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May 12, 2015

NoSQL Battle Heats Up As MarkLogic Hauls In $102M

Just a year ago, MarkLogic CEO Gary Bloom couldn’t get any respect in the Wild West shootout that is the NoSQL database market. But today, with $102 million in new financing and a valuation north of $1 billion for MarkLogic, Bloom has a little swagger to his step as he takes aim at his direct competitors Datastax, Couchbase, and MongoDB.

The NoSQL database market has seen its share trash talking over five years as a motley crew of commercial open source technologies jostle for position in a rapidly developing market. A lot of the excitement has been driven by the rather recent realization that relational database technologies are insufficient to handle today’s big data needs, let alone what we’ll face over the next decade. The Great Architectural shakeup is upon us, and big data is the prime factor.

While MarkLogic has been present in NoSQL discussions, you haven’t necessarily heard it leading the discussion or doing much of the trash talking, for that matter. The San Carlos, California company has been around for over a decade—eons in this business—but its proprietary presence in the open and fast-moving NoSQL database business has been like having an unwanted adult chaperone at a high school party.

But Bloom and the rest of his MarkLogicians have something up their sleeves, and they may yet get the last laugh. The company has sounded uncool by espousing its adherence to boring growing-up principles of enterprise computing like security, reliability, availability. But according to Bloom, the market is finally coming around and recognizing that those features are not only cool–they’re absolutely necessary to run NoSQL databases in production.


MarkLogic CEO Gary Bloom

Armed with that knowledge, Bloom is letting loose a bit, and is starting to do a little, ah, competitive differentiation.

“My guess is last year we were larger than the sum of Couchbase, Datastax, and MongoDB combined,” Bloom told Datanami in an interview last week. “We’re the largest. We’re the only [NoSQL database] vendor with well over $100 million in revenues and bookings. In fact, in the big data space by revenue, I think we’re larger than Cloudera as well, based on what they’ve messaged into the marketplace. I don’t believe there’s another NoSQL player that’s even close to 50 percent of what we brought in last year.”

With $102 million more in the bank, Bloom plans to ramp up MarkLogic’s go to market strategy, which includes everything from expanding geographic and industry reach to perhaps giving more thought to how it markets itself. The company hasn’t beat the drum much in the past, preferring instead to focus efforts on servicing clients, which is a good strategy, but doesn’t always succeed in priming the pump for rapid growth. Now, it appears that Bloom and MarkLogic are read to prime that pump and see what happens.

“It’s kind of a perfect world for us right now and a perfect time to go after the investment,” he says. “Three or four things happened in the marketplace. First the market got clarity where you use Hadoop and where you don’t use Hadoop, and where a NoSQL database makes sense versus a relational database makes sense. Then Gartner came out and…gave us the ‘good housekeeping seal of approval. Lastly, the vast majority of relational customers finally understood there are an entirely new set of data challenges in the modern world that can’t be solved with relational technology.

“All of a sudden,” he continues, “the market wakes up and realizes there’s a new way to solve this problem. Oracle leveraged the new way to solve the problem in comparison to the mainframe, and MarkLogic intends to leverage the new way to solve the problem to go from relational to the NoSQL platform,” he says.

While Oracle, IBM, SAP, and Microsoft will try to address the problem data complexity problem–by adding column-stores or support for JSON–they amount to nothing but Band-Aids. And the Band-Aids are starting to fall off, Bloom says.

Whereas some executives have been known to sell shares following a funding round, Bloom put more of his own money into MarkLogic with the recent round, which was led by Wellington Management Company LLP and included participation from new investor Arrowpoint Partners, existing investors Northgate Capital, Sequoia Capital, and Tenaya Capital. Previously, the company had raised $71 million.

Whether it’s the money or just the state of the market, it’s apparent that MarkLogic doesn’t want to be picked on any more as an also-ran in the NoSQL space. “We have over 550 customers, all enterprise-class clients,” Bloom says. “What’s interesting about the perception versus the reality of the market is those companies [Couchbase, MongoDB, Datastax] have raised substantial amount of money. They have very little revenue, but they’ve done a tremendous job of marketing themselves and have done a nice job creating a nice marketplace, but the vast majority of the marketplace needs enterprise features, and we’re the only ones who can fulfill that demand. So in a very interesting way, the open source players have been our best form of lead gen in the marketplace.”

marklogic_logo.pngBloom says only recently have the other NoSQL database vendors found religion when it comes to enterprise features, which is debatable. It’s certainly true that MarkLogic’s competitors have tailored their messages (and perhaps their products) more strongly to the needs of developers than CIOs (the lack of MarkLogic skills in the market has been its Achille’s Heal, which Bloom says is being addressed). If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then perhaps MarkLogic should take the compliment.

In the meantime, Bloom has found a rhythm and he isn’t letting up. “We’re purpose-built for the enterprise and we’re the only ones who have it,” he says. “And what will drive the consolidation in the market and allow for a lot of these players to lose out in the popularity contest, so to speak, is their lack of enterprise features.  Even if they built it over the next couple years, it will take them years to harden the technology. Arguably it took Oracle 10 years to harden their database technology.”

Whether or not MarkLogic can keep up this assault in the long run remains to be seen. Certainly $102 million can buy you a lot, but not the unending devotion of thousands of customers that’s necessary to build and sustain an enterprise database marketplace business. In any event, it’s clear that MarkLogic has become a factor in NoSQL and will remain a factor for the foreseeable future.

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