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Rackspace swallows ObjectRocket for MongoDB smarts

Looking to scale up cloudy NoSQL database services

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If you are going to take on Amazon Web Services, like Rackspace Hosting is doing with its eponymous cloud, then you'll need a lot more than raw infrastructure services. Rackspace requires various platform services, and it also needs the expertise to run them.

Pat Matthews, vice president of development at Rackspace, tells El Reg that the company makes its decisions about build versus buy versus partnering based on market conditions at the time and what it is trying to accomplish at any given time.

After looking at various NoSQL database options, and there are many, Rackspace decided to go with 10gen's MongoDB. And then, serendipitously, it ran into the three techies who had founded - and just uncloaked - a startup called ObjectRocket. The firm presented its MongoDB cloud in January of this year. So rather than trying to build its own MongoDB expertise, Rackspace made Chris Lalonde, Kenny Gorman, and Erik Beebe an offer they could refuse - but didn't.

"To run MongoDB at the scale we want to, you need a lot of expertise," says Matthews. Of course, that could have meant buying MongoDB supplier 10gen itself, but with that company having raised $74.3m in five rounds of funding, 10gen would probably have cost several hundred million dollars at least. It was far cheaper – and perhaps smarter – to buy a smaller firm with expertise in actually building a MongoDB cloud service.

The financial terms of the acquisition of ObjectRocket deal were not disclosed. All three techies who founded the company have joined Rackspace.

ObjectRocket has spent the past year building a MongoDB setup in two Equinix data centers (strategically located in close proximity to Amazon Web Services data centers) and tuning it up with flash storage and tweaks to the Linux kernel, the network stack for Linux, and MongoDB itself to boost its performance.

And, because this is a service and not a distributed software package, ObjectRocket does not have to share its tweaks with the Linux and MongoDB communities. The ObjectRocket implementation of MongoDB has multitenancy features as well, which Lalonde did not divulge, but El Reg guesses is a mix of SE Linux and Linux containers.

The ObjectRocket NoSQL cloud is based on MongoDB 2.2.1, with prices varying based on the size and number of data shards, starting with a standard plan with three 1GB shards for $29 to $149 for 5GB shards that costs $149 per month. The shards can be scaled up to 1TB if necessary.

ObjectRocket is hosting its servers and switches in two Equinix data centers – one in San Jose, California and the other in Ashburn, Virginia, and has two different service providers providing connectivity into its cloud – AboveNet and Level 3. Using Amazon's Direct Connect service, you can be 1 to 2 milliseconds away from the Amazon Web Services cloud.

Rackspace is not going to be unplugging ObjectRocket from the Equinix data centers, Lalonde tells El Reg, but will leave the iron that runs the ObjectRocket service right where it is. "We are happy to sell ObjectRocket services to AWS users," Lalonde says.

The plan calls for replicating the ObjectRocket infrastructure in other regions, getting it closer to customers in other geographic regions. Rackspace will have to build an ObjectRocket MongoDB cloud in its Chicago data center and have services streaming out of it by early March. The edge that ObjectRocket brings, says Rackspace, is to supply a latency of 2 milliseconds and throughput of up to 10,000 operations per second, which is three times the throughput and one-tenth the latency of "the closest DBaaS competitor," as Rackspace put it.

Having decided to use MongoDB rather than Cassandra, Riak, CouchDB, Couchbase, Redis, or another option, and also after deciding not to try to buy 10gen, Rackspace is now going to work on a stronger relationship with 10gen.

"To get the kind of scale we want to get with the Rackspace Cloud, we are going to need good partners," explained Matthews. "We want to be in a good relationship with 10gen and put together a partnership that has some teeth to it."

That said, if NoSQL data stores, or any other service for that matter, becomes important enough, Rackspace's co-founding of the OpenStack cloud control freak with NASA shows that it is not adverse to making big software investments, and it could reach out at some point and acquire 10gen. Never say never in the IT racket. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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