One of the key elements that helps to enable open source software applications to gain broader enterprise usage is the availability of commercial support options. In the case of the open source MongoDB NoSQL database, that commercial support is now coming from project backer 10gen.
The NoSQL movement is an emerging market of databases that are positioned as alternatives to traditional relational databases (RDBMS) . With the new official commercial support for MongoDB, 10gen is looking to help grow the open source MongoDB community -- and strengthen its position against competitors like MySQL and Oracle -- by providing support and training.
At the helm of 10gen is CEO and Co-Founder Dwight Merriman, himself no stranger to the needs of highly scalable databases. Merriam was the co-founder of the DoubleClick online ad network (now owned by Google) and helped to create its ad-serving system.
"One thing we noticed at DoubleClick is that traditional database tools didn't have the scaling and performance characteristics we wanted," Merriman told InternetNews.com." What we've been doing at 10gen -- and 10gen started the MongoDB project -- is basically trying to build a database that is horizontally scalable that also makes software development easier for the use-cases for which it is suited."
Merriman said there's already tremendous interest in MongoDB, which he said gets approximately 30,000 downloads a month. Among the big sites that currently use MongoDB is the SourceForge open source project repository.
10gen had previously providing support and training previously under an early beta program, but the new effort marks the launch full, 24/7 commercial support for enterprise use, Merriman said.
While commercial models like "open core" -- in which the core of the project is open source, and commercial enterprise versions and support layer additional, proprietary bits on top -- are proving popular, 10gen's support is for MongoDB project's open source code in its entirety.
"Currently, everything is in the free product, and that is the plan for now," Merriman said. "In the future, we'll look at whatever makes sense, but right now the only thing we're selling is commercial support and training."
Merriman added that users most often tend to need support for strategic issues around replication and database design. He also said support comes in handy for users who are migrating from other databases, particularly MySQL and Oracle. MongoDB on its own includes import and export tools; however, Merriam said MongoDB doesn't use SQL , which is where migrating users will need to write some new code. Instead of SQL, MongoDB uses JSON , which Merriman noted offers many of the same types of query operations.
In terms of making things easier for developers, Merriman said that in his view the basic tools -- administrative shell and utilities -- are all part of the core MongoDB application, though there are lots of administrative user interfaces for MongoDB that are also available in the community.
Sharding ahead in MongoDB 1.6
Though the MongoDB project last week released MongoDB 1.4, the big focus for Merriman now is on the 1.6 release, which should be out in the next 90 days, he said. One of the key new capabilities expected to debut in MongoDB 1.6 is a feature called sharding, which enables a database to be partitioned into smaller pieces, or "shards," to better facilitate scalability.
Sharding has become a key way for databases to adapt to deployments like private or public clouds. For instance, Merriman explained that MongoDB 1.6 is taking a sharding approach similar to the one Google uses in its BigTable database.
Looking beyond MongoDB 1.6, Merriman doesn't see many challenges looming for the open source project other than trying to continue the evolution of the database.
"We need to move forward with a series of releases that continue to mature the product," Merriman said. "It's early days in the space, but we just got to keep executing."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.