'Mobile First': Massive Innovation at the Hardware and Application Level

By Bob Wiederhold, CEO, Couchbase
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What significant changes did Big Data segment witness in 2013?  What did these changes mean to vendors and customers?

2013 was the first year big Internet companies and enterprises adopted NoSQL products for mission-critical applications in large numbers. From 2010 through 2012, NoSQL generally followed a developer-led, “grassroots” adoption pattern. While there certainly were some big deployments, the vast majority of those deployments were relatively small and few were for mission-critical applications.

That changed in a big way in 2013.  Many big Internet companies and enterprises had sufficiently good grassroots experience with NoSQL that they began deep, strategic evaluations of NoSQL products, selected a winner, and did massive deployments. Unsurprisingly, things like scalability, performance and reliability were much more important in these mission-critical evaluations than they were for grassroots adoption and this produced some big surprises in the vendors that were chosen.

What are some of the changes you had anticipated would happen in 2013 but did not?

I thought there would be more consolidation in the NoSQL industry than there actually was – I think I was a year off.  By the end of 2012, clear leaders had emerged in the NoSQL industry. Couchbase, MongoDB and DataStax had significantly separated themselves from the rest of the pack and smaller players were finding it harder and harder to keep up with the product and distribution channel investments made by the larger players. This is what happens in every rapidly growing industry, and it is usually followed by rapid consolidation. In a venture-financed industry that means the companies that are trailing the leaders find it increasing difficult to get additional financing and they begin to look for acquirers – or go belly up.  It was a year off.  I think it will definitely happen this year.

Can you paint us the picture of how the landscape for this industry segment will change in 2014? What are some of the broader trends you are closely watching?

The database industry has become schizophrenic:

At the server level, the requirements of Internet-scale web applications, coupled with the shift to loosely coupled cloud architectures, have driven more innovation in the last few years than the 20 years prior.

Everywhere we read about “mobile first.” In this arena we have seen massive innovation at the hardware and application level. No one uses a phone that resembles the one they had in the 1990s, but the database on the modern phone is almost identical to one from the previous decade.

Mobile operating systems by themselves lack the data handling capabilities necessary for sophisticated mobile apps in the enterprise. This makes mobile database products essential for mobile app development. 2014 will see the mobile database innovation catch-up with that of the server. JSON has become a standard for mobile application development. In 2014 we see a trend to JSON Anywhere - JSON on the device, JSON on the wire and JSON in the database. Native ultra-lightweight NoSQL databases will start to become the platform of choice for developers developing next generation data intensive applications exploiting the power of modern phones.

How will the customer spend change in 2014 for the Big Data segment?

2013 marked the first year that big Internet companies and enterprises deployed NoSQL under mission-critical applications in large numbers. That trend will accelerate significantly in 2014. Since most of these mission-critical applications are currently using relational databases from Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and MySQL, this represents a major shift in spending from legacy database players to the emerging NoSQL companies.

Since open source NoSQL products are generally believed to be 70 to 80 percent cheaper than proprietary relational products, every $1 spent on NoSQL means $4 - $5 less to the legacy players. It’s no wonder Oracle’s database revenues are under increasing pressure. Add similar pressures in the Hadoop market and these changing spending patterns will have more and more noticeable effects on the big guys.

What's in store for your company in 2014?

We believe that when we look back at 2014, we will see database innovation on the mobile device catch up with what has been happening on the server over the last few years. This will be driven by the continuing shift to mobile by both consumers and enterprises:

·       By 2014, the mobile Internet is predicted to take over desktop Internet usage.
·       By the end of 2014, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people.
·       Sixty-four percent of enterprises predict mobile development projects will out-number web development projects.
·       The number of smartphone users worldwide is predicted to exceed 1 billion by 2014.

A recent statistic showed the power of the iPhone 5S was equal to all of the compute power in the world in the 1960s. This begs the question, “When will the sum of the compute power on mobile devices surpass all of the compute power in the cloud?”

Developers need to be able to exploit this potential with next-generation, data intensive apps powered by next-generation mobile databases where sync is the norm. JSON has become a standard for mobile application development. In 2014, we see a trend to “JSON Anywhere” – JSON on the device, JSON on the wire and JSON in the database.

We believe that Couchbase has a unique opportunity to dominate the mobile database market as it shifts to JSON and NoSQL for mobile.

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