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MongoDB Atlas footprint grows bigger with Azure, Google cloud support

MongoDB has expanded cloud coverage for its Atlas hosted database service, with Azure and Google versions joining an initial AWS-based offering to give users a choice on cloud platforms.

CHICAGO -- MongoDB Atlas staked its claim as a multicloud database as a service this week, formally expanding from...

its original AWS footing to include Microsoft Azure and Google cloud support.

At the same time that eponymously named originator MongoDB Inc. extended MongoDB Atlas, it also released new MongoDB Stitch developer tools designed to streamline back-end development of the open source NoSQL database in the cloud.

MongoDB Atlas was released last year in a clear acknowledgement that the cloud was becoming a place to be for NoSQL databases like MongoDB. Cloud platforms leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) was an obvious first choice for the hosted service. But the company's relatively fast follow-up with support for other platforms could make Atlas more appealing to data managers who are intent on keeping their cloud options open and avoiding lock-in.

"The cloud has to be where everybody is going. That is true whether you are relational or nonrelational," IDC analyst Carl Olofson said at MongoDB World 2017 here, where the Atlas update and Stitch debut were announced.

Olofson labeled the cloud "the platform of the future" for most enterprise data processing, while admitting some exceptions for data that "absolutely has to be in a certain physical location."

In search of 'tiki-boom' databases

While developers working in DevOps style have taken on a greater role in database administration, there is also a drive to simplify or eliminate such tasks, especially when moving databases to the cloud.

Bjorn Freeman-Benson, CTO at MongoDB Atlas user InVisionApp Inc., said the service has freed up developers from some of the database management tasks they had assumed over time. "We used to have to install the MongoDB server on AWS ourselves," he said. "Now, we just make calls to Atlas, it stands up a new Mongo database, and we connect our services to that database. Tiki-boom, and we are off and going."

Freeman-Benson said database setup work isn't a productive use of time for developers at InVisionApp, a New York company that offers cloud-based software for designing web and mobile applications. "We'd rather see our engineers focus on value that they can add for our customers -- adding features, rather than building infrastructure that can be commoditized," he continued.

MongoDB's database has beneficial scalability, according to Freeman-Benson. He said that's important in supporting access requirements for pools of users that can be very spiky, requiring fast scale-up and scale-down of processing resources.

For now, AWS is the sole home for the company's InVision environment, Freeman-Benson said. But he added that InVisionApp has its eyes on the day when it will run on multiple clouds.

To user Joseph Fluckiger, MongoDB Atlas removes concerns for developers about cluster management on implementations of MongoDB in the cloud.

Fluckiger, a senior software engineer at instrumentation giant Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., discussed its use of MongoDB Atlas for data analysis in mass spectrometry systems in a presentation at MongoDB World. Thermo Fisher went live on MongoDB Atlas soon after its release. "It was a bold bet, but it paid off," he said, adding that MongoDB's rate of releasing new features has been substantial.

Overall, MongoDB has provided more flexibility in the types of data it can store, Fluckiger said, noting that's important in the types of scientific measurements that Thermo Fisher's products support. He said the Waltham, Mass., company has used the database for storing not just document-style data, but also files, streaming data and even conventional relational data.

More than the cloud in mind

Not all of the ongoing MongoDB activity is cloud-related by any means. With each new release of the software, its steward company has worked to make more of a general-purpose database out of what was originally a somewhat purpose-built offering for web developers.

As the MongoDB software matures, it can come to replace on-premises relational databases in some use cases. Such a case is at Cisco, which has rebuilt an e-commerce system with MongoDB at the core.

In an interview at MongoDB World, Dharmesh Panchmatia, director of e-commerce at Cisco, explained why his team replaced a relational database with MongoDB in a new version of the networking technology vendor's B2B e-commerce platform.

Benefits from the MongoDB migration were faster performance and development, along with improved fault tolerance, according to Panchmatia, who declined to disclose the database that MongoDB replaced. He said scalability is a key requirement for the database platform underlying a system that has 140,000 unique users and runs 4 million transactions per day.

"MongoDB is good at consistency and partition tolerance. We can also do real-time upgrades," Panchmatia said. He added that MongoDB streamlines development efforts, as well, freeing up developers who were formerly doing back-end design to focus on other tasks.

MongoDB stitches a new service

Still, it's the cloud that continues to gain the widest attention, and for MongoDB, a further step in that direction is MongoDB Stitch, its new self-described backend-as-a-service offering.

In the cloud, Olofson said, MongoDB's big competition is DynamoDB on AWS and Microsoft's updated Azure Cosmos DB, formerly known as DocumentDB. Those cloud-based NoSQL databases come with associated software development environments -- and that's where Stitch comes in for MongoDB, according to Olofson. "MongoDB needs a similar programming environment to compete," he said.

Somewhat akin to a platform as a service, the MongoDB Stitch tools provide a data layer based on a REST API, along with access control and a uniform method for connecting services.

MongoDB's pivot to improve its support of cloud database services comes as more well-heeled software counterparts Microsoft and Oracle are taking similar steps. The MongoDB database is clearly in the crosshairs of the big relational vendors, but the steps taken this week show that the NoSQL vendor is looking to compete on the cloud stage.

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