Couchbase CEO: Database technology yet to be truly transformed

The NoSQL database vendor Couchbase is looking to strike a balance between innovating to keep up with ever-growing data volumes, while also keeping its customers happy from release to release.

Scott Carey Jun 15th 2018
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The NoSQL database vendor Couchbase is looking to strike a balance between innovating to keep up with ever-growing data volumes, while also keeping its customers happy from release to release.

As CEO, Matt Cain is acutely aware of this balancing act, as well as maintaining its open source roots in the face of increasing demands to turn a healthy profit.

Speaking to Computerworld UK during Couchbase's Connect EU event in London yesterday, Cain said: "If you were to zero in on databases in general I do think we are seeing a massive market transition.

"Having looked at the market it is one of the single largest areas of technology spend in the stack and I would go even further and suggest that if you analyse the various layers of the stack, database is the single largest that has yet to be transformed.

"Why is that? Because it is on the critical path of supporting applications that run a company's business. So without a really compelling event enterprises have been somewhat resistant or reluctant to changing out that fundamental layer. We are at the point now with the transformation of all things digital that they are left with no choice but to do so."

Cain is constantly looking for a sense of balance at the company: investing in what's next vs what customers want right now; maintaining its open source community standing vs commercialising its technology.

"I think as a company pursuing the largest enterprises in the world and supporting their most mission critical applications, we are constantly thinking about next generation innovation and of course there is an element of ensuring we are at the forefront of world-leading technology," he said.

"Not only are we keeping up with the growth of data but doing so in a way that allows our customers to fundamentally alter the way they are doing business but also being mindful of their operating challenges, that is a delicate balance we fight every day."

Then, when it comes to the open source community that allowed Couchbase to get to this point, Cain said: "I think we are certainly an open source company and it is very important to us to leverage those open source roots to enable both the developer community and enterprises themselves to benefit from our open source versions and all the benefits that brings.

"At the same time we do invest in enterprise versions of our software where we bring levels of support and SLAs where we have to invest in at the next level to ensure customers can be successful with their mission critical applications running on those.

"It's something we constantly think about: doing right by our open source community while making sure we are doing the things to be a responsible, very durable software company to invest resources in next generation innovation to be in service of our customers."

IPO

The idea of an IPO has hovered around Couchbase for some time now, and again reared its head when rival vendor MongoDB went public last year.

At the time Couchbase chief financial officer Greg Henry said: "MongoDB is on track to become the first IPO in the non-Hadoop big data space, which stands as a pivotal milestone for the industry and provides more validation that there is life beyond analytical and relational databases."

So, is Couchbase eyeing an IPO? Cain wasn't biting, giving the boilerplate CEO response: "Obviously becoming a public company is often synonymous with companies who are viable over the long term and we will be ready to take that step at the right point in our journey.

"At the same time, as stewards of the company, we are doing everything we need to be along every step of the journey to the point where we think it is in the best interest of our shareholders, customers and employees."

What's new in Couchbase?

The amount of capability Couchbase is investing in can be overwhelming. Speaking on stage during the morning keynote, SVP of product management Scott Anderson broke down the features the company is releasing for Couchbase Mobile 2.0 and Couchbase Server 5.5 next month, focusing on developers, architects and devops professionals.

Summarising that, Cain said the focus for Couchbase is "everything from increasing speed and performance to adding analytics to different consumption models with managed cloud, core operations with the Kubernetes integration. So we are taking a pretty robust approach.

"At the same time though we have to invest resources to support our customers so how do we ensure they are successful with that broad array of capabilities and when they are running a mission-critical application on the Couchbase platform they are doing so with confidence."