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IBM Acquires Compose, Inc. to Expand Cloud Data Services

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Today IBM acquired Compose Inc. I’d like to welcome the Compose team to their new home in the IBM Cloud Data Services group. Compose built their business operating MongoDB for customers and has added PostgreSQL, Redis, RethinkDB, and Elasticsearch over time. Their services will be the perfect complement to Cloudant’s Apache CouchDB-based service and to IBM’s cloud data warehouse, dashDB, among other Bluemix services.

I’d also like to reflect on Cloudant’s history. From our startup days and through our own IBM acquisition, I think there are some interesting comparisons between Cloudant and Compose, in terms of company origins, strategies, and technologies. I hope they will help explain the motivations for the acquisition and the plans for Compose within the CDS group.

The origins of an acquisition

Compose and Cloudant watched each other’s progress. (I know from the running debates we had at Cloudant board meetings.) According to startup lore, Compose was inspired to start the company, founded as “MongoHQ,” after attending the No:SQL (east) conference that my Cloudant colleagues organized back in 2009 (blog, Twitter). At this point, Cloudant was a year removed from graduating from the Y Combinator Spring 2008 class. Compose would go on to finish its own YC batch, completing the Spring 2011 session.

The strategy to market

Although we started down a similar path, Compose and Cloudant took different routes to market.

For startups like us, it was all a matter of scope. Cloudant went deep into extending and operationalizing a particular database: Apache CouchDB. Compose went broad, choosing to embrace the richness and variety of an entire database ecosystem to develop a platform for operating a portfolio of database services. Both approaches have their benefits. After all, Compose and Cloudant ended up at the same place.

In IBM Cloud Data Services, our strategy is to give people the right tools for the job at hand. The Cloudant and Compose acquisitions emphasize this polyglot database worldview. It’s no longer about supplanting one monolithic DBMS with another. Microservices architectures and modern programming trends encourage developers to optimize data persistence at every level of the stack. As CDS, we need to deliver this experience for more developers to take advantage of the IBM cloud. In Compose, we have added an important piece.

Technological innovation

The Compose team saw benefits of containerization earlier than many others. Using containers, they designed their platform to quickly and reliably onboard new services. This agility has allowed Compose to experiment with all the innovations happening in the database space today.

Infrastructure further highlights this agility. Cloudant optimized its system across providers like SoftLayer, AWS, Rackspace, and Microsoft Azure. We built our own operations and monitoring systems specifically for the cloud, and tuned Cloudant for each provider’s environment. Compose designed its service to run in the public cloud, but containerization caused the Compose team to gain a unique understanding of the full stack involved in its service. To the point where Compose now also manages deployments running in data center colocation facilities around the world.

It speaks to the maturity of the company Compose has built. From a data management perspective, they know how to use the cloud to get capacity online rapidly, but also how to optimize infrastructure to deliver a premium experience for customers and their applications.

Welcome to the team

The Compose acquisition will help us grow IBM Cloud Data Services, and expands our products in an authentic way that developers need. In closing, please join me, once again, in welcoming the Compose team to IBM. Let’s go run some databases! 😉

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