Is there a sequel to NoSQL?

The recent news that MongoDB, Inc. secured $150 million of investment capital underscored the fact that open source data is no longer in its infancy.

In fact, judging from the marquee names of the investors—including T. Rowe Price and Fidelity Investments—it’s fair to say that open source data has just passed out of late adolescence. It’s not fully grown up, but pretty soon it’ll have a mortgage and a retirement account of its own. And Wall Street is betting that it will some day hurl stones big enough to hurt giants like IBM and Oracle.

But the journey towards NoSQL adulthood hasn’t always been smooth.

Anyone who’s been lurking around the edges of the NoSQL world for a few years will remember the 2010 fallout when a MongoDB scaling and load balancing issue sent Foursquare into darkness for eleven straight hours.

Nathan Folkman, Foursquare Operations Director at the time, posted a detailed and technical explanation with the understated blog title “So, that was a bummer.” Eliot Horowitz, the CTO of 10gen (the company changed its name to MongoDB, Inc. this year), conducted a rigorous post mortem of what went wrong with the code and a lively discussion about necessary fixes ensued among Mongo developers everywhere.

The exact reasons for the outage are complicated—and better suited for a developer blog—but the underlying cause was that Foursquare couldn’t keep up with the growth of its customer data. The team had failed to plan adequately for that growth and the implementation of MongoDB was deeply flawed.

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