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Open ... and Shut Someone clearly forgot to tell the MongoDB crowd that they lost. Ever since an anonymous poster on HackerNews called the MongoDB baby "ugly", I've been watching to see if MongoDB's early rise would taper off and fall.

After all, my own company, Nodeable, has had to switch from MongoDB to Cassandra due to some significant performance problems. And yet MongoDB continues its meteoric rise.

What gives? Why is MongoDB, and its corporate sponsor 10gen, doing well despite the technology's well-publicised problems?

And let's be clear: MongoDB is doing very, very well, by pretty much any measure. In terms of general search interest, Hadoop is the volume leader but MongoDB isn't far behind, while NoSQL competitor CouchDB is well behind both.

JasperSoft, a business intelligence vendor, connects to a range of different data sources, including NoSQL databases like Hadoop, MongoDB, VoltDB, Cassandra, and more. In JasperSoft's latest survey results, Hadoop edges out MongoDB, but not by much, and MongoDB is the fastest-growing NoSQL database at 200 per cent growth. It's hard to imagine so many people connecting to MongoDB if it didn't work.

Want a job? While Hadoop has the largest number of posted jobs, MongoDB-related jobs are booming:

These numbers are particularly impressive once you abstract out generic NoSQL job postings (which call for a variety of NoSQL technology skills).

For me, however, the biggest indicator of success is production deployments. From Craigslist to Disney to The New York Times, MongoDB is hitting impressive scale at some impressive brands.

All of which makes the MongoDB-hating seem a bit silly, given that one of the biggest complaints against it by the HackerNews poster was that MongoDB wasn't fit to run a large-scale system. This is clearly wrong, and is perhaps best explained by 10gen's chief technology officer and core MongoDB kernel committer Eliot Horowitz, who notes that several of MongoDB's most commonly cited problems have been remedied.

But then there's also the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all NoSQL database. Different developers will have varying degrees of success, depending on the needs of their applications. MongoDB didn't work for Nodeable, but it is working for a great deal of other companies. As one developer writes: "Each system comes with its own set of problems, some developers just like [complaining] about those problems more than others."

He then goes on to offer this sobering critique of the haters: "Unfortunately for most developers, your application will never get to the size where picking one database over the other will even matter."

Ouch. Yet true.

Importantly, when choosing a successful open-source NoSQL database like MongoDB, there is safety in numbers. It's comforting to know big brands are using the technology, but it is also critical that there is broad-based community support. No matter what technology you choose, you're likely going to want help. MongoDB gets more than 100,000 downloads per month and has an active community discussing deployment strategies and more.

None of which is to suggest that MongoDB is manna from heaven. Again, it didn't work for us, and it didn't work for the anonymous poster on HackerNews. But it's clear that MongoDB is a great solution for a large and growing population of developers, and early reports of its inadequacies were too early and too narrow. With a large and growing community of users, MongoDB appears to have serious staying power. ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analysing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.

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