December 13, 2011

Couchbase 2011 Year in Review

The end of a year is always a good time to reflect on the year gone by, assess what has gone well and what hasn’t, and chart your course for the New Year. This morning we issued a press release recapping some of our accomplishments for the year, but I’d like to provide more commentary on what we’ve learned in the past year and take the opportunity to paint a clear picture of what our customers and users can expect from us in 2012.

Reflections on 2011

Merger of Membase and CouchOne

We’ve come such a long way in a year that it’s hard to remember that just a year ago Membase and CouchOne were still independent companies with about 15 employees apiece. Each had attained significant success on their own but the merger that formed Couchbase in February was clearly the event that kicked off a remarkable year.  The merger generated huge interest among application developers who loved the simple, fast, and elastic characteristics of Membase Server but wanted index and query functionality as well.

Acceleration of Membase Server Adoption

The Membase Server update release in February was a big hit with the community of application developers and our business grew very rapidly as a result. While we had good reason to believe we were “on to something” with Membase Server, it was difficult to predict just how much interest we’d find in the market. In fact, we added thousands of open source deployments, as well as more than 150 paying customers who have put thousands of nodes into production throughout the year.

Rising Interest in Mobile

Mobile synchronization turned out to be incredibly interesting to our customers as well. As an independent company CouchOne had begun shifting its focus to the mobile opportunity but the Couchbase merger seemed to accelerate interest in this capability.  We are now clearly in the post-PC era. Mobile devices are increasingly where we create and consume the bulk of our information but the cloud is where data is aggregated, processed, enriched, and durably stored. It isn’t a surprise that customers are seeking a NoSQL solution that provides bi-directional mobile-to-cloud data synchronization and that they view our mobile technology as strategic to these efforts. The announcement of our strategic relationship with Docomo (and subsequent strategic investment) is just the first of what we expect to be many important customer announcements in this area.

Unintentional Market Confusion

Not everything went as we hoped or expected, however. Unfortunately, we confused the heck out of many of our potential users. In addition to Membase Server and our new mobile products we also offered Couchbase Single Server which was a packaged “distribution” of Apache CouchDB. On top of that we began releasing developer previews of Couchbase Server 2.0, which incorporated CouchDB technology into Membase Server – but this product was not compatible with Couchbase Single Server (or CouchDB). If you are confused just reading this you get the point – and so do we.

Looking Ahead to 2012

Going forward, we are going to invest heavily in the direction that the bulk of our community and users are driving us. Simply put, we’ll focus on one thing: delivering the world’s best simple, fast, and elastic document-oriented database that has a mobile data synchronization capability. Focusing on this one thing has some implications. 

One Product, One Name

First, our single flagship product will be Couchbase Server. Membase Server will be renamed Couchbase Server 1.8 on its next release in January – a tiny step that simply alleviates “name” confusion.  As has been planned from the beginning, the Couchbase Server 2.0 release (currently at Developer Preview 3) will add index and query functionality.  While Couchbase Server 2.0 will incorporate substantial technology from the CouchDB project, it will not be upward compatible with CouchDB and it shouldn’t be viewed as a “version of CouchDB.”

Discontinuation of Couchbase Single Server

Second, Couchbase Single Server, our CouchDB distribution, will be discontinued effective in January. We have come to believe the Apache Software Foundation is a better place for the continued development of CouchDB and frankly it is clear to us that having our own packaging only served to confuse the market. We plan to contribute the packaging and documentation we built to the Apache CouchDB project where it can be put to good use by the community. Our developers, particularly those originally with CouchOne, will continue to be big contributors to CouchDB. But, as I said earlier, our singular company focus will be on Couchbase Server.

Mobile Capabilities

Instead of offering separately packaged mobile products, we will provide mobile synchronization as a feature of Couchbase Server. We will combine our current mobile offerings – Couchbase Mobile for iOS and Couchbase Mobile for Android – into a unified offering called Mobile SyncPoint. An add-on to Couchbase Server, Mobile SyncPoint will provide both server- and client-side technologies permitting the development of native iOS and Android applications that can synchronize with Couchbase Server. The goal is to collect data on mobile devices, deliver that data to a Couchbase cluster in the cloud or datacenter, and then deliver the right data back down to mobile users when and where it is needed.

We’ve had great success over the last year and we’ve learned a lot.  It’s clear where the bulk of the community and customers want us to focus our energies and where we’ve confused people.  We think the changes we’ve made to our product plans are the right steps for continued success.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a great 2012.

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