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May 19, 2023

FerretDB Provides Alternative to MongoDB


Developers that like the simplicity and ease-of-use of MongoDB but not the restrictive license may be interested in FerretDB, an open source NoSQL database that offers MongoDB compatibility by translating the database’s wire protocol into SQL for execution on Postgres or Tigris database engines.

With its flexible schema, JSON-like storage structure, and impeccable timing, MongoDB is truly one of the great success stories of the big data age. The creators of the database, Dwight Merriman and Eliot Horowitz, specifically targeted the experience of Web and mobile application developers, a bet that paid off immensely. The New York City-based company, which went public in 2017, reported $1.2 billion in annual revenues last year from around 40,000 paying customers.

However, not everyone is thrilled with MongoDB these days. While enterprises seem happy with its Atlas cloud service and steady release of new features, the database maker’s adoption of the Server Side Public License (SSPL) model in 2018 has not made it popular among open source purists.

The SSPL, which requires that “any organization that attempts to exploit MongoDB as a service must open source the software that it uses to offer such service,” is a dealbreaker for some folks, according to the creators of FerretDB, Alexey Palazhchenko, Peter Farkas, Peter Zaitsev, who founded the FerretDB project in 2021 to create a “true open-source alternative to MongoDB.”

“With FerretDB, users can run the same MongoDB protocol queries without needing to learn a new language or command,” the company says on its website. That makes it “the go-to choice for most MongoDB users looking for an open-source alternative to MongoDB,” it says.

The company says that FerretDB is compatible with MongoDB drivers “and can be used as a direct replacement for MongoDB 6.0+.” The database supports a plug-in architecture for database engines (as MongoDB does), and today it supports Postgres and Tigris Data database engines.

Last month, the company announced the general available of FerretDB 1.0, which it is distributing under the Apache 2.0 license. According to a blog post by Farkas, the FerretDB CEO, the project now sports more than 40 code contributors, more than 5,300 stars on GitHub, and more than 10,000 FerretDB downloads.

The company is working on adding new features, ensuring compatibility with other database engines and frameworks, and tracking down “certain edge cases” where specific MongoDB features are not yet fully supported. For instance, it’s working with SAP to bring make HANA a database engine, and is doing similar work with SQLite. It also recently blogged about its work with the Meteor.js JavaScript framework.

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