggests users ask themselves: ‘What can I not use this for?’ That is, when choosing a technology -- especially a database -- users should be looking for the most reusable solution.

“Would you rather run 10 different databases, or run one database in 10 different ways?” Charity asked the audience. “There is no other database on the planet that can run this number of workloads.”

While most companies don’t need a database that works for 270,000 applications at once, every developer, sysadmin, DBA, startup, and Fortune 500 enterprise faces the same questions as Parse but on its own scale. Given a limited amount of time and money, how many databases do you want to learn how to use? How many databases do you want in production? How many vendor relationships do you want to manage? How many integration points do you want to build? Assuming one database works for most if not all use cases, what is that worth to you?

These are all flavors of what we’ll now call ‘The Parse’ question. To those in search of a solution, we suggest you take a look at MongoDB. And if you’re still unsure, we can try to put you in touch with Charity. But no promises -- she’s a bit of a celebrity these days.


Some other delectable quotes from Charity’s keynote because...we just couldn’t resist:

“Holy #%& there are so many people here.”

“I’ve been coming to MongoDB conferences for almost 2 years now, and they just keep getting better.”

“Speaking as a highly seasoned operations professional...I hate software for a living, and I’m pretty good at it.”

“Reliability, Flexibility, Automation.” (The 3 things she loves about MongoDB.)

“When I talk about reliability, I’m talking about reliability through resiliency...you should never have to care about the health of any individual nodes, you should only have to care about the health of the service.”

“Scalability is about more than just handling lots of requests really fast. It’s about building systems that don’t scale linearly in terms of the incremental cost to maintain them.”

“The story of operations is the story of dealing with failures. And this is why MongoDB is great, because it protects you from failures. And when your database lets you sleep through the night, how bad can it be?”

“May your nights be boring; may your pagers never ring.”

To see all MongoDB World presentations, visit the MongoDB World Presentations page.

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