Cloudant’s bright future with IBM & SoftLayer

As a longtime SoftLayer customer and partner, IBM’s acquisition of SoftLayer means a lot to us at Cloudant. Cloudant started in 2008, with the goal of delivering a global data layer on cloud infrastructure. We needed a partner to help us with the infrastructure and network. SoftLayer was that partner.

The first clusters of our commercial product went live on SoftLayer in 2010. We’ve seen them grow as much as they’ve seen Cloudant grow. SoftLayer becoming part of IBM is the logical extension of this process.

Now that the acquisition is final and the wheels are in motion, we’re starting to see the repercussions with customers and end users, allowing Cloudant’s database-as-a-service (DBaaS) to better address new Web projects and mobile applications in the enterprise. The future is bright.

Growing with SoftLayer

Since our launch in 2010, our relationship with SoftLayer has evolved significantly. Where we once looked to SoftLayer as a fast-growing customer, we are now also a valued partner. Whereas they provide IaaS and we provide DBaaS, our joint customers benefit from a tight coupling of our respective services. As such, some of Cloudant’s biggest and most important accounts are on SoftLayer infrastructure. Now, they’ll be on IBM Cloud Services.

One of our biggest customers has relied on SoftLayer infrastructure: Hothead Games. Last year, the game studio launched a franchise of mobile sports apps that grew from an initial 6-node Cloudant cluster to 230 nodes in 12 months. They launched subsequent apps as part of their BIG WIN Sports™ franchise over that time, all of which rose to #1 in the App Store.

Today, 100 BIG WIN games are started every second, and their games make 100 million database requests per day on Cloudant. Different games (soccer, football, baseball, hockey, etc.) are popular with different user bases in various regions. So Hothead Games runs in every SoftLayer data center and uses Cloudant to replicate data between them. It’s not just “big data” in size, but in the velocity at which this data changes and propagates across Cloudant DBaaS on infrastructure worldwide.

At Cloudant, we see this worldwide data delivery strategy as an important capability for new enterprise Web and mobile applications dealing with unstructured data. Users everywhere want to work with fresh data, and they don’t want to wait for ETL processes and BI software to parse and prepare it for them. That’s the old way of doing things, and it might be OK for the pace of some applications, but not for projects that are driving the next generation of Web and mobile applications.

Edgewise: pushing data to the edge for Web and mobile

Cloudant enables enterprises to scale their Web and mobile applications across three dimensions: terabytes, concurrent users, and geographies. Cloudant replicates data for high-availability and low-latency access. Every node in the system is a master node that can write to the database. There are no slaves; only masters. Three copies of every database shard are stored throughout the system. Even if one data center is completely down, a copy in another location picks up the slack. Your business is always available with Cloudant and your application’s data is always close.

On Cloudant, developers can replicate and sync data across different geographies and devices for faster access. Applications can handle large usage spikes from specific geographies, and it also enables mutable application data for mobile phones and other occasionally connected devices.

Cloudant Origins

The past couple years have seen a complete shift toward working with data in the cloud. In 2008, when Cloudant started, no one did it. Now, everyone is exploring the idea, with varying degrees of success.

Cloudant was founded in 2008 by three MIT particle physicists, in part, because of data challenges they faced working on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The group had trouble sharing large sets of experiment data with researchers worldwide. The technology they developed for Cloudant builds on the types of tools they designed for dealing with vast amounts of physics data.

At the center of these tools was a custom version of CouchDB, which was inspired by Amazon’s Dynamo paper to run in large clusters and replicate data between clusters in different data centers. They shared those features in the open source BigCouch project, and Cloudant engineers recently contributed them back to the Apache CouchDB™ community.

The right service for the right job

Every new database deployed in the enterprise introduces a new set of management requirements. But as expectations grow, it’s important to pick the right database for the right job. We’ve found that enterprises like Cloudant DBaaS because it accelerates their time to market, they get our NoSQL expertise as part of the service, and durable data and high-availability are built right into the product.

As enterprise infrastructure scales to form hybrid clouds, accessibility to the data applications need must scale as well. Cloudant relies on SoftLayer for physical security and data center controls. IBM’s track record only strengthens this story.

Where’s Cloudant today?

There’s database technology in both the IBM and SoftLayer portfolios, but at Cloudant, we see ourselves as the scalable data layer for enterprise-class data distribution. Moving data between occasionally connected devices like servers, phones, tablets, televisions — even cars — while remaining in synch is what the next generation of Web and mobile applications require. Soon all of the devices we use in our everyday lives will be connected to the Internet. Companies like Samsung, Microsoft BigPark Studios, Flurry, Rosetta Stone, Salesforce.com, and DHL all use Cloudant.

The demand is there. We recently closed Cloudant’s Series B round, and our customer count is growing, with more than 17,500 users today. We expanded our Boston headquarters and opened offices in Seattle, San Francisco, and Bristol, UK. Asia-Pac is next.

Cloudant and IBM

SoftLayer maintains the highest commitment to SLAs for their customers and partners. I couldn’t think of a better company to inherit that track record than IBM. Adding SoftLayer’s data center footprint and the 10-gigE backbone running throughout it is a strategic technology acquisition that helps IBM Cloud Services grow. But beyond the technology, Cloudant’s NoSQL expertise, combined with IBM’s enterprise reliability and resources, is a partnership that adds data layer services others can’t match.

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Derek Schoettle

About Derek Schoettle

Derek Schoettle is the CEO of Boston-based Cloudant.
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