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IBM snaps up Compose to extend its cloudy database options

Inside IBM Research HeadquartersInside IBM Research Headquarters
Signage in front of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.Photograph by Scott Eells — Bloomberg/Getty Images

IBM continues to build out its database portfolio with the acquisition of Compose, which offers several open-source-oriented database options. Compose, which raised about $6.4 million dollars since its founding in 2011, is privately held; terms of the IBM purchase were not disclosed.

What Compose, in Mountain View, Calif., brings to the table is a way to attract a new flock of web and mobile developers that are not part of the IBM enterprise rubric and let them try out lightweight database services based on MongoDB, Redis, Elasticsearch, PostgreSQL, RethinkDB and other databases. Last year, IBM purchased Cloudant, a provider of CouchDB-based database services, so it looks like it’s filling in its open-source database checklist here.

Compose will become part of Big Blue’s cloud data services group, led by general manager Derek Schoettle, former CEO of Cloudant.


“We want to give developers choice and a variety of experiences,” Schoettle said. “They can start lightweight and then go to full service, more mature, even fully managed offerings with service level agreements [SLAs] and management tooling and instrumentation.” So in other words, IBM is providing a path from garage startup to full-fledged big business.

The availability of fully managed options is a differentiator compared to Amazon Web Services, he said. “When you fire up Amazon RDS, you’re on your own,” he noted. That may be true, but there are certainly tons of developers that do, in fact fire up Amazon’s Relational Data Service (which comes in several flavors including Postgres, Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server and Amazon’s own MySQL look-alike Aurora.)

But back to Cloudant and Compose. Cloudant customers tend to be bigger customers with large and complex applications, Schoettle said. “They’re are companies like Samsung who are running 300 nodes, have a high SLA, and are running across Europe and Asia while Compose is more for lightweight applications, developers can try it and then we provide a path to production as they grow.”

IBM (IBM) is at an interesting juncture. On its earnings call this week, it claimed huge cloud momentum, even as it reported its revenue falling for the 13th consecutive quarter. It remains huge in large companies with its legacy hardware and software, but many of those same companies see Amazon(AMZN) Web Services as the leader in public cloud computing—a perception that prompted IBM to buy SoftLayer two years ago for $2 billion. Now it’s pushing hard not only to retain those enterprise accounts but to also woo new startup companies that wouldn’t know a mainframe (or DB2 or WebSphere or Tivoli software) if they tripped over it.

IBM claims Fitbit, EyeQ and Mindjet as such new-age customers. But it’s safe to say that most startups still view AWS as their default cloud, with Microsoft(MSFT) shops likely giving Azure a look. IBM is hoping to pick off more of those customers going forward.

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