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2/8/2011
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NoSQL Firms CouchOne, Membase Merge To Become Couchbase

With complementary strengths, the startup firms behind CouchDB and Memcached will pool efforts for the next push in big data handling systems.

Big data handling companies CouchOne and Membase have merged to form Couchbase.

Membase, a large data management system based on open source Memcached, is employed by Zynga for its Farmville, Mafia Wars, and other online social games. Zynga hosts 250 million active visitors a month and must capture each user's actions in the game, producing a database measured in the hundreds of terabytes and "approaching a petabyte," said Phillips. Zynga operates about 1,000 servers running Membase in San Francisco, he said.

CouchOne, the company behind the open source document database CouchDB, has distributed a supported version of the open source database, a NoSQL system that uses Java's JSON-based objects or "documents" as a standard unit of data. It is frequently invoked behind blogging systems for its ability to store thousands of items of unstructured data as documents. It is distributed as part of Canonical's Ubuntu Linux. CouchOne, founded in November 2009, has about 200 customers paying for technical support and consulting services.

The two companies combined will have 35 employees, roughly half from each, and plan to produce an integrated product in the next 6 to 12 months. By pooling existing resources, Couchbase will have $17 million in venture capital funding, "with the majority of it still in the bank," said James Phillips, senior VP of products at Membase. Membase was founded in January 2009 as Northscale; it changed its name to Membase as it brought out a data management product last year.

The combination was "a merger of equals," said Phillips, who will be VP of products in the new firm. Bob Weiderhold, current CEO of Membase, will become CEO of Couchbase. Damien Katz, current CTO of CouchDB, will become CTO of Couchbase. The board of directors, however, will be the current board of Membase, he said. A check of previous reports indicates that Membase raised the larger share of the $17 million in venture capital, although precise figures on what came from where were not available. The two firms' technologies are highly complementary, said Katz. Couch concentrates on distributing data to processors across a cluster and storing the results on server disks. Membase, on the other hand, concentrates on pulling data into server memory and pooling the memories of many servers in a large server cluster to handle larger amounts of data at one time.

"It's amazing how well our strengths complement each other," said Katz. He and Phillips met at a conference in December and have been talking merger since. Each said the other possessed the technology that was its next highest priority research and development target. By combining, they will be able to devote engineering staff to moving beyond the capabilities of the two systems, Katz said.

The venture capital firms Acel Partners, the Mayfield Fund, and Northbridge Venture Partners funded Membase, along with Zynga. CouchOne was backed by a group lead by Redpoint Ventures. All will become shareholders in the new Couchbase.

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