IBM throws its weight behind MongoDB for mobile apps

IBM(S IBM) helped propel SQL, Linux and Java into the mainstream, and now it’s looking to do the same for MongoDB. The company said it’s working with MongoDB creator 10gen on a new standard that will let mobile apps built atop the NoSQL database connect with data stored in business-critical systems.

At its core, the new standard — which encompasses the MongoDB API, data representation (BSON), query language and wire protocol — appears to be all about establishing a way for mobile and other next-generation applications to connect with enterprise database systems such as IBM’s popular DB2 database and its WebSphere eXtreme Scale data grid. MongoDB is already immensely popular among web and mobile developers who must deal with semi- and unstructured data, but its lack of transactional integrity (among other things) means MongoDB isn’t often deployed for “mission-critical” applications that require ACID compliance and consistent performance.

In theory, the new standards would MongoDB-based applications easily and securely access mission-critical database systems. This could usher in a new wave of flexible applications that add significant value by spanning multiple data systems. According to a press release, “Customers can begin to use these new features later this summer by pairing eXtreme Scale with MongoDB, and by running their MongoDB applications on DB2 directly.”

The companies are also seeking participation from other parties interested in developing standard methods for interacting with MongoDB.

However, there’s a bigger shift at play here than the development of a new database standard, and it has everything to do with IBM’s planned acquisition of cloud provider SoftLayer, also announced on Tuesday. If IBM wants to remain relevant as server sales and application platforms move to the cloud, it has to embrace the new business and application-development models that come along with cloud computing. IBM’s stable of enterprise developers might not be deploying mobile apps on Parse or Google any time soon, but they will look for alternative platforms if IBM doesn’t at least try to keep up with a changing landscape.

Coincidentally, SoftLayer and 10gen already have a strong partnership around hosting MongoDB applications in the cloud.

If IBM is still an IT kingmaker, that bodes very well for MongoDB, as well as for the OpenStack cloud computing platform that IBM is also backing. If IBM’s influence in this realm is slipping, though, one could argue that IBM needs MongoDB and OpenStack more than they need it.

I am awaiting comment from IBM and/or 10gen for more details on the scope of their partnership and this standard, and will update when I hear more.