MongoDB adds paid support for its free software

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Database vendor MongoDB is adding what it calls “production support” to the popular community edition of its NoSQL data store. The company announced the new option in a blog post on Monday, citing strong demand by community edition users for the same level of support enterprise edition customers receive.

Previously, as is the case with many other NoSQL databases, support for community edition versions was limited to forums and other similar channels, while paid support was only available with the souped-up enterprise edition.

The news wouldn’t be too interesting in and of itself — there are plenty of open-source-based companies offering paid support for software that’s free to download and use — but it might speak to some changing dynamics in the NoSQL space. Notably, competitors such as Couchbase haven’t gone away but continue to raise venture capital and win new customers, and database vendors of all stripes are beginning to support the JSON file type around which MongoDB has built its technology.

Offering paid support for the community edition is a way for MongoDB to double down on its open source message. “Look,” it can claim, “we offer quality, free open source software and you can use it in production with confidence.”

It’s also a way to boost the company’s bottom line. MongoDB has lots of users, but rumors persist that it’s not signing up as many as it would like for the enterprise edition, meaning it has lots of non-paying users. But even if they haven’t paid for it in dollars, they probably have paid for MongoDB in time and energy. If even a fraction of those users decide to secure that investment with production support, MongoDB could see a big spike in the revenue column.

The company has been talking about going public for quite a while, and earlier this month it brought on a new CEO with IPO experience. Previous CEO Max Schireson claims to have relinquished the role for personal reasons (and laudable ones, at that), but it’s difficult to separate the change in leadership entirely from the revenue demands that public investors will put on MongoDB when it decides to make that plunge.

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