Reshaping the database market

Today I joined Ed Albanese (Cloudera), Kurt Daniel (Microsoft), Ron Avnur (MarkLogic), and Joe Morrissey (Oracle/MySQL) at 10gen, the MongoDB company, and I couldn’t be happier. Given that I’ll be showing up on this blog relatively often, I wanted to quickly call out the reasons I joined, which reasons also point to why so many people use MongoDB.

Most importantly, it’s about the community.

There are many ways to measure community, but by any metric the MongoDB community is huge, enthusiastic, and growing. In the continued global climate of economic distress, I particularly love to see real jobs being created for MongoDB developers. Lots and lots of jobs.

There are several reasons the MongoDB community has grown so fast in such a short period of time. I credit the 10gen engineering team, in concert with the MongoDB community, for building a product that is super-easy to use, with rich documentation to sign-post the way for new users. I know of no database that offers the power and scalability that MongoDB does, and yet remains highly approachable to new users. (And for those running MongoDB at serious scale, and there are many, 10gen is working to make that process painless.)

But an easy-to-use database would still fail to gain traction if there weren’t compelling reasons to switch from incumbent databases.

Traditional relational databases like Oracle simply can’t match the scalability of NoSQL-style databases like MongoDB. They also increasingly don’t fit the way applications store and access data. Developers may not be able to define data fields and formats The One True Way from app inception, and don’t want to have to hire an army of database administrators to mop up whenever changes are required. NoSQL databases like MongoDB allow for far more flexibility in schema design.

For this reason, while we of course compete at times with other NoSQL databases, the real battle is elsewhere, as 10gen president Max Schireson articulates:

By far our most important competitor is Oracle. After that it's Oracle, Oracle and Oracle. I see other NoSQL players such as DataÂ_Stax [distributor of Apache's Cassandra] and CouchDB as comrades in arms in the battle to persuade people that the answer does not have to be Oracle.

Oracle is a formidable competitor. It generates tens of billions of dollars of revenue each year. Yet I’ve only ever met one IT executive that was enthusiastic about buying from the behemoth (Looking at you, Niel!). And Oracle’s database simply can’t do what MongoDB can do. Not at the speed, scale, and price that MongoDB can.

Which makes it so exciting to be at 10gen now, when there’s a $30 billion database market sitting before us, underserved by outdated database technology that doesn’t fit modern application requirements.

Innovator’s Dilemma, anyone?

Posted by Matt Asay, vice president of Corporate Strategy