IBM's Cloudant deal will deliver NoSQL on demand

IBM's purchase of hosted Apache CouchDB outfit Cloudant adds a ready portfolio of NoSQL services to Big Blue's cloud business

Bit by bit, IBM's cloud empire has come together, and it's aimed most directly at Fortune 500 folks with heavy business needs, especially by way of its Softlayer acquisition. IBM's latest acquisition, Cloudant, is shaping up as a way to add a key ingredient to the services portfolio: NoSQL-style database as a service.

NoSQL's been enjoying a massive surge of interest, but adopting it has come with a host of difficulties. To that end, Cloudant's services seem to be aimed at solving two problems associated with NoSQL:

  1. It offers hosting for CouchDB-style instances for companies that don't want to deal with the hassle of maintaining them (that is, database as a service).
  2. It provides an Apache-licensed software layer for mobile developers to make it easy to add support for that data repository without having to code from scratch.

Plus, Cloudant expands on CouchDB by adding some other technologies, such as chained MapReduce.

If one of the virtues of database as a service is the way each incarnation is focused on solving a single problem (analytics, transaction processing), then Cloudant's take is very much in the same vein. When I spoke to Cloudant earlier this month about its then-new sync services, the company made it clear how many of its most touted features -- such as being able to keep data synchronized across apps that aren't always consistently connected -- include mobile devices as part of the portfolio, but are by no means the whole story.

Data distribution for any business is a perpetually unsolved problem, in big part because no two companies have the same needs. Cloudant is billing itself as a solution not only to data distribution, but also offering certain data analytics services: Automatic replication of data across stores (billed by the company as "CDN for your data"), plus Lucene searches, geolocation services, analytics via MapReduce, and so on.

IBM's long-term plans for Cloudant aren't clear. The only thing we know for sure is that the company's set to become part of IBM's new "Information and Analytics Group." One possibility is how Cloudant's services will be cross-integrated with other IBM big data products -- such as Predictive Insights, which was just introduced late last year.

IBM is slowly shedding its hardware legacy and becoming more of a software and business applications platform, with forays into cognitive computing as well. In light of those developments, it makes sense for IBM to spin in a company that provides an existing, full-blown solution to a fast-growing (and sometimes tricky-to-implement) technology.

This story, "IBM's Cloudant deal will deliver NoSQL on demand," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.