What the FoundationDB Acquisition Means for the NoSQL Industry

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Adam_WrayIn this special guest feature, Adam Wray of Basho Technologies reflects on the implications of the recent acquisition of FoundationDB by Apple and what’s in store for the NoSQL industry in general. Adam Wray is CEO and President of Basho Technologies, a distributed systems company that develops a key-value NoSQL database technology, Riak, and an object storage system that is built on the Riak platform, called Riak CS. He is a cloud enterprise technology entrepreneur and executive with more than 20 years of experience. He has led a variety of companies at different stages, holding the positions of CEO, president, GM and product management. Most recently, Wray served as the CEO and president of Tier 3, where he led the company through nearly $20 million in funding from venture capitalists and grew the company from a startup with a small client portfolio and revenue stream to an eight figure annual run-rate ($10M+).

The need for NoSQL databases is real and growing. Many enterprises are investing heavily in retooling their traditional database infrastructures with new technologies to meet the real-time data needs of today’s global applications. Increasingly, NoSQL is becoming a critical part of enterprises’ ability to derive real-time business value from the massive amount of data that users, devices and online systems generate. The news of Apple’s acquisition of FoundationDB validates that NoSQL is ready for prime time in the enterprise, and that increasingly large companies see the strategic value of these technologies (even to the point of needing to own the IP outright).

The Open Source Debate

Much of the discussion surrounding the acquisition has been related to open source software repositories being pulled post the acquisition – some see it as a sign that open source, though mainstream, is fraught with risk, while others see Apple’s interest as validation of the open source movement impacting enterprise’s strategic initiatives. From my perspective, open source presents an enormous opportunity to accelerate your core business through trial and error like never before.

Open source NoSQL companies that focus on building a highly available, scalable and reliable platform with the ability to handle massive workloads have the underpinning to become the next generation of enterprise infrastructure. Offerings that go beyond open source with a licensed version, enterprise-grade features and additional support further strengthen the business model opportunities for enterprises to leverage. As companies start to realize the business value that NoSQL offerings can deliver, they’ll become more willing to invest in additional support and services to help maximize their own initiatives.

Although FoundationDB discontinued software downloads, companies shouldn’t let that discourage them from building or using a variety of open source software options. Enterprises should be willing to experiment and run pilot projects with an array of open source solutions to see what best fits their workload needs. The one lesson that is worth learning from this is to ask about the client reach of the sponsoring company and whether their critical mass ensures long term engagement options regardless of whether the parent company stays independent or not.

What’s Next for NoSQL?

The reality is that traditional relational databases can’t meet the requirements for massive scalability, speed and fault-tolerance demanded by todays globally distributed applications. The industry used to think investing in distributed systems for workloads needs was only something large companies like an Amazon or Google needed to consider. However, the Internet of Things (IoT), connected devices, and the resulting deluge of unstructured data, is forcing companies of all sizes – from the startup to the large enterprise – to consider these concepts.

Gartner predicts that in 2015, enterprises will spend over $40 billion designing, implementing and operating IoT. NoSQL will play a major role in the development of applications for IoT due to its ability to reliably scale to meet users real-time data needs. The FoundationDB acquisition clearly illustrates that Apple is aware that NoSQL is up to the challenges of big data.

In the coming year, I expect the NoSQL space to be the focus of more M&A activity than most, as more enterprises realize it’s the most cost-effective and sometimes only way to ensure their big data applications perform at scale, and additional large vendors seek to enter the market through acquisition. These acquisitions and consolidation – whether to enhance technical capabilities, secure talent, or expand a company’s customer base – are essential to the high technology arena. With a prominent database ranking tool listing more than 200 different database management systems and PwC naming NoSQL one of the “surprising digital bets for 2015,” NoSQL is bound to attract the investment attention of many in 2015.


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  1. Akmal Chaudhri says

    There are lots of other issues to consider as well, such as skills and the staying power of vendors. I have collected public data over the past few years. Summary in Section 2: https://speakerdeck.com/abchaudhri/considerations-for-using-nosql-technology-on-your-next-it-project-1