Microsoft queues up DocumentDB for broad availability

Microsoft continues to fill in the check boxes for its Azure cloud. Example: Azure DocumentDB, Microsoft’s take on NoSQL databases a la Couch or MongoDB, will be generally available April 8, the company said Thursday.

The beauty of these document databases is they can ingest JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) formatted information as is — no need for the mapping process that had to occur to pump them into relational SQL databases. [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services added JSON support to its DynamoDB database last last year.

[company]Microsoft[/company] announced DocumentDB in August.

Microsoft, which is trying to kit out Azure as a comfy home to a wide variety of workloads, supports a variety of homegrown and third-party databases including MongoDB and Microsoft SQL Azure and Oracle.

Microsoft also said Azure Search, which works across more than 50 languages, is now available. This “search-as-a-service” targets developers who want to add full-text search into their applications.

The company also unveiled a new premium encoder for Azure Media Services.

For a primer on DocumentDB check out the video below.

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MongoDB CEO: Company was ‘opportunistic’ in raising $80M

According to MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria, it was unsolicited demand from investors that drove much of the company’s recent $80 million investment round, news of which broke on Friday afternoon.

In an interview with Gigaom, Ittycheria said that the company initially planned to raise a smaller sum of money to finance its acquisition of WiredTiger in December, but demand from adoring investors that caught wind of the raise was too much to resist. The company ended up raising about three times what it had planned to, and on very favorable terms, he said.

“We were very opportunistic,” Ittycheria said. MongoDB’s previous fundraising round had it valued at $1.2 billion, and it’s now worth even more.

The company will likely go public at some point but doesn’t want to — or have to — rush into it, he said. It still has plenty of mindshare and capital as a private company to choose its own timing. And there’s still some work to do proving its business model can succeed and scaling its global presence (MongoDB only has a handful of reps in both Europe and Asia, for example), Ittycheria noted.

That being said, MongoDB can probably, and safely, be optimistic about its prospects whenever it decides to go public.

Although the Hadoop and NoSQL markets are quite different, Ittycheria said he watched the recent Hortonworks IPO very closely because Hortonworks was the first of the next-generation, open-source data infrastructure vendors to test the public markets. While the company’s financials initially made him a little nervous, he said the fact that it was well-received speaks to demand from public investors to invest in “loosely, ‘big data’ companies.”

Meteor wants to be the warp drive for building real-time apps

For most organizations, building a modern-day cloud application that rivals something as clean and fast as Uber or Facebook is, obviously, not an easy-to-do task. The art of crafting a responsive app that’s able to load up and transmit data in real time demands a developer team that’s skilled in multiple web frameworks and languages like Angular.js, Node.js and PHP.

Meteor Development Group wants to simplify this process, and it thinks the best way to do so is to build everything in JavaScript, the ubiquitous programming language that’s the backbone of web browsers. Meteor Development Group’s open-source project, dubbed Meteor, is essentially a souped-up JavaScript application framework that’s designed to make it easier for coders to create real-time apps like those found at big tech companies while appeasing enterprises who are more familiar with JavaScript than other languages.

“It’s a fresh design to how to build modern architecture out of JavaScript,” said Meteor Development Group founder Matt DeBergalis. “With the right design, you can build experiences like Uber with ten lines of code.”

Enterprises stuck in the past

The way DeBergalis explains it, twenty years ago, the best applications were found in the enterprise. With the advent of mobile computing and real-time applications like Uber and Facebook that are constantly sucking up and distributing data, however, consumers are now used to a type of real-time functionality that’s hard to find among enterprise apps.

“The enterprise is still stuck on Internet Explorer 8,” said DeBergalis. “Why can’t I see the financial reports on my phone? The answer is we [enterprises] can’t afford to write the thing you want.”

And that’s the crux enterprises face: It’s difficult to hire developers who have the skills to craft these type of complex applications, as it requires finding coders who are well-versed in multiple languages like Node.js, Ruby on Rails and the like. And once you find these talented developers, you have to cough up the cash that their skill set requires—hiring in the tech industry is competitive, as you probably already know.

Meteor Development Group founder Matt DeBergalis

Meteor Development Group founder Matt DeBergalis

But if coders are able to build real-time apps using their knowledge of JavaScript, enterprises may find it easier to acquire talent and it could boost the speed of building apps.

“We’ve completed a two-plus year development project that got us to a stable production-ready JavaScript platform that makes it dramatically faster to write apps,” said DeBergalis.

The promise of a real-time web framework

The Meteor framework is an example of what’s known as isomorphic JavaScript, a term popularized by Airbnb engineer Spike Brehm. When a programming language is labeled isomorphic, that basically means that the code can execute on both the server side (where storage systems and databases exists) as well as the client side (what the user sees when accessing an application).

With real-time applications like Uber’s, there can often be several different places where code is now running, instead of the past in which a simple desktop application would only have to interact with a web server to access data, explained DeBergalis.

[pullquote person=”Matt DeBergalis” attribution=”Matt DeBergalis, founder, Meteor Development Group” id=”902718″]With the right design, you can build experiences like Uber with ten lines of code.[/pullquote]

A modern, real-time application can potentially be comprised of multiple codebases (an Android application, an IOS application and a desktop application, for example), multiple APIs to ensure that all of those different codebases can speak to each other, and multiple databases. A web framework like Meteor essentially covers all of these areas and negates the need to have teams of specialists whose jobs are to maintain several different code bases, he said.

“The idea of isomorphic JavaScript is you want to use the same language and same API in all of those places,” said DeBergalis.

Because the application is now built on one single framework, it’s simpler to keep track of live updates. The JavaScript can watch for changes in a MongoDB database and “alert the programmer when information in that database changes,” DeBergalis said.

Keeping track of database changes is imperative for Meteor as it allows real-time syncing of data on different devices. The Meteor framework works by including “little cache servers next to each user” that are stored in-memory on the user’s device, DeBergalis explained.

Getting started with Meteor

Getting started with Meteor

These in-memory database cache servers are essentially connected to the main database servers stored at the home base, and every time a change in the database occurs due to a user request or transmission, the framework updates those small cache servers so that users get their data fed to them as quickly as possible.

What’s next for Meteor?

Since Meteor was founded in the summer of 2011, it’s gained a lot of traction with developers who are looking for a quicker way to build real-time apps. The 19-person company counts hot startups like Slack, Stripe and Respondly as users.

The startup also has the support of Andreessen Horowitz, who along with Matrix Partners, drove Meteor’s 2012 Series A funding round worth $11.2 million, which Gigaom’s Barb Darrow reported on back in 2012.

The next step for Meteor will be unveiling its long-awaited commercial product called Galaxy, although DeBergalis declined to state when it will be released. As the open-source Meteor framework targets developers, DeBergalis said Galaxy will be more operations-focussed and he described it as a “cloud service for running Meteor apps.”

Although DeBergalis wouldn’t spill the beans on what Meteor has in store for Galaxy, he indicated that the service will address the difficulties of running a real-time application across multiple data centers.

Meteor also only supports the MongoDB and Redis databases, and is working on including support for SQL, he said. Supporting multiple databases will be important for Meteor’s success, especially as many tech observers believe that no single database can satisfy all needs.

Meteor is also working on a port for Windows, which considering the recent open-sourcing of the .NET framework, DeBergalis feels will capture the attention of the [company]Microsoft[/company] developer community.

“What’s interesting is that developers on .NET today are looking for ways to get to the phone,” DeBergalis said. “If I’ve been a .NET developer for a couple of years, I would want to look for something new.”

Will big enterprises start to give Meteor a test drive, since as of now, it appears that it’s more of a startup commodity? While Meteor promises an easier way to build applications, it might be a chore for legacy companies to convert their old application infrastructure to the new framework, although DeBergalis said “there are ways that companies can retrofit their old applications to this new world.”

There’s no denying that the development world is changing and users are demanding fast-responding applications; with new frameworks like Meteor, catching up to this changing world could be less of a nightmare for enterprises.

Need to wrangle SQL, NoSQL data? Espresso Logic says it can help

Espresso Logic, which offers a backend service to help businesses connect applications with SQL data sources, is adding NoSQL to the mix with new support for MongoDB — as well as support for Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics business applications coming soon.

The company says its service makes it easier to create RESTful APIs that facilitate data flow from repository to applications. REST, short for representational state transfer, has become something of a lingua franca for connecting disparate applications.

Espresso Logic CEO R. Paul Singh (pictured above) said the product and its reliance on reactive programming lets non-programmers accelerate development by connect apps by clicking, dragging and dropping — or perhaps writing a few lines of code.

 

That promised ease of use appealed to Bill Kuklinski, director of systems development for Boston’s Joslin Diabetes Center. His group doesn’t have the IT and programming resources needed to integrate applications by hand. Like many organizations Joslin runs many legacy applications that are treasure troves of data needed by other applications.

And as the need to let patients funnel readings from their glucose monitors into the center’s system means that data has to traverse organizational walls. Navigating an array of in-house healthcare apps and those built more with a consumer in mind, is tricky.

“Everyone has a unique set of problems they want to report on and unique analytics and that requires custom development. If you can’t get the data from those data sources, every vendor’s answer is ‘here’s our API,'” Kuklinski, an Espresso Logic customer, added.

Supporting REST makes life easier because the business doesn’t don’t have to support a zillion different APIs.

The so-called API economy has led to the rise of companies such as Apigee that manage APIs and which just added new analytics services. Espresso Logic competes with backend services platforms as Strongloop, which recently announced a life-cycle management tool for Node.js-centric REST APIs; Kinvey and Dreamfactory.

Gigaom Research analyst Rich Morrow agreed that it’s important to support the right APIs, but there’s more blocking and tackling to be done. “Exposing your datastore to mobile endpoints via an API is really powerful, but looks way more easy than it is — you’ve got to build accessibility, security, access controls, management and extensibility. It makes way more sense for most organizations to buy the capability rather than build it themselves,” he said.

Espresso-Platform-6 (2)

 

 

MongoDB snaps up WiredTiger as new storage engine option

NoSQL fan favorite MongoDB has purchased WiredTiger and its storage engine technology, and as part of the deal snags itself some database stars in Keith Bostic and Dr. Michael Cahill.

Bostic was co-founder of Sleepycat Software and creator and primary developer of Berkeley DB, an open-source embedded database. Oracle bought Sleepycat in 2006. Bostic worked with Cahill to architect Berkeley DB. Terms of this acquisition were not disclosed.

WiredTiger is a storage engine that will be offered as an option in the upcoming MongoDB 2.8 release, expected in January. It will be the first time that MongoDB has offered more than one storage engine option, said Kelly Stirman, director of product marketing for New York–based MongoDB.

Customers with write-intensive applications may want to opt for WiredTiger, while MongoDB’s existing MMAP engine is probably better suited for read applications, he noted.

In the past, some databases offered a range of storage options to fit the job at hand. MySQL, now also part of Oracle, is the best example.

MongoDB will not charge separately for the WiredTiger engine. “It’s now part of our open-source commitment,” Stirman said. “Everyone will have access and there will be an upgrade path without downtime.”

Microsoft unveils Azure DocumentDB, a NoSQL database as a service

Microsoft is expanding its Azure platform again, this time rolling out a NoSQL database service as well as a new search tool. It’s the kind of innovation Microsoft needs to focus on if it’s going to lure new developers and really compete in the cloud.