Couchbase Takes NoSQL Mobile

Couchbase JSON Anywhere strategy brings NoSQL database to iOS, Android and the cloud, challenging SAP and MongoDB in the process.

Couchbase, the support provider behind the open-source NoSQL database of the same name, is trying to get ahead of mobile application demand with a new three-part "JSON Anywhere" strategy announced Friday.

Couchbase is a key value document store that can read and write data in easy-to-understand Java Script Object Notation, a format that supports the semi-structured and variably structured data often encountered in Internet and mobile applications. The goal of JSON Anywhere is to support the format on a broad swath of mobile devices and help meet the massive shift toward mobile computing.

Part one of the strategy is Couchbase Lite, a new, lightweight mobile version of the database supporting iOS and Android devices and native HTML5 application programming interfaces.

"Having a local database gives you much better response times and it ensures that applications are always available because you're not dependent on a network connection to access your data," said Couchbase CEO Bob Wiederhold in a phone interview with InformationWeek. "We think mobile app developers building data-intensive applications are going to want a local database."

[ What are the real limits of NoSQL performance? Read The Man Who Tortures Databases. ]

Couchbase is not alone in this thinking. JSON Anywhere echoes SAP's Sybase SQL Anywhere mobile strategy (developed years ago by Sybase) that features a lightweight, SQL Anywhere mobile relational database.

Part two of the strategy is the Couchbase Sync Gateway, an optional companion component to the Couchbase Server that syncs mobile Couchbase Lite-empowered devices with centralized Couchbase databases. Syncing is one of the hard parts of supporting offline-capable mobile applications, so the Gateway is intended to save developers time and trouble, according to Wiederhold.

"Users are going to want to sync between mobile devices, sync to cloud databases for replication, and sync whenever you have multi-user applications where you want to share information among a group of users," he said. "The Gateway gives developers super-reliable, feature-rich options for all three scenarios."

The third component of the strategy is Couchbase Cloud, a mobile database-as-a-service sandbox environment that will let would-be developers give the mobile technology a try without having to set up or manage a Couchbase Sync Gateway or Couchbase Server.

"We've set it all up and you simply log into service, set up a database and plop some code on top of the Gateway to do syncing the way you want to and you're off and running," Wiederhold explained.

Couchbase Lite and the Couchbase Sync Gateway are now in beta and are expected to be generally released in the first quarter of 2014. The company is taking a wait-and-see approach on Couchbase Cloud, offering a free, experimental sandbox environment for now in anticipation of new mobile services from cloud service partners. Couchbase has also launched a JSON Anywhere partner program for both enterprise- and consumer-app-oriented development firms. Five initial partners include Appcelerator, Apperian, Adobe PhoneGap, Sencha and Xamarin. "If you look at the Gartner Magic Quadrant, all of these firms are among the leaders and together they have millions of developers," said Wiederhold.

There's no shortage of mobile relational databases, with IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and others offering light databases for structured data. Wiederhold says Couchbase is ahead of the NoSQL crowd, and particularly rival MongoDB, in offering a mobile option for JSON data modeling. "If you want to use a NoSQL approach with relational databases, you have to go through data transformations, so we think this is going to be huge," he said.

IBM and MongoDB announced in Junethat they are collaborating on a new standard to give mobile developers the ability to bridge data managed on IBM DB2 systems to mobile apps designed to run on MongoDB.

The new mobile standard, which was set for release this quarter, will open up IBM mobile (Eclipse and Worklight) development options and enable MongoDB applications to run on DB2. That's not creating an end-to-end JSON environment from devices to centralized databases, as does the Couchbase strategy, but it does create a link to enterprise data managed in the SQL world.

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