Open ... and Shut Increasingly the third standard within enterprises for databases, MongoDB, has been claiming a lot of victories lately. In relative terms, it has become the second-hottest skill to have on one's resume, right after HTML5, according to Indeed.com job trend data.
And despite plenty of hating on its technology, with one person telling me recently that "it sets database technology back 25 years," MongoDB continues to get deployed for numerous, large mission-critical applications.
So what does this mean for 10gen, MongoDB's primary corporate sponsor and developer? After all, "lots of users" don’t always translate into "lots of revenue" in open source land. In fact, it's often the case that the easier it is for developers to adopt and deploy open-source software, the less willing they are to pay for it.
I've termed this "the open source dilemma," and it has kept many an open source company from capitalizing on the popularity of the open-source projects they sponsor.
Not so at 10gen, as Max Schireson, 10gen's president and former executive at MarkLogic and Oracle, told me in a phone interview earlier this week. There are many reasons for 10gen's success, but one primary reason, and one that almost never gets mentioned, is the genius of 10gen's pricing strategy.
10gen has been on a tear, signing up over 500 paying customers, including Disney, Intuit, Craigslist, and Viacom, mirroring the broader NoSQL industry's shift into the enterprise market and away from its early-adopter web customers.
This translates into sales growing by more than 50 per cent sequentially in each of the past five quarters, which helped to attract a recent $42 million fifth round of funding.
Part of this success stems from the MongoDB technology. Or, rather, from how approachable that technology is. As Schireson describes it, MongoDB hasn't broken away from the rest of the NoSQL pack due to superior scalability, perhaps the primary aim of all NoSQL databases.
Rather, MongoDB shines because of its ease of use, whether a developer is using it in a large-scale application that spans hundreds or thousands of nodes, or in a single-server application that has no need for scale.
Even my friend who gnashed his teeth at MongoDB's alleged technology failings admitted that MongoDB is "fast to get started and a pleasure to use from the dev[eloper] perspective."
But all this MongoDB adoption simply fills the lead funnel for 10gen. It doesn't close sales.
What does help to close sales for 10gen is the real-time nature of the applications being built with MongoDB. Like a traditional open source vendor, 10gen offers support subscriptions. Unlike many open source companies, a significant percentage of MongoDB users will opt for a paid subscription given that the applications they're building tend to be real-time, mission-critical applications.
These customers can't afford downtime caused by the database. This is very different from other internally-facing technologies that are important but not necessarily real-time.
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