IBM Buys Database-as-a-Service Startup Compose - InformationWeek

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7/23/2015
06:06 PM
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IBM Buys Database-as-a-Service Startup Compose

IBM's Derek Schoettle said Big Blue bought Database-as-a-Service provider Compose to reach the next generation of developers trying to build cloud-native applications.

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IBM purchased San Mateo, CA-based Compose on Thursday. Compose is a privately held company that provides MongoDB, Redis, Elasticsearch, PostgreSQL, and other database-as-a-service (DBaaS) offerings aimed at Web and mobile app developers.

In an exclusive interview with InformationWeek, Derek Schoettle, general manager of IBM cloud data services explained the reasoning behind the acquisition: "We're targeting what we think is the next generation of builders that is trying to build applications that are cloud-native and built on top of a whole suite of cloud services that encompass content, data, and analytics," he said.

More broadly, Schoettle spoke about IBM's requirements for meeting the needs of these new application builders, and the four ways in which Compose helps fulfill those requirements. First, he said, IBM needs to present a broad portfolio of products and services to meet a variety of needs. "We had a handful of SQL products that weren't born on the Web," he said. "We needed properties that large communities were excited about, using, and building applications on. Compose has five properties that are very compelling, and being used by communities that are actively building applications on the cloud."

Next came the need to provide those services rapidly and affordably. "We needed a framework or a mechanism to introduce services in a way that allowed us to do it efficiently, cost-effectively, and at scale," Schoettle said. "The benefit that we're going to gain is that they built a container infrastructure that was at the vanguard, the cutting edge, of taking advantage of a platform like this. When we looked at containers, we were looking at taking months of investment and a lot of complexity, and we didn't necessarily have the skills." Now, he said, IBM CDS has the ability to offer existing products and develop new services rapidly using existing technologies.

(Image: 4X-image/iStockphoto)

(Image: 4X-image/iStockphoto)

The third requirement was for a development and management framework that is comfortable and familiar to developers who have spent their professional lives on Web servers rather than mainframes. "Compose has done a remarkable job of building a successful, fast-growing business strictly through digital," he said. "Cloudant was good at it, Compose is great at it, and we at CDS aspire to be leaders at it. We think their team has done a remarkable job of that, and will help bring IBM forward in that capacity."

Finally, Schoettle said that IBM is constantly on the lookout for new ideas and new talent to bring products and services to customers. "We're always looking for the best the market has to offer in technical and leadership," Schoettle said, giving a nod to Compose founders Kurt Mackey and Jason McKay, and their team.

[ The container field is changing rapidly. Read Google Donates Kubernetes To New Foundation. ]

According to a prepared statement, Compose, which was founded in 2010, offers auto-scaling, production-ready containerized databases to help software development teams deploy data services. Compose supports five popular open source databases, including MongoDB, Redis, Elasticsearch, PostgreSQL, and RethinkDB. Each database can be provisioned in minutes, and are designed to include high availability, failover, and daily backups. In addition, Compose offers Transporter for moving and syncing data continuously between data stores -- available both as a service and as a free open source application. The company said it has more than 3,600 clients.

Which customers are to be served by the Compose acquisition is a question we posed to Schoettle. Is this deal aimed at providing new products for existing IBM customers, or opening the door to a new set of customers? According to Schoettle, it's a bit of both. "Compose has built a business with an enormous velocity of customers who don't look and feel like the normal IBM clients," he said. "That being said, every IBM client out there is trying to solve problems like we tried to solve at CDS, and that Compose is trying to solve now."

Solving those problems doesn't mean simply integrating Compose technology into existing IBM products. Schoettle said that he understands the importance of maintaining unique products and services, though with an important caveat. "Where you're talking about developers who want to develop with the latest tools, they want instrumentation and accessibility," he said. "Those are all things that are uniform, regardless of the size of your company, whether you have an existing solution or are net new."

According to him, "IBM Cloud and IBM analytics are focused on 'open' and on developing an experience for the next generation of builder. That builder can sit in Bank of America or in a five-person startup in a garage. The question is whether we can create a consistent experience that's secure, durable, and available, that allows someone to start small and grow big regardless of where they start."

When asked about a timeline for integrating Compose into the IBM services ecosystem, Schoettle said that for him the timing isn't the most important aspect. "The important thing is not to make the experience one, but to make it uniform," he said. "It's not something we're rushing to do, it's something we're conscious about doing it the right way."

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio
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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
7/26/2015 | 5:20:01 AM
Re: long history of buying innovation.
Curt, I believe speed and saving time rather than money are the most important factors for IBM. They are expanding in different areas and this acquisition is part of a largest project pro IBM innovation. -Susan
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
7/23/2015 | 10:08:49 PM
Re: long history of buying innovation.
@nasimson, I think IBM is right in seeing acquisition as a much faster and less expensive path than growing their own talent to the features that the customers want. I believe that the real key to success will be the extent to which they're willing to leave Compose alone -- and listening to my interview subject, I got the strong feeling that leaving them alone is precisely what IBM plans to do.

We'll see...
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
7/23/2015 | 10:05:37 PM
long history of buying innovation.
IBM has a long history of buying innovation. Not all those innovations end up being successful business lines. But thats how the game is. I guess when you have deep pockets you can afford this type of innovation.
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