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Summary:

IBM has acquired cloud-based database startup Cloudant. It’s a smart move in terms of getting a foothold in the cloud database space, but it also seemingly forces IBM to embrace cloud providers and technologies outside its current umbrella.

IBM is at it again in the cloud computing space, this time acquiring Boston-based cloud database startup Cloudant. The company, which runs a distributed cloud document store based on the Apache CouchDB technology, was founded in 2008 and has raised about $16 million in venture capital to date.

Cloudant has made a name for itself handling distributed database and even big data processing for a number of large users. Recently, the company announced a new sync feature for Android and iOS apps that aren’t always connected, so consumers can still use apps offline and then sync data when they’re online again.

Structure 2011: Geva Perry – Cloud Strategy and Marketing Advisor, Blogger, Thinking Out Cloud; Mike Miller – Founder and Chief Scientist, Cloudant; Razi Sharir – CEO, Xeround; Jim Starkey – CTO, NimbusDB; Barry Zane – CTO, ParAccel

Cloudant Co-founder and Chief Scientist Mike Miller (second from left) at Structure 2011.

The acquisition is potentially smart for IBM, although also a bit confusing when it comes to IBM’s overall cloud strategy. IBM has been working to make MongoDB a standard for next-generation web and mobile applications, but Cloudant’s technology is based on the alternative NoSQL framework, CouchDB.

Big Blue also has been vociferously touting the strengths of its Softlayer cloud platform over others — including Amazon Web Services. But although Cloudant runs on Softlayer, it also runs on the AWS, Rackspace, Windows Azure and Joyent clouds. Rackspace is an investor in Cloudant.

However, perhaps IBM views the acquisition, terms of which were not disclosed, as an opportunity to make up for lost ground in cloud computing and serve as the foundation for some new things. Cloudant gives it an immediate competitive offering against services such as Amazon’s DynamoDB and Rackspace’s MongoDB-based ObjectRocket. It also could serve as the foundation for future IBM development in the cloud database space, which might — and arguably should — include support for numerous database options.

IBM is no stranger to acquisitions, of course, and is betting a lot on its cloud business. Here’s an interview from November with Steve Mills, its senior vice president and group executive for software and systems, about his strategy for buying companies and the company’s decision to realign its cloud business around Softlayer, which it bought for $2 billion in June 2013.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user z0w.

  1. This makes sense for IBM as it was already a close partner for the Softlayer Message Queue product, which was essentially just Cloudant – http://www.softlayer.com/services/additional/message-queue/

    It also starts to reveal what IBM’s cloud strategy might be. They’ve bought into the cloud with some great infrastructure from Softlayer but were lacking on the cloud software products. They could either engineer their own like Amazon and Google have mostly done, or acquire technology and integrate then expand. Engineering their own tech takes time, something which is lacking in such a competitive market. So it may well be that they’re going to acquire a range of companies to build their portfolio of products up to the level of the existing players and use them as a base to innovate.

    Also a good way to get cloud experienced teams in quickly, if they stick around!

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  2. This is a smart move by IBM. Softlayer and Cloudant were already close partners. This gives IBM an extremely good database-as-a-service offering to compete against AWS.

    IBM is turning into a cloud power house with all of these investments.

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  3. Not sure I’d agree that it’s confusing, Derrick. On its face, yes, it looks like “MongoDB vs. CouchDB.” But really it’s about IBM getting DBaaS expertise/technology. I don’t think the underlying database means very much in this case. If they were buying into the database market, they would have bought something with more of a following: http://db-engines.com/en/ranking.

    MongoDB continues to work closely with IBM on a number of fronts. Our work together is far stronger and broader today than it was when we announced our partnership last year (whereby they standardized on our query language and wire protocol for mobile and web apps). This doesn’t change that.

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    1. That’s a nice link to see the various databases.

      Hmm, IBM has DB2, Informix, Netezza, Cloudant, and any others I might be missing… That’s a lot of databases lol.

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      1. Yeah and a lot of data in them! But you missed Solid (in memory DB) and lets not forget IMS!

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        1. and VSAM and …

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  4. Way Hay! You gotta love a datastore based on the “thing” datamodel and now IBM’s bought one – fantastic

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