Yesterday it was announced that Apple has acquired FoundationDB. As you may imagine, I have been asked to comment on what this means for the NoSQL database industry and for those who are investing heavily in retooling their traditional database infrastructures with new technologies to meet the availability, scalability, and fault-tolerance characteristics required by the massive influx of data.
NoSQL databases are an increasingly critical part of enterprises’ ability to derive real business value from the massive amounts of data that users, devices and online systems generate. They are also an important part of the developers’ toolkits when building applications for the Internet of Things, a major contributor to this ever-growing body of data. Apple is acutely aware of the importance of being able to reliably scale to meet the real-time data needs of today’s global applications. The news of Apple’s intent to acquire FoundationDB greatly amplifies these points to a growing number of IT and engineering leaders.
Part of the comments around the announcement are the discussion of Open Source software both as an underpinning for enterprise infrastructure and as a viable business model. I contributed to a detailed discussion about the latter in a recent article on Silicon Angle entitled NoSQL market frames larger debate: Can open source be profitable?, noting that there is enormous opportunity for Open Source NoSQL companies if they can serve the specific needs of enterprise customers. We feel that we are doing so, and that our approximately 1:10 ratio of paying customers to Open Source users is an indicator of our solution’s value and the strength of our business. Our clear path to being cash-flow-positive includes a measured, strategic investment in R&D which is essential to ensuring Riak’s corporate viability for all customers who have, already, made multi-million dollar investments in their business critical workloads.
Unlike others, the core underpinnings of Riak as a distributed, multi-model data persistence platform are, and will remain, Open Source. Riak builds premium, enterprise-grade features atop this distributed infrastructure, and these features help us attract a higher percentage of paying customers than others in the industry.
Acquisition and consolidation — whether done to enhance technical capabilities, secure talent, or expand a company’s customer base — are essential to the high technology arena. The NoSQL space will be the focus of more of this activity than most in the coming year, given the amount of attention it has already received, with PwC naming NoSQL as one of the “surprising digital bets for 2015” and given the success of the HortonWorks IPO. Combine that buzz with the fact that a prominent database ranking tool lists more than 200 different database management systems, and we are certain to see more industry consolidation.
The decision to re-architect an existing enterprise data workload infrastructure is not one to be taken lightly. Riak’s commitment to Open Source, our commitment to long-term business viability, and our impressive list of customers making substantial investments, point to a bright future not only for our company but for those who choose Riak as a core underpinning of their persistence infrastructure. Apple’s acquisition of FoundationDB strongly validates the value of the solutions we offer and underscores the criticality of these technologies to companies that need to scale business-critical applications.