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Couchbase IPO brings NoSQL database to the stock market

Couchbase makes a move into the public markets with a Nasdaq listing as it continues to develop its NoSQL database technology that runs on premises and in the cloud.

Couchbase raised $200 million with its initial public offering on July 22 on the Nasdaq exchange, reflecting the growing popularity among enterprises of open source database-as-a-service technology.

The vendor, based in Santa Clara, Calif., develops a NoSQL database that is available in both on-premises and cloud versions.

Couchbase had previously raised a total of $251 million, with its most recent $105 million round closing in May 2020.

A key part of Couchbase's growth in recent years has been the rise of cloud database as a service. The vendor launched Couchbase Cloud in February 2020. With the IPO, Couchbase joins a series of other data vendors that have recently made the jump into the public markets, including Confluent, which went public on June 24.

In its form S-1 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Couchbase claimed that as of January 2021, about 80% of its customers used Couchbase as a system of record database for some or all of their business. Couchbase reported that it generated $103.3 million in revenue for its fiscal 2021 year for a 25% year-over-year gain.

The NoSQL segment of the database market has grown to generate total revenue of $4.9 billion in 2020, representing about 12% of the overall database market, according S&P Global Market Intelligence's 451 Research.

Couchbase's IPO puts it in the big leagues. It's no longer only competing for the NoSQL customer. Instead, it's setting its sights on Oracle.
Jason BloombergFounder and president, Intellyx

Industry analysts expressed optimism about Couchbase's prospects as it becomes a public company.

"Couchbase's IPO puts it in the big leagues," said Jason Bloomberg, founder and president at analyst firm Intellyx." It's no longer only competing for the NoSQL customer. Instead, it's setting its sights on Oracle."

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, said he also sees strong potential for Couchbase as organizations continue to rely on databases to build software and services.

"Couchbase is well positioned to be a strategic partner for enterprises building their next-generation applications with its NoSQL database," Mueller said. "The key for success is to provide high developer velocity, so more software can be built faster, and allowing enterprises to differentiate further."

Couchbase looking beyond just NoSQL

In recent years, Couchbase has been adding capabilities that enable transactional workloads that are often associated with relational databases.

"In my view, Couchbase has very impressive technology that goes a long way toward bridging the gap between the document and relational models by providing full JSON document support, while also offering functionality that SQL users expect," IDC analyst Carl Olofson said.

Analyst William McKnight of McKnight Consulting Group >noted that Couchbase Server today is a multimodel, multi-cloud database with the ability to be an in-memory object cache store, as well as a full JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) database.

"The platform has global distribution capabilities, supports transactions and has independent scaling of components," McKnight said. "These characteristics make Couchbase an attractive cloud platform for modern, global-scale workloads."

The path from CouchDB to the Couchbase IPO

The path toward IPO and the history of the Couchbase database itself has been somewhat meandering.

Couchbase itself was formed in 2011 as a merger of CouchOne and Membase. CouchOne was led by Damien Katz, founder of the open source Apache CouchDB database and provided a commercially supported version of the open source database.

Membase had its own open source NoSQL database at the time of the merger; the system used the open source Memcached caching technology.

Initially, Couchbase was somewhat related to the open source Apache CouchDB project but by the 2012 that was no longer the case, as the two technologies took different development paths. Over the last decade, Apache CouchDB and Couchbase have remained separate and have unrelated efforts, though they both have the noun "couch" as part of their names.

Couchbase improving NoSQL database technology

A key part of Couchbase's technology is the company's N1QL query language, a SQL-based query language for JSON, and was a key focus in the Couchbase 6.5 update in 2019.

Couchbase 6.5 also provided support for distributed atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability (ACID) transactions, which helps bridge the gap between SQL and NoSQL databases.

The next major release of the database is Couchbase 7.0. It is currently in preview and is set to further enhance support for ACID transactions with the N1QL query language.

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