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NoSQL CouchDB founder turns to phone and cloud services

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NoSQL start-up CouchIO is targeting mobile and clouds after just a year of trying to monetize the company's CouchDB document store.

CouchIO has changed its name to CouchOne while unveiling CouchOne Mobile, which puts the open-source, non-relational store on handsets. It has announced plans to start charging for CouchOne Hosting, to host data using CouchDB on Amazon. The start-up has also dumped its Couch.io URL for CouchOne.com.

The rebranding is because the existing name and URL were a burden — difficult to pronounce and not showing up in search rankings. Damien Katz, creator of CouchDB and CouchOne chief executive, told The Reg: "It was bad all 'round. CouchOne is going to work across all products."

Katz is using the opportunity to gain ground in the high-growth — and cash-rich — worlds of mobile and cloud computing.

Founded in 2009 to commercialize Katz's CouchDB creation, CouchIO CouchOne has a core of customers — Canonical, Apple, the BBC, and Mozilla — paying for support and services. Canonical, the BBC, and Apple are using CouchDB for data replication and updates — CouchDB is a big part of the Ubuntu One music service, Katz said. He claimed 1.5m "verified" users of CouchDB overall.

As ever, with such open-sourciness, the problem is getting the downloaders to turn into paying customers — and it sounds like mobile and cloud are the new hope.

CouchOne Mobile is being touted as a reliable data store for developers currently defaulting to SQLite, because it comes with synchronization already baked in. Synchronization is useful if you lose network connectivity and need to replicate from your device later.

The Couch system has been updated for mobile with the addition of geospatial and indexing APIs and a reduction in the memory used at runtime from 15MB to 5MB, Katz claimed.

As ever with NoSQL, the real hurdle is going to be convincing the relational faithful to change the way they work to a non-relational model that breaks with the old rules and skills.

"There's a lot more experience with relational databases and that's a challenge to get them accustomed to the NoSQL world and mindset," Katz admitted.

Rather than to replace SQLite, Katz believes that CouchDB has a future by being used in addition to SQLite — primarily on document-centric apps such as email, calendaring, scheduling, contacts, CRM, time sheets, and inventory. "That's where Couch really shines," Katz said.

CouchOne Mobile is available for Android, with plans for a version on Apple's iOS, a platform Katz called a "very high priority." The goal is to support Palm and RIM, too, but Katz gave no dates for that roadmap. CouchOne is a small shop — just 16 people — and Katz said that there are a lot of challenges moving to RIM because of the tooling changes and customization in Blackberry's system.

Regarding cloud services, CouchOne will next month start charging customers to store their documents in CouchDB on Amazon though CouchOne Hosting. Katz claimed 2,500 sign-ups to the beta version of the service, and anticipates moving to tiered pricing and service levels, but — as yet — he revealed no prices.

In the future, Katz imagines moving off of Amazon to another service provider, or building his own server hosting to achieve lower margins and greater profits on a service he hopes will be the company's main earner. ®

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