Damien Katz is a creator of one of the most important technologies of the recent Web boom. But when he focused on making it a commercial product, he ran into a lot of flak.
Katz is one of the fathers of a revolutionary new technology known as NoSQL, which can help Web sites store tons of data about millions of users — and grow to immense sizes fast.
It powers Web applications for companies like Zynga, AOL, Cisco, and about 150 others.
“Zynga is one of our biggest customers .. they have some ridiculous numbers of users every month (maybe 200+milion a month),” he told us.
When Zynga puts out a new game, it doesn’t know how popular the game will be or how many users will play at once. The game can’t get slow because “if user gets bored, they were bored to begin with, so they tend to get out of there,” Katz says.
Katz is also a great example of the power and problems of startups based on open source software.
Earlier this month Katz caused a stir by saying he would no longer be working on CouchDB, a project he created that is hosted by the keeper of many open source projects, the Apache Foundation. Instead he will concentrate solely on a commercial, somewhat competing version of it from his startup Couchbase.
“Apache is not about making money. It’s a community for collaboration-driven developer projects all for the betterment of mankind,” he explained.
“But reality intrudes and you have to pay bills, and pay engineers and I needed time and resources to build Couchbase’s products. We want to build a commercial enterprise. That’s not always compatible with what the mission is at Apache.”
While that might sound rational, in the open source world it is tantamount to treason. With open source, one person will lead a project but as it gains popularity it becomes a communal thing. Hundreds of people may be adding features or fixing broken stuff they found. The project still needs its leader — someone to decide which changes to accept and to add them to the project.
Photo: Couchbase. Used by permission
CouchDB is one of the most popular open source free NoSQL databases with more than 10 million desktop deployments worldwide, including large-scale enteprise users like the BBC, Apple, and CERN, Couchbase says.
Now that CouchDB no longer Katz’s baby, it is his competition.
Many CouchDB users were upset. “It’s ok that you want to earn money and it’s true it was your idea in the beginning. So it’s ok you underline the pros of your product – but please, stop bashing CouchDB to highlight your Couchbase-Baby. This is unthankful to all the people that helped you in CouchDB’s beginnings and it is bad PR for the whole ‘Couchworld’ too,” wrote “Dominique S.” on Katz’s blog
What’s at stake? A market that could be worth $1.8 billion a year by 2015, researchers say. Big-name competitors are jumping in. Oracle has its NoSQL product, IBM is expected to add some NoSQL features to its database DB2, and Amazon just jumped in with a cloud NoSQL service.
Expect to hear a lot more about the multibillion dollar NoSQL market in 2012 and beyond.