AWS vs. open source: DocumentDB is the latest battlefront

In trying to prevent competition from AWS, vendors like MongoDB are undercutting open source. Ultimately, the battle could hurt both sides—and IT

AWS vs. open source: DocumentDB is the latest battlefront

You’ve probably missed it, but there’s a religious war being fought on Twitter. (No, really!) On one side is an array of data-infrastructure companies (MongoDB, Confluent, and Redis Labs) that claim that Amazon Web Services is strip-mining their open source code to sell cloud services like Amazon Aurora, RDS and MSK (Managed Services for Kafka. On the other side is AWS, whose CEO Andy Jassy insists that its products aren’t intended as “a shot across the bow of anyone. If you look at what we are doing, it's very much informed by customers.”

Which leads us to today’s news that AWS is launching Amazon DocumentDB, a MongoDB-compatible database that was “designed from the ground up to give customers the performance, scalability, and availability they need when operating mission-critical MongoDB workloads at scale.” Shawn Bice, vice president of nonrelational databases at AWS, stressed to me that while “customers like MongoDB’s flexible data model and other attributes, they struggle to get the performance and availability from it that they require.”

For customers, this basically means they can get their MongoDB from AWS as a cloud service. But what it means for AWS, and for MongoDB, is much more complex. (I should point out that I had been vice president of community at MongoDB some years ago.)

AWS: Have your MongoDB cake and eat it too

Although it has fallen a bit in popularity over the last few years relative to PostgreSQL, according to DB-Engines data, MongoDB remains the fifth-most popular database in the world. Given the ease with which developers can quickly become productive with MongoDB, this popularity isn’t surprising.

But one problem with that ease is that it’s also easy to go wrong with MongoDB. That’s a feature, not a bug, but it does mean that today’s quickly-hacked-together application can become tomorrow’s support and maintenance nightmare for a company’s operations team.

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