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March 27, 2014

Why Can’t This Big Data CEO Get Any Respect?

Alex Woodie

Gary Bloom doesn’t seem like somebody who raises his voice a lot. But during a recent panel discussion at a financial conference, the president and CEO of NoSQL database firm MarkLogic had enough, and felt compelled to speak out about something said by the heads of his two closest NoSQL competitors, Couchbase and MongoDB.

MarkLogic CEO and president Gary Bloom

“Those particular players have tried to market their products to say NoSQL is equivalent to open source, and that if you’re not open source, you can’t be NoSQL,” Bloom told Datanami last week. “This came up on a panel I was on last week, and both Couchbase and MongoDB were on the panel. I commented that I feel compelled to correct misinformation at a financial conference, in that our revenue…exceeds their revenue. In fact it would exceeds the two firms’ revenue combined together, and possibly all of the NoSQL players combined together. We’re by far the biggest NoSQL player, and we’re not open source.”

Open source or not, MarkLogic often gets overlooked when it comes to NoSQL database discussions. If you were to go up to somebody in the IT industry and ask them “What are the biggest and most successful NoSQL database?” few would pick MarkLogic. Instead, you’d likely hear names like MongoDB and Couchbase, Cassandra and HBase, Riak and Redis.

Analysts know better, of course. Gartner has MarkLogic prominently featured in the winningest corner of the Niche Players sector of its fall 2013 Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems, while Wikibon has MarkLogic as the top breadwinner in the Hadoop and NoSQL Software/Services forecast for 2012, outplaying Cloudera, IBM, MongoDB, Pivotal, Amazon, MapR Technologies, Oracle, Hortonworks, and Basho.

Why, then, is there such a discrepancy between perception and reality? Who knows. But it’s possible that age and maturity are big factors–in the way your 12-year-old daughter thinks about them, not the way your 62-year-old dad does.

MarkLogic has been around for 14 years, which is a long time for a NoSQL vendor. It was selling what it called an XML-based database long before the term NoSQL arrived in the popular IT lexicon. While some would consider that an advantage, NoSQL purists (like perhaps those who insist NoSQL equates to open source) consider that legacy baggage.

If some consider that extra baggage a weakness, Bloom welcomes it as the source of stability and strength that gives MarkLogic the capability and the clout to win big contracts, such as being the database behind the website as well as and various state websites associated with the Affordable Care Act, not to mention being the digital backend powering various real-world institutions that value security and regulatory compliance, such as banks and insurance companies.

“When I joined Oracle in the 1980s, Oracle was about the same size as MarkLogic is today, and one of the things we learned really quick is that, as customers were moving off the mainframe and traditional hierarchical databases and moving to relational, we had to provide all the enterprise capabilities that mainframes did in order to overcome the challenges of the incumbent applications running on the mainframe,” Bloom says. “So we had to start providing backup interfaces, we had to start providing security models, we had to give them operational assistance on how to run the environment in a production data center.

“This is no different,” he continues. “As we transition from traditional relational technology to whatever next-gen database you’re transitioning to–obviously NoSQL being one of the major platforms for that–all those enterprise requirement that you’ve had on Oracle, on Sybase, on Informix, on DB2, are just as important in the NoSQL world. We’re still talking about your data­ and your most critical assets in the company. We’re giving you much better, much lower cost, much more pervasive use of your data. But data is absolutely king and we’re still given you the protection of your data and your information.”

Courtesy: Wikibon’s Hadoop-NoSQL Software and Services Market Forecast 2012-2017

Bloom has been on the job at MarkLogic for less than 24 months, and brings IT executive experience not only from Oracle–where he spent 14 years and eventually led Oracle’s massive database business–but from Symantec, Veritas, and smart grid company eMeter. There are other NoSQL CEOs with impressive resumes too, but Bloom’s enterprise blue-chip experience stands out.

While other NoSQL CEOs are busy touting adherence to open source as a feature in its own right, Bloom is busy rattling off features that MarkLogic developed in private and shamelessly licenses in a proprietary manner for profit, not fun. At the same time, Bloom says (perhaps with an unseen wink) that open source provides a “phenomenal advantage” to MarkLogic as a lead generation engine.

“It allows developers to very quickly download NoSQL technology, get started with it, and help them understand that it solves a new class of problem that is not well solved in the traditional relational world,” he says. “But then eventually, when you run in production, all of a sudden, features where we have an advantage—security, availability, transactional consistency–become critically important.”

Bloom calmly and methodically picks apart the “NoSQL must be open source” argument, and throws it back in the faces of his competitors. “I don’t think what the market is trying to buy is open source. I think what the market place is trying to buy is the best solution for their problem on a cost-effective basis,” he says.

“I like to think of open source software a little bit as you get what you pay for,” he continues. “If you were to pursue an application in the MongoDB environment, and your application needed things like security or you need transactional consistency, all the burden of writing that code falls on the application developer, and there goes their productivity advantage immediately. These are things that the database environment always provided application developers, and those requirements are just as needed in the NoSQL world as they were in the relational database world. And again MarkLogic is the only one who has those capabilities.”

There are those in the NoSQL and NewSQL database worlds who would dispute Bloom’s assertion that MarkLogic is the only vendor who can provide those attributes. Or that these attributes are needed in every application and every installation, or that a tradeoff between transactional consistency and manageability can’t be made. But by framing his argument in this way–from the ground up, on top of everything we’ve already learned about relational database technology– Bloom is bringing a dose of enterprise reality back to the NoSQL and NewSQL database market, and that can help us all.

Related Items:

Is MarkLogic the Adult at the NoSQL Party?

Hadoop and NoSQL Now Data Warehouse-Worthy: Gartner

MarkLogic Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Semantic Triples