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7/23/2013
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CouchDB Gets Cloudant's 'Super-Size Me' Scaling

Cloudant code donation goes into Apache Foundation project to give CouchDB greater scale-out capabilities.

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Startup Cloudant took the Apache's Software Foundation's CouchDB NoSQL system and developed it into an online database service, BigCouch. On July 22, Cloudant took the technology that allows it to horizontally cluster and scale BigCouch and gave it back to the foundation.

Cloudant will cease to develop BigCouch on its own, concentrating instead on participating in the CouchDB open source code project and keeping BigCouch characteristics integrated with it. Cloudant then will use CouchDB code for its online service.

In general, CouchDB is installed and used on premises, like other software database products. Cloudant's donation and participation in the project may change that, although some observers are skeptical that many CouchDB users are looking for CouchDB as an online service.

Cloudant's primary business is offering CouchDB as a service, while the open source effort so far has produced code that's used on premises. They are "two different businesses," noted Curt Monash, of Monash Research and blogger on the database and NoSQL site, DBMS2.com. "If you want to use BigCouch or any other CouchDB variant on your own...you're pretty much on your own," he wrote in an email message.

CouchDB is one of several NoSQL systems that were once referred to as document databases. CouchDB, unlike a relational database system, does not store the data in tables. It stores and manages data as documents in the form of JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) objects. They can be sorted and indexed and called up for the user through JavaScript queries.

In addition, CouchDB is a multi-version concurrency control system so that thousands or hundreds of thousands of concurrent users can get the data they request without facing a wait time due to locks on the database. CouchDB achieves eventual consistency of data rather than relational database's constant consistency.

[Want to learn more about how Cloudant launched its NoSQL system as a service? See Joynent Offers NoSQL Database As A Service.]

Cloudant's Database as a Service was launched on Joyent in the second half of March.

CouchDB was born in 2005 as a project of Damien Katz, a former Lotus Notes programmer. It was the eve of the cloud era and its name is an acronym for "cluster of unreliable commodity hardware," one of the concepts behind organizing cloud data centers and software. It became an Apache project in 2008 and the first stable release appeared in July 2010.

BigCouch was developed in 2008 by early users of CouchDB at MIT who were employing it to handle the big data coming out of the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. Alan Hoffman, Adam Kocoloski, and Michael Miller became the founders of Cloudant and moved the CouchDB code in the direction of horizontal clustering.

Travell Perkins, CTO at Fidelity Investments, paid tribute to their work in the July 22 announcement of the code being donated back to Apache. "I've tried a lot of NoSQL solutions over the years with varying degrees of success. After working with the distributed clustering capabilities being built into CouchDB, I think we are approaching the ideal JSON-centric database for enterprise workloads at scale," he said.

CouchDB is also considered a good system for synching data between different systems, such as an application on a mobile device and a central database on a data center server. CouchDB has "an elegant programming model, data durability and flexible indexing," said Kocoloski in the announcement. Those attributes make it easier for applications to "replicate or synch data across data centers or devices," he said.

With the Cloudant-improved version of CouchDB, "developers have more options for moving data closer to their users and a simpler strategy for synchronizing that data throughout a larger system," said Jan Lehnardt, chair of the Project Management Committee at the Apache foundation, in Monday's announcement.

Cloudant engineers will be responsible for merging the horizontal scaling and fault-tolerant framework of BigCouch into CouchDB. "It's our way of saying thanks and growing the community," said Kocoloski.

Cloud Connect, taking place Oct 21-23, 2013, offers three days of in-depth boot camps, panel discussions and access to a host of industry experts, all designed to help you weigh your cloud options and transform your business. Use Priority Code MPIWK by July 28 to save an extra $200 off the Early Bird price of Conference Passes. Register for Cloud Connect now.

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