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It's an unstructured world and Rackspace wants to play in it

Databases and the information in them used to be simple, but not any more. Not all data fits into neat spreadsheets and SQL databases. Hence, the rise of NoSQL databases to handle this mass of unstructured data.

Rackspace, the public cloud and managed hosting provider, wants users to put their unstructured data on its servers. So, today the company announced the purchase of ObjectRocket, a company specializing in MongoDB open source NoSQL databases. Terms of the deal were not disclosed (for a rundown of 2013's top tech M&A deals so far, view our slideshow).

Rackspace is not the first to offer a NoSQL database in its cloud. The company's biggest competitor, Amazon Web Services, has a variety of database options for customers, both SQL and NoSQL. Rackspace has a strong track record of hosting MySQL databases in its data centers, but this is one of its first major moves into  NoSQL.

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Boston-based ObjectRocket fits in with Rackspace's broader vision of being an open source company, says Pat Matthews, Rackspace senior vice president of corporate development. First of all, he says MongoDB - which ObjectRocket specializes in - is hot. The open source database is being downloaded 150,000 times per month, and it holds more than 80% of market share for NoSQL databases, Matthews says. "Everyone from startups to enterprises is using it," he says. It is more general purpose than other NoSQL databases like CouchDB and Cassandra, he says.

Chris Lalonde, CEO and founder of 1-year-old ObjectRocket, says MongoDB's document-oriented platform makes it ideal for a wide variety of use cases. A document-based approach to indexing data is "how people think about data rather than how databases think about data." It means the database can be sorted by whole documents - think patient health care records, Twitter updates or a variety of other unstructured data points.

Rackspace isn't putting all its eggs in the ObjectRocket basket though. Even before the purchase Rackspace had been dabbling in big data and expanding its database offerings. It's recently been working with HortonWorks on implementing Hadoop services into its cloud offering. HortonWorks also recently joined OpenStack, the open source cloud computing platform for which Rackspace is a major contributing member.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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