CBR’s James Nunns talks to Couchbase CEO Matt Cain on where the company sits in the hotly contested database market, about the company’s plans for the future, and the role databases will play with emerging technologies.
JN: You’ve been CEO for under a year, but what changes (if any) have you started to make with Couchbase?
MC: As CEO, I’ve prioritised creating a vibrant “employee-first” culture at Couchbase. I
focused on it during my first 100-day agenda and continue to do so on a daily basis. I firmly believe that you can’t win at a market and do right by customers if you don’t have the right culture internally.
But the CEO transition hasn’t been a major shift strategically by any means; it’s really been a continuation on what’s worked so well to get us here, and reinforcing our foundation across all operating functions for the future. We’re continuing to invest heavily in innovation to make sure our customers are getting the most out of us and are completely satisfied with our platform and services.
JN: Where do you see Couchbase fitting into the database market?
MC: I consider us to be right at the forefront. A modern database is at the foundation of the new digital era, fueling the most innovative digital experiences that are now critical to every company. Our ‘Engagement Database’ fits nicely with this requirement, since it enables organisations to create innovative digital applications that transform the customer experience and provide a decisive competitive advantage.
Plus, Couchbase is purpose-built to power the new digital customer experience era. The Couchbase Data Platform is cloud-native and uniquely attuned to mobile applications, built to be context aware and deliver personalised, precise experiences. This matters because in an era of competing on customer experience, companies must provide amazing interactions to derive a single transaction, on a scale of 1,000:1, depending on the industry.
JN: Couchbase’s former CEO frequently aimed criticism at Oracle, targeting its unhappy customers as a way of boosting NoSQL adoption – would you say you’re of the same mind-set or are you taking a different approach?
MC: It’s true that the market is at a point of transition. Now, all companies must have a digital agenda and must use technology to get closer to their customers. From a technology perspective, enterprises have completely rearchitected their technology environments with cloud-native architectures designed for scale and flexibility, embedded intelligence and security, and consistent capabilities from the data centre to the edge. Our strategy is to sit at the intersection of these transitions and provide a modern data platform that is unmatched in the industry.
Our customers continue to expand their use of Couchbase because we solve some of the most complex data management challenges they face. Legacy solutions weren’t built for this. Newer solutions don’t provide the enterprise capabilities that the largest companies need for their mission-critical workloads.
JN: Now that AWS seems set on eating into Oracle’s customer base, along with the traditional names of Microsoft etc, do you feel that it’s getting harder to operate in the market?
MC: Even taking these developments into account, Couchbase is still seeing good growth rates. Our core architecture is cloud-native, and we can effectively support applications in public and private clouds, in on-premise deployments, and out to the edge in mobile devices across all of those deployments. Plus, we’re aligned to all ways in which our customers want to deploy our technology. This is one of the many reasons customers value our platform and why we’re seeing the growth rates that we are.
JN: There’s long been rumours of an IPO for Couchbase, do you have any plans for this?
MC: At Couchbase we are building a world-class, durable enterprise software company that enables companies to provide a revolutionary customer experience and fundamentally surpass the types of digital experiences we are seeing today. This is where our passion and focus is. We will be prepared to take all appropriated steps along that journey at the right time in service of that objective.
How big of an appetite is there from IT leaders to move from their legacy databases? What are the challenges?
MC: Today, there’s a much better understanding of what is involved in digital transformation and how databases play a key role in achieving the true goals of this transformation than in the past. The challenges enterprises face are in containing the database sprawl and finding database platforms that simplify the manageability while at the same time improving business agility.
JN: There’s a lot of focus on the headline grabbing topics of AI, deep/machine learning – are these areas starting to impact how your technology is developed?
MC: These are interesting areas and they are in their infancy. Nevertheless, they call for databases that are flexible and yet can operate on large volumes of data at scale – all characteristics needed to accelerate the development of AI, for example. Our development of the Couchbase data platform is informed by these advances and aims to serve these needs to enable fast, successful AI implementations.